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Apologies for absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Knight, Lofthouse, Prowse and Wilkinson.
Councillor Yabsley arrived at the meeting.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 6 June 2022 (circulated previously) be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
Declarations of Interests.
(Please telephone the Corporate and Community Services team to prepare a form for your signature before the meeting. Interests must be re-declared when the item is called, and Councillors must leave the room if necessary).
There were no declarations of interest received.
Items brought forward which in the opinion of the Chair should be considered by the meeting as a matter of urgency
Councillor L. Spear advised the Committee that Mr Reginald Cane a former Devon County Council, District and Parish Councillor had recently passed away.
The Committee thanked Councillor L. Spear and advised that Mr Cain would be remembered at the next meeting of Full Council on 20th July 2022.
The Committee considered a report by the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive (circulated previously) regarding the Performance and Financial Management for Quarter 4 of 2021/22.
The Accountancy Services Manager highlighted the following:
· The revenue budget for 2021/22 was approved at Council on 24th February 2021 at £13,639,000.
· As at 31 March 2022 it was pleasing to report that the final out turn position was a budget surplus of £604,000 which was an overall movement of £515,000 from the last forecast at quarter 3. The breakdown showing the movements was shown in Appendix A – Variations in the Revenue Budget.
· The original budget for 2021/22 included a forecast to achieve £225,000 worth of salary vacancy savings. This was exceeded by £99,000 giving an overall actual saving of £324,000.
· Included within the approved budget the Council factored in a government grant in relation to Covid-19 pressures of £536,710 and also budgeted for £375,000 of additional costs and reduced income, these were already incorporated into Appendix A along with the latest forecast for each service area.
· The above grant of £536,710 was approved and received and the Council was also anticipating £80,000 re-imbursement for Q1 loss of Sales, Fees and charges, from the continued Government 75% income reimbursement scheme, this had now been revised down to £64,000 and the change incorporated into Appendix A.
· At the end of 2020/21 the Council placed £375,000 into a Covid Budget management reserve to help mitigate any further adverse variances due to the pandemic in 2021/22, this future protection was still available if required.
· Members approved in June 2021 to proceed with the acquisition of Green Lanes Shopping Centre; which the Council completed the purchase in November 2021. The purchase of Green Lanes Shopping Centre was a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire this strategic asset and complement other significant regeneration improvements being delivered within the Barnstaple town centre through the Future High Streets project. The financial modelling demonstrated that revenue income generated from the centre would cover both the repayment of the loan and asset management costs and would return a contribution to the Council which could be used towards mitigating future risks on income volatility, investment back into the centre and the overarching council budget.
· The financial outturn for the Centre had produced a net return (income less costs) for the 2021/22 year of (£243,600) due to minimal borrowing costs for last financial year as these would start in 2022/23. This was a positive return for the Council for the four and half months ownership in the 2021/22 year. The net return to the Council of (£243,600); of this it is proposed to place £75,000 into an earmarked reserve to protect the council budget and mitigate against any future income volatility that could materialise as the Council moved forwards with the centre and a further £168,600 into an earmarked reserve to fund future asset management initiatives to promote, market and maximise the occupancy of the Centre over the next few years, which ... view the full minutes text for item 29.
Report by Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive (attached).
The Committee considered a report by the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive (circulated previously) regarding the Annual Treasury Management report 2021/22.
The Head of Governance highlighted the following:
· The Council undertakes capital expenditure on long-term assets. These activities may either be:
Ø Financed immediately through the application of capital or revenue resources (capital receipts, capital grants, revenue contributions etc.), which has no resultant impact on the Council’s borrowing need; or
Ø If insufficient financing is available, or a decision is taken not to apply resources, the capital expenditure will give rise to a borrowing need.
· A large capital programme during 2021/22 including the new Leisure Centre, Watersports Centre and purchase of Green Lanes Shopping Centre had resulted in an increased Capital Funding Requirement (CFR) of circa £17m. The CFR was below the estimate due to slippages in the wider capital programme, with this spend re-profiled into 2022/23.
· On 30th March 2022 the Council received £5.8m from Central Government for the Council Tax Energy Rebate scheme to be paid out during 2022/23. At year end the Council also had a balance of £5.2m in relation to Covid-19 business grants and circa £2.5m in relation to Omicron business grant payments to be repaid to central government during 2022/23 once the final reconciliations had been carried out.
· At 31st March 2022, the CFR, excluding finance leases, was £20.8m. External borrowing was only £3m as the Council’s cash flow and reserve balances enabled the authority to internally borrow the remaining £17.8m.
· £2.5m of new long term PWLB borrowing was added in February 2022, to secure the rate and provide some long term budget certainty, prior to potential further increases in bank rate. This was also at a time when rates temporarily reduced due to uncertainties around the conflicts in Russia and Ukraine.
· The 2021/22 budget for external borrowing interest was £109,000 but the actual interest paid was a much lower £12,251.
· The Council had not borrowed more than, or in advance of its needs, purely in order to profit from the investment of the extra sums borrowed.
· No debt rescheduling was done during the year as it was not a viable option.
· Investments held by the Council - the Council maintained an average balance of circa £38m of internally managed funds. The internally managed funds earned £17,859 interest at an average rate of return of 0.05%.
· The comparable performance indicator was the average 7-day LIBID rate, which was -0.07%; the LIBID rate stopped from 31st December 2021. On-going our performance will be compared to the 7 day backward looking SONIA (Sterling Overnight Index Average) uncompounded rate which was 0.1355% for the year. This compares with a budget assumption of £35,000 investment interest.
(a) The annual treasury management report for 2021/22 be noted;
(b) The actual 2021/22 prudential and treasury indicators be approved.
Report by Head of Environmental Enhancement (attached)
The Committee considered a report by the Head of Environmental Enhancement (circulated previously) regarding the new woodland at Frankmarsh, Barnstaple.
The Parks Officer highlighted the following:
· The Council purchased 18ha of farmland and existing mature woodland adjacent to the existing Yeo Valley Community Woodland in June 2020 following a report by the Head of Resources and Corporate Property to Strategy and Resources dated 2nd December 2019, Acquisition of Corporate Property.
· The Forestry Commission awarded funding to North Devon Council in April 2022 to plant approximately 24,000 trees on the land. The funding had come through the “England Woodland Creation Offer” funding stream and was worth £211,000.
· The new woodland was primarily designed to absorb CO2 and calculations indicate approximately 3500 tonnes would be sequestered over the next 100 years helping to offset some of the Council’s carbon emissions. The scheme would be monitored through the Woodland Carbon Code. The new woodland would also offer informal recreation and biodiversity improvements.
· Infrastructure for the woodland would be installed from September 2022 and planting would commence at the end of 2022. The council had two years from the date of the agreement to plant the trees, although it was hoped to complete all the planting over the winter of 2022/ 2023.
· The funding would pay for capital costs i.e. the deer fencing around the site, the supply and planting of the trees and a contribution towards a surfaced path through the site. Additional contributions were paid for public access, being close to a settlement, water quality improvements and nature recovery benefits.
· The scheme also offered maintenance payments over a 10 year period for the establishment of the trees.
· Capital items were claimed retrospectively each year.
· It was hoped to encourage the community to participate in the planting with the Parks team, operating through a contractor funded through the external grant, contacting schools, colleges and community groups to take part over the winter. Contractors and in House staff would complete any planting not undertaken by volunteers.
· Tree species had been selected that would adapt and grow in a changing climate.
· Trees planted before the 20th December 2022 could be included in the Queen’s Green Canopy.
· The anticipated capital cost of the project was £164,631 (there was already £101,000 within the existing Capital Programme and this report was increasing the budget up to £164,631) and would be fully funded from the external grant. There would also be 10 years of annual maintenance payments totalling £46,560 which again would be fully funded from the external grant.
The Committee welcomed the scheme and were very supportive of the potential for involvement of schools, colleges and community groups together with the inclusion of wildflower planting and its carbon benefits.
In response to questions from the Committee, the Parks Officer advised the following:
· The scheme would be fully funded by grants from the forestry commission with the exception of the deer fencing and deer leap, which was being funding separately.
· There would be a mixture of trees on ... view the full minutes text for item 31.
2022-23 Revenue Budget and Inflationary Pressures
The Committee considered a report by the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive (circulated previously) regarding the 2022-23 Revenue Budget and Inflationary Pressures.
The Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive highlighted the following:
· The Revenue Budget 2022-23 of £13.722m was approved by Full Council on 23 February 2022 alongside the future year budget projections for 2022-2028 within the Medium Term Financial Strategy.
· With the UK’s inflation rate rising from 5.5% at the start of the year to 11.1% in April 2022, and global costs rising, research carried out estimated that nationally Councils’ costs from inflation had risen from £789m in February when they set their budgets to £1.5bn as of June, leaving them with £729m of additional unfunded costs. A number of authorities were particularly exposed to these rising costs because of the nature of delivering services in large rural areas.
· Even though the Council were only a third of the way through the financial year, with inflation running at such a high level it was important that members were aware of the additional pressures on the budget for the current financial year and also the impact this had on the base budget ongoing for future years.
· The report set out the current in-year pressures being faced together with an updated high-level projection ongoing and measures being put in place to mitigate the unprecedented financial burden on the Council.
· The Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) was last considered by Strategy and Resources at its meeting on 7 February 2022 and approved by Council at its meeting on 23 February 2022.
· Record energy prices, inflation in external contracts, rising fuel prices and increases in staff pay were expected to add significant pressure to the Council’s budget which had already highlighted a £2m budget gap for 2023- 24 due to the impending Government Fair Funding Review and reduced government funding as a result.
· The 2023-24 budget assumed a reduction of around £1.1m of income from retained business rates following the above review and a reset of business rates income. In addition, a forecast reduction from New Homes Bonus government grant of around £0.950m had also been predicted. However, these uncertainties had been prolonged due to the Fair Funding Review continually being delayed by Government and only a one-year finance settlement being given which did not help Councils plan for the medium term.
· The most recent pay claim for the 2021-22 year was settled in February 2022 and an agreed award of 1.75% effective from April 2021 was settled and paid in March 2022. This demonstrated how long it could take to settle a pay claim between the Unions and the Employers, 11 months in 2021-22 year.
· The Revenue Budget 2022-23 had assumed a 2% pay rise and likewise a further 2% rise factored into the Medium Term Financial projections above to 2028 year.
· The pay claim 2022-23 had now been received from the Unions and they had requested for a minimum of £2,000 on each pay scale point ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
Report by Head of Customer Focus (attached).
The Committee considered a report by the Head of Customer Focus (circulated previously) regarding the Energy Rebate Discretionary Scheme.
The Head of Customer Focus highlighted the following:
· On 23rd February 2022 DLUHC published the guidance and billing authority allocations for the implementation of the Council Tax (Energy) Rebate and the Discretionary Fund.
· NDC was allocated £192,000 to distribute for the Discretionary element of the fund which must be spent by end November 2022.
· Guidance on the distribution of this fund stated ‘ Councils could determine locally how best to make use of this funding to support those suffering financial hardship as a result of the rising cost of living. This could include households living in property valued in bands E to H that were on income related benefits or those where the energy bills payers were not liable for council tax. Where councils consider it the best means of supporting those in financial difficulty, they could use the discretionary fund to offer carefully targeted ‘top-up’ payments to the most vulnerable households in bands A to D (for example, those on means tested benefits), or to offer discretionary support exceeding £150 per household.’
· The Council would be awarding £150 to each household in bands E-H who claimed council tax support.
· The Council would, through social media, website and other means encourage householders in bands A-D who were not direct Council Tax payers but were liable for utility bills, to apply for a payment of £150.
· The Council would use a proportion of the fund to ‘top’ up’ payments to working age households in bands A-D who claim council tax support as at 4th July 2022.
· The funds would be administered via the Post Office payout scheme, incorporated with an allocation from the separate Household Fund, meaning only one visit to the post office would be required. By combining these funds households would receive a payment of around £70.
· Those Post Office vouchers would be issued end July / start August which was when many households incurred additional costs within the school holidays.
In response to questions from the Committee, the Head of Customer Focus advised the following:
· Officers were currently contacting all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) to ensure that they contact those members of the public that might not be aware of the scheme.
RESOLVED that the recommendations for the dispersal of the Energy Rebate Discretionary Scheme as set out in paragraphs 4.4 – 4.8 of the report be approved.
Report by Museum Manager (attached)
The Committee considered a report by the Museum Manager (circulated previously) regarding the Northern Devon Culture Strategy 2022-2027.
The Museum Manager highlighted the following:
· The report introduced “Flourishing Culture” the draft Northern Devon Culture Strategy prepared by Consultants Things Made Public with Arts Council funding for North Devon and Torridge District Councils.
· Flourishing Culture had been developed for the district councils of North Devon and Torridge as a vision and action plan for the development of the cultural sector over the next 5 years.
· This was the final draft, and final adjustments were being made in consultation with Torridge District Council. The first draft was presented to Northern Devon Futures on 25th April 2022.
· The Council was currently working on an application to Arts Council’s Cultural Development Fund, with a submission date for EOI of 29th July 2022.
· Achieving a vision of thriving creativity and culture across the region would require building on the strengths and addressing the challenges of Northern Devon’s cultural landscape. To achieve this the Culture Strategy for Northern Devon focused on two main themes:
Ø Culture – Helping Places Thrive takes inspiration from the region’s landscape to support a cultural offer that is as unique, diverse, celebrated and generous as its natural surroundings. This theme explores culture that is expressive of place, connects people to where they live, is protective of the environment and is distributed across the whole region. It recognises the built heritage of our towns and the need to support their role as the beating heart of cultural activity.
Ø Culture – Helping People Blossom builds on a long history of culture passing between people in Northern Devon, from skills being shared through the generations, to ideas travelling the world through trade. This theme explores how everyone in Northern Devon has opportunities to connect with one another, develop their creative potential, increase their mental wellbeing and experience great culture.
· The themes were further developed into a series of priorities and suggested actions, supported by case studies from other parts of the UK and abroad. These included a focus on outdoor arts and festivals, digital and community activity, protecting the environment, talent development, national and international connections and improving visibility.
· The Strategy recommended that those steps were achieved by establishing a Town Team for Culture in Barnstaple, Bideford and Ilfracombe. It identified Ilfracombe as the place with the greatest potential to benefit from cultural investment through this process.
· In Barnstaple a Culture Team had already been established as part of Future High Streets. The Strategy supported an application to the Cultural Development Fund to support the creation and delivery of a more detailed Culture Plan for Barnstaple, and work on this was now in progress.
· Adoption of a Culture Strategy was a precondition for application to certain Arts Council funding streams.
· The Culture strategy was now at final draft stage and nearing completion. In order for its adoption to coincide with funding opportunities, it was requested that this be delegated to officers following receipt ... view the full minutes text for item 34.
To consider letter from Rebecca Pow MP, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (attached) in response to the decision taken by the Strategy and Resources Committee meeting held on 4 April 2022.
The Committee considered a letter from Rebecca Pow MP, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (circulated previously) in response to the decision taken by the Strategy and Resources Committee meeting held on 4 April 2022.
RESOLVED that the contents of the response be noted. However, the Committee expressed its disappointment with the level of detail contained within it.
Order of Agenda
RESOLVED, that the Committee considered item 14 on the agenda whilst they awaited the arrival of the Service Lead - Housing Advice and Homelessness to the meeting.
Report by Parks, Leisure and Open Space Officer (attached).
The Committee considered a report by the Parks, Leisure and Open Space Officer (circulated previously) regarding the allocation of section 106 public open space funds towards projects in Barnstaple and Chulmleigh.
(a) £6,000 be allocated to the Chulmleigh Town Hall Committee towards the enhancement of Chulmleigh Town Hall;
(b) £14,203.35 be allocated to North Devon Council towards the purchase of new goalposts and grass pitch improvements at Tarka Tennis Centre, Barnstaple;
(c) £3,475 be allocated to Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club CIO towards the enhancement of their boathouse on Rolle’s Quay, Barnstaple;
(d) £40,000 be allocated to United Services Bowls Club towards the enhancement of their clubhouse on Mill Road, Barnstaple.
(e) Council vary the capital programme by £63,678.35 and that funds be released, subject to a Funding Agreement upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed by the Senior Solicitor, for external projects.
Report by Legal Executive (attached).
The Committee considered a report by the Legal Executive (circulated previously) regarding the adoption of a Corporate Enforcement Policy.
The Senior Solicitor and Monitoring Officer highlighted the following:
· The Corporate Enforcement Policy had been drafted to identify the key enforcement priorities for the Council.
· As provided in the Corporate Enforcement Policy itself, its purpose was to provide guidance to ensure:
Ø Decisions about enforcement action were fair, proportionate and consistent.
Ø Officers applied current Government guidance and relevant codes of practice
Ø Everyone understood the principles that were applied when enforcement action was considered.
· The Policy as drafted was intended to be generic and allow service areas to create their own service specific policy, strategy and orders should these be required. For instance there are specific processes which the Planning and Environmental Protection teams use but this Policy was designed to be generic to enforcement across the organisation as a whole to provide a framework and central point from which such strategies could develop.
· The Policy should provide guidance to customers (both individuals and businesses operating in North Devon), officers and members alike on what enforcement the Council could carry out and the principles that were followed and an overarching guide to the procedures that were undertaken including when enforcement action might be necessary and the principles and considerations governing what level of enforcement action may be necessary in any given situation.
· The Policy provided information on who decides when enforcement action should be taken and at what level and how the Council worked in partnership with other bodies in terms of enforcement.
· It was hoped that the Policy would provide a useful overview of enforcement undertaken at the Council and the procedures followed.
· Departmental consultation and input, agreement in general from all consultees was included in the preparation of this Policy.
· The Policy brought together and recorded existing practices and therefore it was not anticipated that this decision would have any resource impact.
In response to a question from Cllr Yabsley in relation to Planning Enforcement at the Council, the Chief Executive advised that the Head of Planning, Housing and Health would present a paper regarding the resource implications to the Group Leaders meeting.
RESOLVED that the Corporate Enforcement Policy be adopted.
Service Lead – Housing Advice and Homelessness to report.
The Committee received an update by the Service Lead – Housing Advice and Homeless in relation to Refugees who highlighted the following:
· The Council had received a letter from Lord Harrington on Friday 1st July 2022 regarding the current situation in relation to the Afghanistan housing scheme. The letter explained that nationally a further 2,000 properties were required with 68% percent of those for larger families, which equated to 500 plus properties of five to six bedrooms.
· As of 13th June 2022, less than 100 properties had been made available to the Afghanistan scheme.
· North Devon Council had pledged two units of accommodation within the North Devon area, which three families had refused and were now in temporary accommodation.
· There were 500 MOD units available across the UK and 12 of these were available at RMB Chivenor.
· North Devon Council approached the MOD to request that 50% of those 12 units be made available for local use and the MOD refused.
· RMBChivenor was quite an isolated community and South West Councils were looking to offer accommodation in blocks. RMB Chivenor was not a long term community and families would struggle to settle in the area and would prefer housing in the larger cities of the UK.
· The cost figures per person were relayed to the Committee.
· The funding to furnish properties would also have to be taken from the funding per person and property conditions were also a concern. The MOD had provided assurance that all units would be brought up to the required standards for gas and electricity prior to allocation together with the reassurance to the Council that the £5000 per year payable per property would only be required if the property was actually occupied.
· There was a requirement for the Council to provide ongoing support to families in the same way as the Ukrainian scheme. However, there were concerns as to how that could be achieved at the present time.
· There were other concerns regarding additional pressures on the housing service with regards to housing options, temporary accommodation and homelessness approaches to the service.
· There were also concerns regarding the reaction of the local community who were unable to obtain accommodation within the North Devon area.
· The Ukrainian scheme was running smoothly at the present time and any issues that had been identified had been quickly resolved.
· There were currently 75 guests within the North Devon area.
· A meeting had been held with Devon County Council and there had been 50 responses from potential hosts within the North Devon area together 14-16 pending arrivals with an initial stay period of six months.
· There were weekly meetings with external partners in areas such as mental health.
· The Council has had to deal with a couple of situations with regards to two fathers of Ukrainian families losing their lives in the war and how to support the rest of the family in those very difficult circumstances.
· There was also a Ukrainian gentleman that sadly passed ... view the full minutes text for item 39.
Report by Public Protection Manager (attached).
The Committee considered a report by the Public Protection Manager (circulated previously) regarding the Hackney Carriage Fare Tariff Review.
The Public Protection Manager highlighted the following:
· North Devon Council had set maximum chargeable fares for taxis under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 which directly impacted the salaries of taxi drivers licensed in the district. A consultation on a proposed change to the tariff had been undertaken and the report sought agreement to recommend adoption of new North Devon Council Authorised Maximum Fares for Licensed Hackney Carriages (the hackney tariff).
· North Devon Council’s current hackney carriage fare tariff became effective in April 2016. Subsequent to its implementation two reviews had taken place in November 2016, and February 2019 during which decisions were taken that any amendment was not justified at that time.
· A significant period of time had now passed and it was necessary to undertake a further review. Section 65 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 enables the Council to set fares for hackney carriage vehicles and required that before any alteration to the tariff table could take effect a public notice explaining the changes must be placed in a local newspaper. The public then must be provided with a period of at least 14 days to make comment on the proposals. If no adverse comment/objection is received, the approved changes must take effect. Alternatively, if adverse comment/objection was received then the matter must be returned to allow the Committee to consider the representation(s). Any tariff as existing or amended must come into effect within two months of the date of the public notice, being the 25 July 2022.
· A public notice was published in the North Devon Gazette in line with the above. Moreover, a press release was issued, a consultation survey launched on the Council’s website, and a Council taxi newsletter explaining the changes and inviting observations was sent to the trade. Appendix B of the report detailed the 30 responses received.
RESOLVED that the recommendations made by the Licensing and Community Safety Committee during their meeting of 14 June 2022 be approved as follows:
(a) The current table of hackney carriage maximum fares be modified in line with Appendix A of the report; and
(b) That this tariff becomes effective on the 11 July 2022, and the words ‘fare price’ be changed to ‘total fare’ to provide absolute clarity in respect of the fuel surcharge listed under the extras.
To note the urgent decisions that have been made by the Chief Executive in accordance with paragraph 3.48, Annexe 3, Part 3 of the Constitution (attached).
The Committee noted seven urgent decisions that had been made by the Chief Executive in accordance with paragraph 3.48, Annex 2, part 3 of the Constitution (circulated previously) regarding Rough Sleeping grants