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Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Hunt and Worden.
RESOLVED, that the minutes of the meeting held on 14th September 2023 (circulated previously) be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
A question was raised by a Member regarding the invitation to the Local MP to attend the meeting and her reasons for not attending. The Member was advised that the MP was unable to attend as she was in Parliament.
Councillor D. Knight abstained from voting as he wasn’t present at the meeting.
Declarations of Interest.
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. A declaration of interest under the Code of Conduct will be a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest, an Other Registrable Interest or a Non-Registrable Interest. If the item directly relates to your interest you must declare the interest and leave the room for the item, save in the case of Other Registrable Interests or Non-Registrable Interests where you may first speak on the item as a member of the public if provision has been made for the public to speak. If the matter does not directly relate to your interest but still affects it then you must consider whether you are affected to a greater extent than most people and whether a reasonable person would consider your judgement to be clouded, if you are then you must leave the room for the item (although you may speak as a member of the public if provision has been made for the public to speak) or, if you are not, then you can declare the interest but still take part).
There were no declarations of interest announced.
An opportunity for the Committee to discuss the situation regarding the lack of availability of NHS Dentists within the North Devon area.
Please see link to the meeting held at Devon County Council on 21st September 2023:
The Committee considered the report of the Devon County Council Health and Adult Services Committee held on 21st September 2023 together with a minute extract of the meeting.
The Vice Chair advised that the aim of the meeting was to invite a panel of experts to discuss the ongoing problems for the residents of North Devon in securing NHS dental care and that invitations had been sent to representatives that they wished to discuss their concerns with and that of the four invitations sent out, one was declined and the other three were not acknowledged.
He added that there were local residents together with representatives from Save our Hospitals who were keen to attend to meet with the experts. However, without a panel to ask questions of this had not been possible.
Following some research, he raised the following points:
· At the present time, every child in the UK is entitled to free NHS dentistry. However, there were not enough dentists to treat them.
· People entitled to benefits together with pregnant women and recent mothers also had the right to the unobtainable service.
· These rights were guaranteed until you try to exercise them.
· The number of active NHS dentists in UK at its lowest in a decade despite a growing population.
· According to figures released by the British Dental Association (BDA) in early 2023 23,577 dentists carried out NHS work in 2022/23 financial year, which was down by more than 1100 on the pre-pandemic level and lowest level since 2012/13.
· Overall 80% of practices in the UK no longer take on child NHS patients and about 90% were refusing new adult patients.
· The latest figures from the NHS Devon indicated that 6287 people were currently on NHS waiting lists in North Devon and Torridge, 1183 of which are children.
· Corresponding figures for Devon are 98,378 and 20,096.
· Obtained a link to the NHS Devon website, listed all NHS dental practices. Was unable to find one practice that would take a new NHS dentist.
· The current situation was that fewer than 4 in 10 adults in Devon visited a NHS dentist in a year, and only half Devon’s children.
· There were fewer dentists with long, and growing, waiting lists for those few practices still accepting NHS patients.
· When a dentist provides treatment to patients on the NHS they lose money, because state funding does not cover their costs.
· The situation would continue to get worse because funding for NHS dental services had been cut in real terms by 4% year. Dental inflation driven by the rising costs of laboratory bills, energy, wages together with materials, was about 11% a year.
· The payment system imposed by the government meant that dentists received the same payment from the NHS for a patient who required 10 fillings as for a patient who required one.
· Treating a patient earns three Units of Dental Activity (UDA) points, regardless of the length and expense of the procedure.
· Every practice had to meet an annual UDA target. ... view the full minutes text for item 17.
Report by Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive (attached) and
(a) Minute Extract of Strategy and Resources on 6th November 2023 (to follow).
The Committee considered a report by the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive (circulated previously) regarding the Performance and Financial Management for Quarter 2 of 2023/24 together with Minute Extract of Strategy and Resources on 6th November 2023 (circulated previously).
The Finance Manager highlighted the following:
· The revenue budget for 2023/24 was approved at Council on 22nd February 2023 at £14,766,450.
· As at 30th September 2023, the latest forecast net budget was £14,698,450, which produced a budget surplus of £68,000, which was an improvement of £51,000 on quarter one. Details of the Variations of the Revenue Budget could be seen at Appendix A of the report
· The original budget for 2023/24 included a forecast to achieve £250,000 worth of salary vacancy savings. The current position forecasts that the Council would achieve £142,000 based on known vacancies to date, but it was anticipated that the budget of £250,000 would be achieved by the end of the financial year.
· The national pay award had been agreed by the Unions and the additional costs of this would be funded with the sum of £436,000 from the Budget Management Reserve.
· The Collection Fund reserve balance was, approximately £1.3 million. This earmarked reserve was created to deal with the timing impacts of the Collection Fund (Business Rates), which ensured the revenue budget was not unduly affected in the year the taxes were collected. This reserve included a £912,000 balance that would be utilised in 2023/24 and 2024/25 to mitigate timing differences of business rate reliefs awarded in 2022/23, this left a reserve balance of just over £427,000 protection against future volatility.
· The Valuation Office Agency had notified the Council that the Rateable Value of the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon was to be reduced to £1, backdated to 2019.
· As at the 30th September 2023 total external borrowing was £3m. The timing of any future borrowing was dependent on how the authority managed its treasury activity.
· Due to slippages in the Capital programme and using the cash flow balances for internal borrowing had reduced borrowing costs on the expenditure budget and the Council was currently forecasting a £164,000 underspend on the interest payable.
· There is also no anticipated use of the Treasury Management reserve during 2023/24 and so the full reserve balance of £275,000 could be carried forwards to help protect and mitigate against higher borrowing costs in the future financial years.
· Due to on-going higher interest rates the Council was also reporting a £250,000 net increase in interest receivable.
· The costs of Temporary Accommodation had increased, the average cost per night have increased from £60 to £70 per night. The volume of cases presenting as homeless was also increasing but this was partly mitigated by the on-going programme of purchasing Temporary Accommodation properties. The increase in costs of £194,000 had been offset by additional homelessness grant.
· Appendix B of the report – “Movement in Reserves and Balances” detailed the movements to and from earmarked reserves.
· Appendix C of the report – “Strategic ... view the full minutes text for item 18.
Report by Head of Governance (attached) and
(a) Minute Extract of Strategy and Resources on 6th November 2023 (to follow).
The Committee considered a report by the Head of Governance (circulated previously) regarding the Mid-Year Treasury Management 2023/24.
The Head of Governance highlighted the following:
· The Treasury Management Strategy Statement for 2023/24 was approved at Council on 22nd February 2023.
· The underlying Treasury Management Strategy Statement approved previously required revision in light of economic and operational movements during the year. The proposed changes could be seen in section 4.1 of the report.
· The Council’s forecast Capital Financing Requirement, underlying need to borrow for capital purposes, for 2023/24 was circa £30 million.
· At present the Council projected external borrowing of £9 million with £3 million long term liabilities (finance leases) and £18 million from internal borrowing of cash flow funds.
· In the current economic climate internal borrowing remained the most prudent and cost effective approach by the Council.
· The forecast Capital Financing Requirement had decreased by about £3.4 million from the original budget. This was due to re-profiling of the Capital Programme with expenditure being slipped to future financial years for the projects such as Future High Streets project.
· The external Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) borrowing remained at £3 million with the current forecasted figure of £6 million additional borrowing during 23/24. The exact amount would depend on any further capital spend slippages and the cash flow balances towards the end of the financial year end.
· Section 4.5 of the report shows the borrowing strategy in more detail.
· The use of cash flow balances for internal borrowing had reduced the borrowing costs on the interest payable budget forecast at £164,000.
· A total in excess of £400,000 interest return on the portfolio held by the Council was being forecast.
In response to a question regarding the underspend of capital expenditure by service on page 89 of the report, the Head of Governance advised that the budget for capital spend at the beginning of the financial year for projects such as the future high streets project had been moved into future years.. He added that further slippages to the capital programme would reduce the need to take on additional external borrowing during the year
In response to questions, the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive advised:
· That the allocated capital budget for temporary accommodation had only spent one quarter of its allocated 2023/24 funds. However, there were a number of properties which were due for completion within the next few weeks. Work planned for Green Lanes might slip in the next financial year.
· The land release fund and infrastructure works for Seven Brethren had been agreed and work was currently ongoing at the site to demolish the old leisure centre.
· The material recovery facility project in the processing hall would commence in the New Year with some of the spend coming within the last quarter of the financial year. Only £5.3m of the 2023/24 £17m capital programme had been spent so far with the potential for some of the allocated spend being moved into the 2024/25 budget.
· The proposed ... view the full minutes text for item 19.
To consider the work programme for 2023/24.
The Committee considered the work programme together (circulated previously).
The Committee discussed the work programme and the item due for consideration at the meeting in December 2023.
The Chair invited Councillor Jones to address the Committee regarding the water quality item and the recent discussions that had been held in relation to it.
Councillor Jones provided the following update:
· The Water Quality team were mindful of getting the best outcome possible form the meeting and had therefore decided that they would like to reschedule the meeting to be held in either January or February 2024.
· The meeting would be held at either the Barnstaple Library or at Petroc.
· The team had drawn up a list of experts that they wish to invite to the sit on the panel to ensure that the Committee gain a full understanding of the current position regarding water quality within the North Devon area.
· As part of the teams ongoing work, 30 members of the public undertook training in Braunton on Saturday 11th November 2023 to allow them to independently test water quality within an area specifically allocated to them and create a network of people who were able to test water quality once every two weeks.
· This information was then entered into an application, which was linked to the Rivers Trust database and analysis team and allowed them to build up a picture of the water quality within the North Devon area.
· There were longer term aspirations to roll this system out to the coastal waters as well.
He added that he would continue to work closely with the Corporate and Community Services officer in order to deliver the event and that the Committee would be advised of a date in due course.
The Chair thanked Councillor Jones for his update to the Committee.
The Vice Chair explained that to ensure all future panel meetings ran smoothly, he had prepared a crib sheet for the Committee to explain how the process works and that this would be emailed to the members following the meeting.
In response to a question regarding the impact on the capacity existing infrastructure and water quality as more new homes were being built and improvements were not being made to the existing systems. Councillor Jones advised that there were a range of processes being put in place by the Rivers Trust and that following a recent new build estate in Chulmleigh, South West Water had acted and carried out works to update the capacity of the existing system.
The Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive raised the issue of there being no other business currently to be considered at the next scheduled meeting on Thursday 14th December 2023 and requested that the Committee consider cancelling the meeting if they were all in agreement.
The Committee discussed a proposal to bring the agriculture item forward to the December meeting. However, there was concern from some of the members of the working group that this would be ... view the full minutes text for item 20.