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Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Mackie, Roome and Spear.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 27th May 2021 (circulated previously) be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
Items brought forward which in the opinion of the Chair should be considered by the meeting as a matter of urgency.
Councillor Campbell addressed the Committee in his role as acting Chair and wished to express his condolences to Councillor Biederman following the recent passing of his mother. He also wished the Chair of the Committee well during his recovery from surgery.
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, and Councillors must leave the room if necessary).
There were no declarations of interest announced.
a) Notice of Motion from Councillor Luggar to Full Council on 7th April 2021 in relation to voting procedures (attached).
b) Minute Extract of Full Council held on 7th April 2021 (attached).
c) Enforcement Procedures and Policy Practices In Relation to Environmental Enhancement and Protection. Report by Development Management Service Manager (attached).
The Committee considered a Notice of Motion from Councillor Luggar to Full Council on 7th April 2021 in relation to enforcement procedures and policy practices in relation to environmental enhancement and protection (circulated previously) together with minute extract of Full Council held on 7th April 2021 (circulated previously).
Councillor Luggar addressed the Committee and explained the intention of his notice of motion to Full Council was to promote and ensure further protection of established trees and hedgerows on green field development sites. He added that it was important to secure biodiversity gain on such sites and ensure that architectural designs adhered to the existing natural habitat in the protection and retention of those unique environments.
During the consideration of the Notice of Motion, the Committee raised and discussed the following points:
Agreed that the retention of trees and hedges in principal. However, on some residential developments there were trees that that were not maintained and were blocking light and their shallow root system had caused damage to pavements.
That a professional tree surgeon should be involved in the planning application process to ensure that any existing trees were properly assessed prior to any applications for residential developments being granted and that clauses should be included in planning permissions to state that trees and hedges should be maintained.
That the appropriate trees were planted on developments to ensure that they were deep rooted and not shallow rooted, utilising better environmental schemes to benefit the redevelopment of the area.
Acknowledged that for very old established trees that their carbon capture was minimal in comparison to newly planted trees, which would provide a greater benefit to the environment.
The Committee considered a report by the Development Management Service Manager (circulated previously) regarding enforcement procedures and policy practices in relation to environmental enhancement and protection.
The Development Management Service Manager advised that officers were currently reviewing existing planning processes to ensure greater efficiency of the enforcement process. The Council published a Compliance and Monitoring Plan in December 2020, which had a review date of December 2022. An Enforcement process review had recently been undertaken with recommendations made to the Senior Management Team, with plans to be implemented in July/August 2021. A further review had been recommended to ensure that the proposed service changes were effective and also enable further service improvements as part of the cycle of continuous improvement.
Following the adoption and publication of the plan, a service review had been undertaken and key outcomes identified, these were:
Allocation of additional resources to enable the employment of two ‘compliance apprentices’.
Standardisation of reporting requests for enforcement action through the use of ‘firm step’.
Identification of software development needs to better manage enforcement case handling.
Increased accountability and decision making for Enforcement Officers.
Decrease in delays waiting instructions from other Officers.
Further service improvement actions had also been identified, these were:
A full correspondence review to ensure consistency, plain English and effectiveness.
Increased autonomy for Enforcement Officer decision making.
Review of delegated powers for ... view the full minutes text for item 14.
Minute Extract of Strategy and Resources Committee of 5th July 2021 (attached).
The Committee considered a report by the Head of Resources to the Strategy and Resources Committee of 5th July together with minute extract (circulated previously) regarding Performance and Financial Management Quarter 4 2020/21.
The Head of Resources provided an update to the Committee in relation to the financial pressures from the previous report.
The Accountancy Services Manager outlined the report and drew the Committee’s attention to the following points:
The revenue budget for 2020/21 was approved at Council on 26th February 2020 at £13,380,000 and as at 31 December 2020, the Council was reporting a net surplus of £28,000 against the budget.
As at 31 March 2021it was pleasing to report that the final out turn position was a budget surplus of £593,000, which was an overall movement of £565,000 from the last forecast at quarter 3. The breakdown showing the movements were shown in Appendix A – Variations in the Revenue Budget.
The original budget for 2020/21 included a forecast to achieve £200,000 worth of salary vacancy savings, this was exceeded by £189,000 giving an overall actual saving of £389,000.
The movement from Q3 of £565,000 could be attributed to:
· £307,000 Additional income from Planning, Building Control and rental income, in particular Butchers Row.
· £82,000 additional COVID support grant for EH&H and Corporate and
Community, where no additional support was bought in and extra duties were
covered by existing resources.
· £123,000 EH&H housing underspend, from less Temporary Accommodation cost and savings on general supplies and services.
· £53,000 Other smaller savings from various Heads of service.
Throughout 2020/21 Central government announced and paid local authorities 4
tranches of support funding totalling £1,575,000 for North Devon. The Council had also claimed £160,000 in respect of the job retention scheme and received £251,000 New Burdens grant for SBG and RHLG. Central government also supported local authorities for lost income by paying 75% of any lost income after Councils incur the first 5% variance. This lost income and additional costs had been factored into the figures in Appendix A of the report together with the anticipated government support.
As at 31st March 2021 the Collection Fund reserve balance was £9,810,252. 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. Collection Fund deficits/surpluses were reversed out to bring the revenue account back to the budgeted figure for the year; the deficits/surpluses were recovered/distributed in the following financial years. This reserve included an £8,660,000 balance that would be utilised in 2021/22 and 2022/23 to mitigate timing differences of business rate reliefs awarded in 2020/21 that from an accounting perspective impact over the next two financial year; thus leaving the fund reserve with a residue balance of £1,150,000 protection against future volatility. This was an increase of £417,000 on the previous year end reserve balance.
From the revenue budget surplus of £593,000, it was proposed to ... view the full minutes text for item 15.
Minute Extract of Strategy and Resources Committee of 5th July 2021 (attached).
The Exchequer Manager highlighted the following:
· This report provided details of the outturn position for treasury activities and highlights compliance with the Council’s policies previously approved.
· The Council’s Capital expenditure and financing as detailed in paragraph 4.1 of the report.
· The Council’s overall borrowing need as detailed in paragraph 4.2 of the report.
· The Treasury position as at 31 March 2021 as detailed in paragraph 4.3 of the report.
· The strategy for 2020/21 as detailed in paragraph 4.4 of the report.
· The Borrowing Outturn as detailed in paragraph 4.5 of the report.
· The Investment Outturn as detailed in paragraph 4.6 of the report.
In response to questions, the Head of Resources and the Exchequer Manager advised the following:
· There was a review of margins over gilt yields for Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) rates in November 2020, which resulted in a reduction of 1% for the standard and certainty margins. However, a prohibition was introduced to deny access to borrowing from the PWLB for any local authority which had purchase of assets primarily for financial gain in its three year capital programme. This meant that any Council that planned to purchase assets, which would result in capital gain i.e the purchase of a commercial business might struggle to get loans from the PWLB.
The impact of the decision meant that the
Commercialisation Strategy was likely to be restricted to purchases
within the district where regeneration or other factors were
· The authorised borrowing limit was agreed at the Full Council meeting held in February of each year as part of the Treasury Management Strategy.
RESOLVED that the decisions and recommendations of the Strategy and Resources Committee be endorsed.
The Committee thanked the Exchequer Manager and his team for their continued hard work.
To discuss the dates for which the standing financial reporting items will be presented to the Committee up to and including March 2022 (attached).
The Committee considered the Work Programme for 2020/21 (circulated previously).
The Corporate and Community Services Officer addressed the Committee and explained that the purpose of the work programme was to identify when the standard financial reports and other areas of work would be presented to the Committee.
In response to when the potential future items for discussion would be considered by the Committee, the Head of Resources and the Corporate and Community Services Officer explained that the items on the list were added following an email sent by the Chair to all Members inviting them to put forward suggestions for areas of interest that they would like the Committee to discuss further.
The Committee discussed the importance of Task teams in addressing the service provisions that the Council provided.
In response to a question regarding the utilisation of a traffic light system in the financial reports to clearly highlight areas of concern to the Members, the Head of Resources advised that he would explore the potential for such a system with the Business Information Systems Manager.
Councillor Bulled advised that the amendment on page 11 of the minutes of 18th March 2021 that she had requested at the meeting on 27th May 2021 was not quite correct as should have stated:
“Income fall gone has been replaced by public money for public good”.
That the report be noted and the Head of Resources liase with the Corporate and Community Services Officer to populate the work programme with the financial reporting items for the year 2021/22;
That the minutes of the meeting held on 18th March 2021 amended to say:
“Income fall gone had been replaced by public money for public good”; and
That the Head of Environmental Health and Housing Services be invited to attend the next meeting of the Committee on 9th September 2021 to provide a report to the Committee in relation to the following areas identified under potential items for future discussion on the work programme:
A general overview of the Housing service.
Housing for rent and shared ownership schemes.
Landlords and lack of quality rented accommodation.