Agenda and minutes

Finance and Resources Overview and Scrutiny - Tuesday, 8th September, 2020 6.30 pm

Venue: Microsoft Teams - Microsoft Teams. View directions

Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support  01442 228209

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 124 KB

To confirm the minutes from the previous meeting.


The minutes of the meeting held on 7 July 2020 were agreed by the members present and will be signed by the Chairman at the next available opportunity.



Apologies for absence

To receive any apologies for absence.


Apologies for absence were received on behalf of Councillor Guest. 



Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.


A member with a disclosable pecuniary interest or a personal interest in a matter who attends a meeting of the authority at which the matter is considered -


(i)            must disclose the interest at the start of the meeting or when the interest becomes apparent


and, if the interest is a disclosable pecuniary interest, or a personal interest which is also prejudicial


(ii)           may not participate in any discussion or vote on the matter (and must withdraw to the public seating area) unless they have been granted a dispensation.


A member who discloses at a meeting a disclosable pecuniary interest which is not registered in the Members’ Register of Interests, or is not the subject of a pending notification, must notify the Monitoring Officer of the interest within 28 days of the disclosure.


Disclosable pecuniary interests, personal and prejudicial interests are defined in Part 2 of the Code of Conduct For Members.


[If a member is in any doubt as to whether they have an interest which should be declared they should seek the advice of the Monitoring Officer before the start of the meeting].



The Chairman declared an interest as he is a Director of a company based in Dacorum which had received a grant from the council.



Public Participation

An opportunity for members of the public to make statements or ask questions in accordance with the rules as to public participation.





Consideration of any matter referred to the committee in relation to call-in




Action points from the previous meeting

All action points from the previous meeting have been completed.


Councillor Claughton said he had received an email from B Hosier but was still waiting for the detailed calculations of the pay-back period for the Berkhamsted multi-storey car park and asked if that could be carried over. M Brookes said he would review the information that B Hosier had previously sent to Councillor Claughton and would provide further details if possible.


Councillor Symington said some of her unanswered queries from the previous meeting hadnt been picked up as action points. She felt frustrated and questioned the process of how we deal with action points, especially when a member is dissatisfied with the response received from an officer.


Following a discussion about how to resolve the issue, the Chairman suggested the following:


If the minutes are published before the next meeting and a member feels there is anything inaccurate or incomplete, they should raise it before the next meeting.


Any unresolved issues can be followed up with the responsible officer separately.


Any points that need to be followed up will continue to be marked as action points in the minutes. The Chairman will highlight these during the meeting to ensure clarity.


The action points raised by Councillors Claughton and Symington will be carried over to the next meeting. 



Quarter 1 Budget Monitoring pdf icon PDF 326 KB

Additional documents:


N Howcutt highlighted that due to timing issues the report was slightly out of date, however most of the numbers and significant issues still remain. He advised that the general fund had a pressure of £5.8M; the caveat of that was at the time of producing the report we were unaware of how much we may receive from the Governments lost income reimbursement scheme. He suggested it could be approximately £1.2M from the guidance released last week but we wouldnt know the exact figure until later on this year. The HRA has a projected surplus of £900k, the underspends and overspends are also linked to coronavirus. In regards to Capital, there has been increased expenditure of £0.5M around waste services vehicles to support social distancing and an enhanced wheelie bin roll out.


He explained that a large section of our overspend is linked to loss of income; investment property income is the largest at £2.7M followed by car parking income at £1M and garages income also at £1M. These figures will change throughout the year but there is still lots of uncertainty from now until year-end. He summarised that although the projections seem quite stark, they are directly related to coronavirus and will be monitored on a monthly basis.


The Chairman asked if the projections were a worst case scenario approach. N Howcutt replied the projections were prudent but realistic due to the uncertainty. He said only time would tell.


Councillor Tindall referred to capital slippage at points 1.3 and 1.4. He asked if we were monitoring that and being careful not to make any firm promises. N Howcutt advised that capital was monitored on a monthly basis to keep as up to date as possible and we were also working very hard with our partners to ensure they have the capacity to deliver. He explained that all work that was planned for this year wasnt forgotten and will need to be rescheduled as soon as possible. He said we were trying to deliver what we can alongside government guidelines and will continue to work effectively and maintain the capital programme as much as we can.  


Councillor Tindall referred to paragraphs 5.2 and 8.2 concerning the waste services fleet and sought clarification on the reason for the overspend. N Howcutt explained that the procurement of the new fleet took longer than expected so we had to hire more vehicles and also put more maintenance in to the existing vehicles. He advised that approximately £40k was for additional vehicles to allow us to support social distancing to keep our workforce safe.


Councillor Symington sought clarification on the makeup of investment property income. N Howcutt advised that tables one and two were our entire commercial assets portfolio from local neighbourhood shops to commercial assets such as The Forum and Marlowes. The key will be quarters three and four when all government grants would have been paid to businesses, the eat  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Quarter 1 Performance Report - Finance and Resources pdf icon PDF 90 KB

Additional documents:


N Howcutt drew attention to the 6 red KPIs. He advised that they all linked to coronavirus and ran through each KPI to give some background. He welcomed questions from the committee.


Councillor Symington referred to the KPI for time taken for debtors to pay. She queried at what point it would become a bad debt.  N Howcutt advised it would usually be 30 days of non-payment but we have been flexible due to coronavirus and the fact that we werent sending out reminders or enforcing payment. He added that the government had issued guidance on when you could and couldnt chase debt and how you should do it.


The Chairman said he had found the use of red font on the papers really useful to highlight key points in the report.


Councillor Tindall said he trusted that we were taking a sympathetic and sensitive approach to our neighbourhood shops so they dont have to close down. N Howcutt felt that we were a caring landlord and always try to communicate with our tenants and understand their concerns. He advised that ward members would always be made aware if we had a significant issue in the neighbourhood areas.


Councillor Adeleke referred to the government guidance on debt recovery. He asked if there was a time limit for this or if it was left open. N Howcutt explained we were now enforcing and collecting debt in line with government guidelines but we wouldnt be able to instruct enforcement agents if we needed to. In terms of guidance, most has come to an end in recent weeks but there was nothing to stop government from bringing additional policies or guidance that we would have to adhere to.


The Chairman asked if there were any policies to stop tenants sub-letting commercial properties. N Howcutt advised there was a strict policy in place that doesnt allow any of our commercial properties to be sub-let. He said our process was open and transparent and all our vacant properties go to the open market so everyone has a chance to bid. The Chairman had concerns about sub-letting in the borough and asked if the estates team could carry out a review on landlords with multiple properties. N Howcutt advised we regularly check our properties and enforcement has taken place within the last 12 months for tenants that have tried to sub-let our properties and adjoining maisonettes. The Chairman asked that it continued to be monitored.



The report was noted.



Quarter 1 Performance Report - Corporate and Contracted Services pdf icon PDF 143 KB

Additional documents:


M Brookes introduced the report and highlighted that quarter one had been dominated by coronavirus. He highlighted the key points within the report which included the redesign of The Forum to make it safe for staff to return to work, the work the procurement team had carried out with our partners and to assist with the reopening of our leisure centres, the work corporate and democratic support had carried out to ensure committee meetings continued virtually and finally the legal and licensing teams have continued to support clients and work with licensed premises on safe reopenings.


Councillor Tindall said he visited The Forum on a regular basis and felt extremely comfortable with the changes. He congratulated the officers on their hard work redesigning the building to keep everyone safe. He then asked if we had projected how many staff we would be able to allow in at any one time whilst the pandemic continued. B Hosier advised there were 240 seats within the five coloured zones including the Herts CCG and 160 of those seats would be for council staff only. He said he counted the seats every day and today for example there were 100 staff members in the building so we still had plenty of capacity.


Councillor Tindall asked if there were any services lacking due to not being able to work in the office. B Hosier felt lockdown had proved that most roles could be carried out from home. He asked L Roberts if she had anything to add. L Roberts advised they were carrying out some work for learning from lockdown. She had one-to-ones with group managers and it became clear that all services were able to continue with staff working from home. She said they had tried to be flexible so that those individuals that struggled to work from home could return to The Forum and those that preferred to work from home could continue to do so.


Councillor Tindall asked for reassurance that we were monitoring the mental health of our staff during this difficult time. L Roberts advised we had launched a health and wellness briefing note for all staff informing them where to get internal and external support and one-to-ones between staff and their managers was still continuing virtually. She added that we had also had a good response from the staff survey.


The Chairman referred to page 43 regarding case FFEI Ltd vs DBC and asked if the case was dropped. M Brookes advised we didnt believe there was merit in their claim but a consent order was agreed to save costs to all parties on the basis that the council was not at fault.



The report was noted.



Quarter 1 Performance Report - Performance People and Innovation pdf icon PDF 80 KB

Additional documents:


L Roberts introduced the report and drew attention to the performance data and KPIs. She summarised the key areas within the report and welcomed questions from the committee.


Councillor Symington said Councillor Tindall had asked the question she was going to ask about the mental health of staff earlier on in the meeting but she wanted to echo his points and reiterate the importance of the topic. She then referred to the black lives matter reports in the media and asked if the council had any policies to deal with these issues in the community. L Roberts advised that we had an equality and diversity policy to address any concerns and that has been discussed with the leadership team. We also monitor our social media channels to make sure everything that is commented on or about is appropriate. She said she hadnt been made aware of any specific issues or impact on the council.


Councillor Adeleke asked how staff were assisted on the leadership programme and if it was limited to management only. He also asked if staff could be funded to take on external training courses. L Roberts explained we had a series of online courses that were open to anyone in the organisation to improve individual skills and we also supported and funded external courses. She advised that the new normal leadership programme would be discussed with the new chief executive once she has commenced her role.


Councillor Adeleke queried the impact coronavirus had on our sickness levels. L Roberts said there was a big impact at the beginning of lockdown due to shielding guidelines but in terms of sickness levels she would need to come back to members with the figures.                                                                  Action: L Roberts


The Chairman asked if there were any plans to improve our website. L Roberts advised they had done some signposting which was co-ordinated with HCC. She asked B Trueman if there was anything he wanted to add. B Trueman suggested it was possibly time for a review of the website but he welcomed any feedback in the meantime on any particular issues. He advised the website was split between his team and the communications team but he was happy to be the point of contact. He added that they were constantly adding functionalities and ensuring transactional contact can be made through the council.


The Chairman asked if we were working more efficiently now or previously. L Roberts felt that was a difficult question to answer and to measure. She said overall the performance was good but different, and we have been able to provide flexibility to staff and staff were happy and productive.



The report was noted. 




Allotments pdf icon PDF 71 KB

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N Howcutt introduced the item and advised that this report was due at the March meeting but was cancelled due to coronavirus. He summarised the key points within the report and welcomed questions.


Councillor Tindall referred to the project at Windmill Road and noted that the report said there was little demand for these plots which was incorrect. He advised that Councillor England had a list of local residents that were waiting for these plots. N Howcutt explained that it was a timing issue and at the point of the report being published we had no demand for these plots but he had since spoken with Councillor England about the demand from local residents. Councillor Tindall asked if the minutes could include the up to date figures which N Howcutt agreed he would provide.                                                                           Action: N Howcutt



The report was noted.



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 109 KB


There were no changes to the work programme.