Agenda and draft minutes

Finance and Resources Overview and Scrutiny - Tuesday, 7th June, 2022 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, The Forum. View directions

Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support  01442 228209

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes

To confirm the minutes from the previous meeting.

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting were unavailable due to a technical error and therefore would be agreed at the next meeting.

 

2.

Apologies for absence

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Sinha, Suqlain Mahmood and Townsend.

Councillor Peter substituted for Councillor Suqlain Mahmood.

 

3.

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]

 

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

 

4.

Public Participation

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

Minutes:

There was no public participation.

 

5.

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

Minutes:

None.

6.

Action points from the previous meeting

Minutes:

Any outstanding action points from the previous meeting will be carried over and discussed at the next meeting.

 

7.

Energy Bills Rebate

A presentation will be shared with the committee on this item.

Minutes:

C Baker presented an overview of the rebate as part of the government’s support for households, and that Dacorum will be making approximately 43k payments of £150 to residents.  The majority of payments will be made via direct debit details held for council tax, and around 28k payments have been made automatically following additional cross checks.  In instances where automatic payments could not be made, letters have been sent to direct people to the website, or they can call to be guided through the process over the phone.  Further anti-fraud checks then need to be made before making payments, and if these checks can’t be completed then the amount will instead be applied to the person’s council tax account. 

C Baker advised that around £6.75m of payments would be made overall, of which £5.1m has been paid out today, and around 4k council tax credits are expected to be applied by the end of the week.  Around 5k people are yet to respond to their letter, and if no response is received within the next 3 weeks, then a credit will be applied to their council tax account.  

Cllr Tindall commented on the vulnerable section of society and asked if the 5k yet to respond are council tenants.  C Baker advised housing officers and tenant support are already assisting tenants with this and anyone receiving the rebate as a credit on their council tax bill will receive a new bill detailing this. 

Cllr Tindall noted examples in the private rental sector where a portion of council tax is added to rents and therefore the landlord is taking the rebate.  C Baker responded that it was a possibility this had happened and that some controls in place require a link between the bank account and the person liable for council tax help mitigate against this. 

Cllr Tindall asked that the team working on this be thanked for their work.  Cllr Douris echoed this, adding that the council and its officers have gone above and beyond to get funds due to people as quickly as possible. 

Cllr Freedman asked why multiple payment dates were set up.  C Baker agreed that it would be beneficial to release the payments on one date, though the staggered payments were to ensure payments could be made as soon as possible to those who were eligible.  It was also noted that payments were due to differing direct debit payment dates. 

Cllr Symington queried how rebates had been internally costed.  C Baker confirmed the focus had been on making payments, though they will look at the cost of resourcing the service.  C Baker added that the main cost would likely be officer time and diverting work away from other services.

Cllr Adeleke asked how much pressure staff are experiencing having been taken away from their core functions.  Cllr Adeleke then asked about anti-fraud checks and how much time the team has to spend on this.  C Baker advised that it had been the toughest individual process he had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Quarter 4 Performance Report - Finance and Resources pdf icon PDF 537 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

N Howcutt presented the report, particularly noting that the 3 red KPIs, (1) general fund capital expenditure, and a provisional outturn report will be on the agenda for the next committee, (2) time taken for debtors to pay, and (3) the time taken to decide a new claim for housing benefit.  N Howcutt noted the pressures on the Revenues and Benefits team and that they are improving on the third KPI, and whilst they have fallen slightly short, the bar is particularly high, and they expect to achieve it going forward.  N Howcutt next looked at the operational risk register, noting that performance has not changed since Q3, and performance is positive in terms of KPI. 

Cllr Douris commented on references to delays regarding RBF06 and the new document management system and asked if anything could’ve been done differently.  C Baker advised that the version of the software was no longer being supported and there are ongoing issues with the new version. C Baker added that there were few opportunities to run tests and therefore issues arose during discovery and the test environment did not accurately reflect the live environment.  B Hosier added that they had no option but to upgrade and that the complexity of the live environment is difficult to replicate for testing. 

Cllr Peter commented on the time taken for debtors to pay, noting that the report states improvements have been made and asked what other measures have been put in place.  N Howcutt confirmed that there is a debt recovery team who use several items, including regular payments over a longer period of time, and there is a rolling dialogue in place in debtors.  N Howcutt stated that these income streams are part of their budget, and whilst they do write-off some debts, this will be done when they have no means of paying and there is no other means of collection.  Bad debt has not increased though there is an increase of those on regular payment plans.  There are concerns for 2022/23 as much of the debt is the commercial property portfolio. 

Cllr Freedman noted the time taken for debtors to pay and asked what type of debtor this includes, suggesting that they separate out the various types of debtors.  N Howcutt explained that several debtor registers sit behind the report and stated that they could bring a report on debt provision after Q1 2022/23 to provide the Committee more detail on performance. 

Cllr Freedman commented on RBF01 and asked if any delays on processing new claims are not causing delays to getting tenants into accommodation.  C Baker advised that housing benefit claims are only made once someone is in accommodation and that new claims for housing benefit are made by a limited number of people with most housing costs now coming through Universal Credit.

Cllr Guest asked if the operational risk register was being presented to the Audit Committee.  N Howcutt explained that this sits below the strategic risk register, which goes to the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Quarter 4 Performance Report - Corporate and Contracted Services pdf icon PDF 438 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

M Brookes introduced the report and drew member’s attention to the legal cases which were in Court during that quarter. He highlighted that back in February we successfully delivered the Berkhamsted West Ward, Berkhamsted Town Council and the Boxmoor Ward by elections. Happy to take questions.

Cllr Tindall noted the bullet points on page 19 regarding opposition regarding Hackney Carriage drivers, and asked how opposition had manifested.   It was noted that the King Ace taxi company won the tender to operate from the train station, which was met with opposition from other taxi operators.  The tender was run by the Train Operating Company and the council was not involved in the process. 

Cllr Guest referred to page 22 of the report, noting that she was contacted by residents after 5th May to ask why they had not received their polling cards and asked how the message could be made to non-Internet users in future.  M Brookes noted that polling cards should go through everyone’s doors, and an extensive social media campaign is run alongside this.  There is limited resource and therefore cards and social media should make most residents aware of elections. Cllr Guest asked if they could communicate with non-Internet users when there are no elections. M Brookes stated that they could pick this up with the team though it would be expensive to send letters to all residents.  Cllr Guest suggested that the Dacorum Digest be used. 

Cllr Peter stated it was good to see the successful prosecutions during the quarter and asked how many cases on average they take to court and what percentage of costs are recovered.  It was noted there was a moratorium on certain cases during the pandemic and they should now see an increase in activity.  On costs, sometimes legal costs aren’t pursued, though they will work with finance to ensure costs are pursued when the court awards them.   Cllr Peter asked who makes the decision to take someone to court.  It was confirmed that it is the officers and legal teams who ensure there is sufficient legal evidence to take someone to court.  Cllr Douris commented that the fly tipping prosecutions sent out a strong message. 

Cllr Symington commented on the increase of TROs, as detailed on pages 27 and 28 of the report, noting that this was a welcome development.  Cllr Symington referred to the TRO on Elm Grove, Berkhamsted F Zone, and asked what the F Zone is.  Cllr Symington also noted the change to regulation 10 and how PCNs (Penalty Charge Notices) are issued and asked if the policy was having any impact.  Councillor Williams responded to the Elm Grove question, noting that he was contacted by a resident who requested a CPZ for Elm Grove, and it was agreed that this would go out for initial consultation with residents, and ‘F’ is the identifying code.  M Brookes confirmed that he would send a note to the Committee regarding the impact of the change in regulation 10. Action  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Quarter 4 Performance Report - Performance, People and Innovation pdf icon PDF 570 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Hannah Peacock was introduced as the new Head of Transformation and Kelvin Soley as the Head of Communications. 

B Trueman presented the report, noting that sickness has increased, though there is work ongoing to help decrease this.  The increases come from stress, anxiety, Covid-19, and surgery.  It was noted there is a deep dive of statistical analysis to look at this and more information will be brought to the Committee in future.  It was noted that any HR questions would likely be taken away for M Rawdon to answer at a later date. 

On digital, B Trueman highlighted the number of incidents resolved in 2 days, noting that this has improved from 49% to 62% and the staff picture is improving with a new lead officer for the service desk.  There is a backlog of older incidents and, as these are resolved, they will impact on this KPI.

Cllr Claughton commented on the increase in absence due to stress and anxiety, noting that it was unsurprising given the pandemic, and asked if the deep dive analysis would provide the reasons behind the increase.  Cllr Claughton welcomed what the council was doing to support staff and asked what the take up levels were for what is on offer.  B Trueman agreed to pass the questions onto M Rawdon, though there has been good take up of what’s on offer within his own team. Action.

Cllr Douris noted the importance of the paper and politelyasked that relevant officers be in attendance.  B Trueman advised that absence may be unavoidable when staff are on leave and in these circumstances, they would look to ask a deputy to attend.  It was noted that M Rawdon’s deputy currently has Covid, and the new strategic director only started that week and would be unable to provide answers.  

Cllr Freedman commented that most wellness activities and support listed appeared to be reactive and recommended a KPI that tracks the number of adaptions requested by staff.  Cllr Freedman also suggested that they look at the difference in sickness leave between those who have had a change to where they are working versus those who have always had to attend physically.  B Trueman advised that the dialogue between managers and officers is open and direct, and the culture is to be open and understanding.  It’s in managers’ interests that officers are able to continue working and therefore adaptations are made where possible whilst also offering a service to residents.

Cllr Guest noted paragraph 5.3 on page 37 of the report regarding the launch of the Hertfordshire energy advice tool and asked how DBC has worked with the county council on this project.  H Peacock advised that she would need to come back with more information on the partnership and provide a written response.

Cllr Guest commented on the roll out of EV charge points in council-run car parks is progressing well and asked if this would include shopping centre sites.  B Hosier confirmed that there are a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Leisure Contract Update

Minutes:

Full details can be found in the Part 2 Minutes.

 

12.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 143 KB

Minutes:

The following items were added to the work programme:

November – Leisure Contract update (Ben Hosier)

Future items – Electric Vehicle Charging Points (Ben Hosier)