Agenda and draft minutes

Finance and Resources Overview and Scrutiny - Tuesday, 7th September, 2021 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, The Forum. View directions

Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support  01442 228209

Items
No. Item

41.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 217 KB

To confirm the minutes from the previous meeting

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 6 July 2021 were agreed by the members present and then signed by the Chairman.

Cllr Symington wanted it noted that she did send apologies for the last meeting, although this was not reflected in the minutes.

42.

Apologies for absence

To receive any apologies for absence

Minutes:

There were apologies from Cllrs Guest and Arslan

43.

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.

44.

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.

45.

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

Minutes:

None.

46.

Action points from the previous meeting

There were no actions from the previous meeting.

Minutes:

The Chairman advised there were no action points from the previous meeting.

The Chairman advised that the question about the car parking would be addressed in the new report.

47.

Quarter 1 Budget Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 209 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

NH was invited to talk through the budget monitoring report, noting the change in format and style of the report so it is more service driven. NH is open to feedback on the report. There is a general fund pressure of circa £1 million, of which £0.7 million is linked to COVID and £0.3 million is linked to non-COVID risks. One of those non-COVID pressures is the lack of temporary accommodation which could be argued is partly due to COVID.

 

There is no movement in the capital for the Q1 programme. This isn’t to say there won’t be changes, but these will be known by Q2. The HRA is largely on budget with a £50 million budget and a variance of only £59,000. The reason for the variance is due to 10% of the capital programme slipping into 2022/23 due to COVID linked delays. The COVID linked delays extend as far as tender processes needing to be longer, lack of resources and skilled workforce and materials.

There is still uncertainty around COVID, some of the behaviours are returning to pre-COVID levels, like the commercial assets portfolio but car parking revenues are still significantly down.

 

Questions and Answers:

 

Cllr Tindall asked whether the contractor costs for car parking remained the same even though revenue collected was down. BH explained that the contractors’ costs remained the same regardless of usage in car parks or the number of PCNs issued. NH added that when the contractor did furlough staff last year, there was a cost savings, but now the cost is the full amount.

 

Cllr Tindall asked whether the public could use the upper decks of Water Gardens North car park and whether CCG would allow this, given they would in due course be integrated in the care services restructuring. BH commented that the upper deck of Water Gardens North car park has actually been opened already to members of the public throughout August until the end of September because Water Gardens South car park is closed. There are discussions that are due to take place about public use longer term of the upper decks of Water Gardens North car park. NH added that these are ongoing discussions and another tenant could be considered as well.

 

Cllr Tindall also queried whether the Police and Crime Commissioner fund could help pay towards costs of clearing fly tipping. AW clarified that this fund is only for the costs of clearing fly tipping from private land and wouldn’t apply to the council. Therefore the costs of £40,000 relating to fly tipping couldn’t be amended.

 

Cllr Symington asked how pressure on wages and materials is anticipated in capital programmes. NH commented that it’s difficult and frustrating as they’re seeing increasing costs in tenders of between 8-25% so it’s very difficult to gauge how much these are short-term changes or longer-term cost increases. NH hopes that by the time the next budget is set he will have a better idea of what the increases will be to set  ...  view the full minutes text for item 47.

48.

Quarter 1 Performance Report - Finance & Resources pdf icon PDF 229 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

NH was invited to talk about the finance and resources performance. There are 5 red KPIs that are the same as last year and these are all a direct response to COVID. There are more enquiries about people struggling to pay council tax and people who aren’t au fait with the benefits system to make the most of it. This is taking time to resolve and there are additional requests for temporary accommodation which is harder to resolve from a council tax and housing claims perspective.

Investment income is also a red KPI. Investment that is with the government, as a ‘DMO’, is receiving 0% interest compared with 0.8% pre-COVID. NH doesn’t envisage interest rates changing in 2021/22 or 2022/23 so this KPI will need re-calibrating.

Time taken for debtors to pay is also down. The Council has been lenient with its debtors and allowed different payment mechanisms, like instalments, to prevent debtors from going bust.

Whilst for commercial property more income is being collected, there are more arrears. Payment plans are what is helping and also allowing the Council to remain close to the sector. The Council is also seeing demand for commercial units in local arcades and shopping centres.

Looking at the risk report, the risk scores haven’t changed since the last quarter. Council tax collection is up year on year but it’s difficult to predict council tax and business rate collection at the end of the year due to the uncertainty around business rates in the first quarter.

 

Questions and Answers:

 

Cllr Tindall wanted to thank the Council for ensuring that their creditors were paid within 30 days. He asked what requirements there are for the larger contractors to ensure that once the Council had paid them that they pay their sub-contractors as expeditiously. NH explained there are standard conditions in the contract with contractors to ensure they have good payment terms with their sub-contractors.

Cllr Townsend queried the extent of the ‘significant debt provision’ on CP02 of the report. NH clarified this was about making larger provisions for bad debt. Last year an additional £800,000 was put into bad debt provision for commercial properties, as part of good accounting practice. From 1st April 2021, bad debt over 6 months was 100% ‘bad debt’, then there was a sliding scale of 25% for debt that was older than 1 month but less than 3 months’ old. The Council was applauded by its external auditor on its bad debt provision. NT added that income collected from investment property at FIN11 (page 27) is outperforming compared to what was expected and is ‘green’. NH hopes this gives members confidence that this year the Council is performing well against the poor performance due to COVID. Cllr Townsend asked if there was a figure for the bad debt in the budget. NH said this would be provided the following evening at the audit committee.

Cllr Symington asked what the timescale is between people asking for repairs and repairs being implemented  ...  view the full minutes text for item 48.

49.

Quarter 1 Performance Report - Corporate & Contracted Services pdf icon PDF 649 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

MB was invited to talk about the report for corporate and contract services. The keys point to note was Q1 was dominated by the Hertfordshire Council and Police and Crime Commissioner election which was a massive effort during a time of COVID restrictions and MB commended the team on delivering this. The report also looks at leisure attendance, which is now increasing month on month, which is really positive. MB is optimistic but cautious going forward.

 

Questions and Answers:

 

 

Cllr Tindall asked for an update on page 43 of the report where is said ‘chasing up members of staff who have not yet provided proof of right to work in the UK’.

MB advised that it was in connection with staff employed for the elections and not for permanent staff.

Cllr Adeleke asked if the Council was prepared for virtual meetings if another COVID lockdown required it. He also asked what requirements there are to get CCTV installed in specific locations.

MB responded saying that there has been a period of remote and hybrid meetings with significant investment into the Council’s facilities, if hybrid meetings were required, they have the facility in place to hold such meetings.

BH added that from a CCTV perspective, the Council have a code of practice which feeds into the national commissioners CCTV strategy and there are rules and regulations for putting CCTV into public spaces. BH encouraged Cllr Adeleke to come to him with his request for CCTV so it could be looked at in line with the relevant procedures.

Cllr Symington congratulated the team on the recent election but noted that a number of postal votes weren’t delivered and also the report noted 450 postal votes ‘failed’. Was this 450 over 2 elections or a total of 2 lots of people? MB explained that the process for postal votes is that the signature on the postal vote form must correspond with the signature the Council holds. On many of these the signatures didn’t correspond and on others the date of birth listed was incorrect. If either of these occur, then the postal vote has to be rejected. After the election those people are written to so they can update the Council’s records accordingly to prevent the same thing from happening.

Cllr Tindall asked if there had been complains from people about their inability to vote. MB noted that there were complaints but the process and reason for the rejection is always explained.

Cllr Symington asked for a budget for the list of procurement. BH stated these were tenders that were at various stages in the tender process. There is a procurement pipeline that’s advertised on the council’s procurement page of its website for up-and-coming tenders. Once contracts are awarded, they are added to the Contract Register which is published and updated monthly. The value and duration of those contracts are included there too. BH can however obtain the estimated value of the tender requisition form for the members. The Chair queried whether  ...  view the full minutes text for item 49.

50.

Quarter 1 Performance Report - Performance, People & Innovation pdf icon PDF 230 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

LR was invited to talk about the performance in people and innovation. LR pointed out the key points are making sure employee sickness is monitored carefully, making sure the Council is aware of health and safety issues around any sickness and monitoring staff overall. LR was keen to commend the team on their drive to support health and wellbeing. 8 members of staff have been trained as Mental Health First Aid Workers and there has been funding from Hertfordshire’s Protection Board to help with health and wellbeing. Staff turnover remains low but there have been some new recruits. LR also commended the IT system that allowed working from home, noting the hard work the IT team had put in.

 

Website users are slightly down from the previous quarter but up from the previous year, the amount of portal users has gone up. So customers are able to make online work for them.

 

Questions and Answers:

 

Cllr Adeleke asked whether additional IT staff had to be employed and what the plan is for returning to the office. It was noted that additional IT staff hadn’t been employed but instead of looking at a mix of ‘service requests’ and ‘incidents’ during the pandemic, output from the IT team had been more focused on ‘incidents’ which was a fire fighting approach and isn’t a sustainable approach for the future. This means that resource may need to be looked at so that ‘service requests’ become more part of the everyday work.

 

In terms of getting back to the office there is a transformation programme, and the date of Monday 27th September is when the Council is proposing for the return to the office for staff. LR noted there is a desire for the Council to embrace hybrid working as well as working within the communities, so not being office-based all the time. LR explained that the second floor of the building will be for fixed desk stations for those working in the office. Meeting rooms will then be enhanced to allow for hybrid meetings. The second floor will also include collaborative areas. There will be quiet workspace corners and a wellness area for people to get away from their screens with bistro seating in the kitchens as well to allow for social interaction. The red zone will have a ‘touch down’ area which will be for people who are in between meetings, or who need a workspace for a short amount of time before their next appointment.

 

To deal with the new layout of the building, signage is important so people can see where teams are located. LR hopes this will empower people with the way they’re working.

 

Cllr Adeleke asked whether the requirement is that people will be in having a gradual return or a hard date for their return to the office. LR explained that everyone has had a different approach to working in the pandemic. It’s important to get workers into the communities. There has been a briefing for management looking  ...  view the full minutes text for item 50.

51.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 129 KB

Minutes:

The Chair thanked everyone for their attendance noting that the next meeting was looking at the Medium Strategy and the Garages Presentation. The Chair encouraged members who had queries on specific areas within the Council to submit their queries so reports could be prepared, noting that 2-3 months’ notice was required for the preparation of these reports.