N Howcutt introduced the item and highlighted some key points within the report.
Councillor Tindall referred to paragraph 4.2 on page 10 and queried the health and safety aspect. N Howcutt advised that geographical surveys were completed throughout the year where people notice depressions and mounds in land etc. and further work is needed to identify what the issues are. These are often linked to utilities, leaks etc.
Councillor Tindall referred to paragraph 5.2 on page 11 regarding £200k for garage premises. He queried if the underspend was the result of the review and queried when it would be completed. N Howcutt replied it was the budget for the maintenance of our garages which hasn’t been spent in recent years. He said it was the expectation that the garage strategy which is under review at the moment, there would be a more robust and definitive outline capital investment programme in the garages which will go forward to 2019/20 onwards. A report on this will come back to this committee when proposals are submitted.
Councillor Tindall referred to paragraph 7.4 on page 13. He queried the £450k spend and if it had been published anywhere prior to this as he had no record of seeing it before. N Howcutt explained there were two costs; one was the costs incurred by ceasing the previous contract and the second was to ensure everything ran smoothly from day one. Councillor Tindall said he didn’t recall this money being discussed before. N Howcutt advised that an amount of money was discussed for concluding the old contract and implementing a new contract and it fell within the parameters of those numbers.
Councillor Tindall referred to paragraphs 7.2 and 7.4 regarding Everyone Active memberships. He asked if it was stated in the contract whether or not they’re allowed to increase their membership levels over the inflation rate. N Howcutt advised that within the bidders information it was advised that a payment would be made to them to cover the costs if the membership levels weren’t achieved within the first 6 months of the contract. M Brookes added that the prices were protected to a maximum of 4% or CPI, whichever was greater. Councillor Tindall asked if that was for the duration of the contract and M Brookes confirmed it was but added that it excluded clubs. Councillor Tindall highlighted that it has only increased by 2% so far so could potentially increase further. M Brookes explained there was a process for putting forward a price increase so they would have to justify the reasons for it before implementing anything. He added that the re-modelling of the centre was taken into account for the recent increase. N Howcutt then added that they agreed KPI’s annually which is linked to membership prices and it wasn’t in their interests to over-charge people.
Councillor Adeleke referred to paragraph 4.1 on page 10. He understood that it costs the council more to use agency staff and queried the reasons why we were struggling to recruit and/or keep employees. N Howcutt felt it was difficult to say as there could be various reasons why people leave their job. He advised that they’re looking at comparisons with other organisations to ensure we provide an all-round package for employees. The review will be over the next few months and a report will go to the relevant committee with the findings and then they can look at the options going forward and make a decision.
Councillor Adeleke said consistency of staff was really important to members and felt it was a good idea to review our employee package. N Howcutt said consistency was important all round and they will be looking at how to retain employees.
Councillor Barrett referred paragraph 4.5 relating to waste services being under £150k income target and asked when the review was due. N Howcutt explained that the cost of picking up commercial waste matches the income but the income target exceeds what it costs for us to deliver the service hence the £250k short of budgeted income. He said the initial review said to strip down the service and deliver fewer different types of services and at a more commercially viable rate. He added that the consultant that carried out the review was currently on maternity leave and the decision was made to wait for her return so the report is expected in 2019/20. He said the aim was to look at a medium term plan rather than short term and to make the service efficient and economical to the council and maximise profit where possible.
Councillor Barrett referred to page 5.2 on page 11 relating to garages and questioned the percentage of overall income. N Howcutt advised we generate £4million from our garages so approximately 10%, shortfall on budget.
Councillor Douris referred to paragraph 3.1 and asked if we anticipated shock market situation. N Howcutt said there was no expectation to increase costs in 2019/20.
Councillor Douris referred to paragraph 4.3 and queried if we were looking at the sustainability of our vehicles. N Howcutt said he understood that our vehicles were environmental level standard 6 and it only goes up to 7 so we’re going for the best environmental level vehicles that are tried and tested over a period of time
Councillor Armytage referred to paragraph 3.2 regarding successful rent reviews and queried if the service was in-house. N Howcutt explained that we have our own Estates and Commercial Assets team that do all our 604 commercial assets every 5 years or when the lease is reviewed and we also have our own in-house surveyors and legal support if we need it.
Councillor Armytage referred to paragraph 6.4 relating to aerial sites and asked what types of sites these were. N Howcutt advised the majority of sites were top of medium – high rise buildings. Councillor Armytage questioned who determined the different rental values of each site. N Howcutt explained that each was assessed and evaluated in-house and they call on a couple of independent organisations to verify the values.
Councillor Tindall referred to paragraph 8.3 and said he thought that the people planning for the Forum would have thought more about disabled access before now and felt disappointed that as a council we were having to revisit the issue of accessibility. N Howcutt explained that there was a desire to increase accessibility and they took the opportunity to do so whilst there was workers on site.
Councillor Chapman referred to paragraph 5.2 relating to garage premises and queried if we were going to use the £150million to refurbish the garages or if they were going to be discontinued and built on as some of the garages weren’t fit for purpose and in very bad disrepair. N Howcutt explained they were commissioning a stock condition survey so they were waiting for the outcome of that report. He said there was approximately 70% take up on the garages. Councillor Chapman said most people use the garages for storage rather than for their cars.
The report was noted.