C Silva-Donayre began by noting the team's hard work in developing the strategy and business cases.
B Hosier took the strategy as read and advised that the recommendation was to acknowledge and note the content of the strategy, with a particular focus on commercial objectives and principles. B Hosier advised that these are identified in item 2 of the report and he asked members that they be clear on the objectives and considerations as they set out the framework to move forward with the commercial programme. He welcomed questions but requested that they relate to the strategy rather than the FBCs (final business cases), given that they are still under development.
Councillor Adeleke referred to item 2 on page 89, noting the last point on assets for investment. He commented that this was the flagship policy that the new Chief Executive had brought in and he asked for an update on progress on this in the last 12 months.
F Jump advised that this area remains in early stages of development and that further updates will be brought to the Committee in due course.
Councillor Adeleke followed up with a supplementary comment, noting that one of the statements is regarding looking outwards for opportunities and he asked when they would receive a full update report on this.
The Chairman suggested that this was contained within the strategy paper under item 3.
B Hosier agreed, adding that there is a current commercial programme that is being developed, and the development of business cases for income generation and commercial activities will go through the Commercial Board in autumn before going through the appropriate channels, including the Committee. Whilst there are a number of potential opportunities, these need to go through due diligence before they can be presented to members. He added that a timeline is included within the accompanying report under section 2.3 and that they will regularly bring back proposals and delivery to the Committee.
The Chairman asked if the timelines are achievable and if any slippage is anticipated.
B Hosier confirmed that the Commercial Board oversees activity as part of the commercial programme and that they are managing the development of the FBCs so a full business case will be presented back to the Commercial Board, with phase 1 to take place after 30th September and phase 2 after 31st October.
C Silva-Donayre advised that a further programme is being worked out once the FBC is developed and this will be made available once ready in the coming weeks.
C Silva-Donayre referred to an earlier question on strategy activity, noting that they are in the first tranche of business cases and they will be constantly looking for new opportunities to embed commercial behaviour within the organisation.
Councillor Mahmood commented on the target to save £2.5m in the next 3 years, as highlighted on page 99, and said he was looking for tangible figures that could be easily monitored.
The Chairman queried the comment and stated that there is a difference between saving and improving.
B Hosier agreed, stating that they would continue to set targets and that these may be revised once they have gone through due diligence.
Councillor Tindall suggested that the strategy is a change of philosophy rather than creating distinct business structures and asked if the Committee could have sight of business cases during development for comment.
B Hosier acknowledged the comment and stated that he would take this back to the Commercial Board, adding that, given this was the first tranche of identified opportunities, there has been a learning curve and that a range of options remain on the table. B Hosier added that they are not looking to invest large sums of money and that the strategy is more about the commercial approach, though this may include setting up business structures.
The Chairman commented that DBC has taken a prudent course of action going forward and that this has allowed them to be in the strong position that they are now.
Councillor Townsend remarked that he was unsure of the responsibilities undertaken by the Governance Board and that he felt the challenge would be between what actions the Board and members wish to take. He commented that the strategy paper, whilst expressing intent, is light on mechanisms.
B Hosier acknowledged the feedback and agreed to review it, adding that the strategy has been deliberately written to focus on the framework and direction of travel whilst they are still developing the commercial approach.
The Chairman noted the strategy did not have a date line and asked if it should have a defined period.
B Hosier agreed, stating that the strategy draft format did not work and therefore a Word document was provided for the purposes of the Committee. B Hosier suggested that the timeframe would be 3-5 years and would be defined.
Councillor Symington asked the Portfolio Holder for clarification on the £2.5m and if he sees it as a saving or an improvement to finances.
The Portfolio Holder, Councillor Williams, noted that they face the challenge of rising costs and that they would need to achieve reductions in costs, improvements and income to around £2.5m to remain as a balanced budget council. He added that if this was not achieved then finances would not be aligned and it was therefore not an option.
Councillor Tindall commented on the statement on page 98 of the report regarding the objective to improve the net financial position by 2025 by £2.5m. He recommended that this be the first objective, and if successful then they could look at a rolling programme beyond this.
Councillor Williams referred to a comment by Councillor Townsend regarding the conflict between the Commercial Board and members, noting that, as Portfolio Holder and Leader, the decision is what members want following advice from the Commercial Board and officers. He referred to another Council Leader resigning and confirmed that he did not intend to be in a position that he was forced to resign due to an unsustainable financial situation.
The Chairman thanked Councillor Williams for the clarification.
The committee acknowledged and noted the content of the Commercial Strategy, with particular focus on the Commercial Objectives and Principles.