N Howcutt presented the report and asked if there were any questions.
Cllr Tindall wanted confirmation on the date in 5.2 that the report was presented to Audit in July, and if that was 2018. N Howcutt confirmed it was.
Cllr Tindall queried the pension contributions in table 3 there are some zeros in that line and he would have thought that 1% was more appropriate. N Howcutt confirmed that the expectation is that there is a one off requirement historically, it’s not going to be ongoing.
Cllr Tindall mentioned the staff pressures as this links in to the sickness as he believes because of staffing pressures and the fact we may not have as much staff as we need, we then have problems with pressures and stress on other staff, which means we perhaps get more sickness. It’s a horrible viscous circle. It says that Council Officers continue to work with other authorities and have we formed a partnerships in order to share the load. N Howcutt said that there’s lots of small partnerships and also Building Control are looking at partners, there are some suggestions for my team, but he is interested in looking at economies of scale with purely back office. It’s not necessarily to reduce the cost but it helps with resilience. Also it helps with succession planning, if there is some commonality it will come through more and more. The new normal concept that will be rolled out within the next few months will look at that partnership working.
Cllr Tindall mentioned the implementation of Universal Credit, we had an excellent report that identified the problems associated with the Government paying benefits 5 weeks in arrears, that could mean we end up with arrears of payments from residents. Are we looking at factoring in the potential for Council Tax arrears going forward. N Howcutt that Universal Credit will impact the HRA and we have increased the bad debt provision for the next four years to allow for that and then tailing off when we believe that the welfare reforms have been embedded, which will hopefully reduce over time. The issue with Universal Credit at the moment is that it is going to get rolled out from December but over a four year period and we have no understanding of what that peaks and troughs is going to be.
Cllr Tindall said he was thinking about Council Tax collection. N Howcutt said it would link into the Council Tax Support programme. We haven’t factored in non-payment as we have a fairly good Council Tax Support process but it is worth consideration.
Cllr Barrett asked about the budget assumptions and utilities you’ve got 5% year on year increase, is that quite high. N Howcutt said that if you take into consideration retail generally you would be looking at 3-4% and that includes petrol, which is a large chunk of that. It’s not a large budget item but it is something that we’ve been seeing.
The Chairman confirmed the recommendation and it was agreed.