Venue: Council Chamber, Daneshill House, Danestrete, Stevenage
Contact: Ian Gourlay (01438) 242703 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
The Mayor welcomed Councillor Conor McGrath to his first Council meeting following his success at the recent Bedwell Ward by-election. The Leader of the Council added his welcome and congratulated to Councillor McGrath on his successful election.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Myla Arceno (Deputy Mayor), Adrian Brown and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage, OBE.
There were no declarations of interest.
MINUTES - 14 DECEMBER 2022 PDF 351 KB
To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 14 December 2022.
It was RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 14 December 2022 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Mayor, subject to the following amendment:
· Minute 13 – Questions from Members to Committee Chairs/Portfolio Holders
Question (A) from Councillor Bret Facey re: fuel poverty in Stevenage - the addition as a new first sentence in the answer to Councillor Facey’s supplementary question of the words:
“The Executive Portfolio Holder for Communities, Neighbourhoods and Co-operative Council confirmed that the Kenilworth Close Scheme would deliver a new community centre as part of its final phase, due to commence in late 2023/2024.”
TRIBUTES TO FORMER COUNCILLOR/ALDERMAN BRIAN HALL AND NICK PARRY (FORMER CHIEF EXECUTIVE)
To receive tributes to former Councillor/Alderman Brian Hall and Nick Parry (former Chief Executive).
The Mayor paid tribute to former Councillor / Alderman Brian Hall, who had served as Leader of the Council from 1968 to 2006, and who had passed away recently. In September 1996, he was made an Honorary Freeman, the highest honour that a Borough Council could award. He was awarded the title of Honorary Alderman in July 2007.
The Mayor had been joined by a number of Members and officers at Brian’s funeral on 17 January 2023. She commended baroness Taylor for stepping forward to cover for the funeral Celebrant who had been stuck in traffic and was unable to attend the service.
The Leader of the Council and a number of other Members spoke in tribute to former Councillor / Alderman Hall.
The Mayor then paid tribute to Nick Parry, former Chief Executive of the Council, who had also passed away recently. Nick had started with SBC as Head of Planning, and subsequently became Director of Environmental Services. In 2005 he took on the role of Strategic Director (and Deputy Chief Executive). Within a few short years, Nick was appointed to the role of Chief Executive, a position he held until his retirement in 2015.
The Leader of the Council and a number of other Members spoke in tribute to Nick Parry.
The Council stood to observe a minute’s silence in remembrance of former Councillor / Alderman Hall and Nick Parry.
FINAL HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT (HRA) BUDGET SETTING AND RENT REPORT 2023/24 PDF 1 MB
To consider an officer report on the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Budget and Rent Setting for 2023/24.
[REPORT TO FOLLOW]
The Council considered a report seeking approval to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Budget and Rent Setting for 2023/24.
In moving the motion, the Executive Member for Housing & Housing Development (Councillor Jeannette Thomas) advised that rent levels were usually set using the formula CPI +1%. For 2023/24 this would have resulted in an increase of 11.1%. However, along with other housing stock holding local authorities in Hertfordshire, the increase for 2023/24 would be 7%, in recognition of the current cost of living crisis and the cap set by the Government.
The Executive Member for Housing & Housing Development stated that the average 2023/24 rent for Low Start Shared Ownership (LSSO) properties would be £128.75; for social properties £110.78; and for affordable properties £180.65. Comparing 3-bed Council properties with the private sector showed that private sector rents were on average 114% higher (£283.78 compared to Council rents of £122.41).
The Executive Member for Housing & Housing Development commented that, unlike rent levels, service charges were charged at actual or cost recovery levels. For 2023/24, they would be increased based on higher inflationary figures and changes in usage. 61% of tenants would have no increase, as they did not use the services, and 29% would have increases of below £2.50 per week. However, a significant minority were facing increases above this amount, with 6% facing an increase of over £20 per week. This was mainly due for those that were part of communal heating schemes, and the consequent additional costs of utilities. The current cost of living crisis and the increased cost of utility supplies had had a dramatic impact on services charges, and the Council would need to monitor/review these costs ongoing, and there remained the possibility of Government intervention as part of its Spring 2023 Budget
In seconding the motion, the Executive Member for Resources, Transformation & ICT (Councillor Mrs Joan Lloyd) advised that the 2023/24 projected HRA Budget would contain a surplus of £1.792Million. At the end of that year, the HRA’s balance would be £29.170Million. This balance needed to be held to repay the borrowing that was required when the Government offered the Council the opportunity to purchase its housing stock in 2012; and also for borrowing associated with the Council’s 30 year HRA Business Plan.
The Executive Member for Resources, Transformation & ICT advised that the utilities costs for 2022/23 had also risen, but were not known about when the budget was approved, and hence it was recommended that these increased costs/charges were passed on to tenants for the final 6 weeks of 2022/23.
The Executive Member for Resources, Transformation & ICT explained that borrowing of £10.2Million was planned for 2023/24 to fund the building of more new homes for those on the Council’s waiting list, with further borrowing of £32.4Million in subsequent years. The borrowing would take place when the Chief Financial Officer considered the time would be right. Total cost of interest on all loans for 2022/23 and 2023/24 was forecast to be £7.3Million and £8.6Million, respectively. The growth and ... view the full decision text for item 4.
APPOINTMENT OF INTERIM MONITORING OFFICER PDF 127 KB
To appoint an Interim Monitoring Officer in accordance with s5 Local Government and Housing Act 1989.
[Prior to the consideration of this item, Mr Simon Pugh (Interim Borough Solicitor) withdrew from the meeting.]
The Council considered a report seeking approval to the appointment of an Interim Monitoring Officer, in accordance with Section 5 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.
It was moved, seconded and RESOLVED that Mr Simon Pugh be appointed as the Council’s Interim Monitoring Officer, with immediate effect and until further notice.