Agenda and decisions

Executive - Wednesday, 15 September 2021 1.00pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Daneshill House, Danestrete, Stevenage

Contact: Ian Gourlay (01438) 242703  Email: committees@stevenage.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

Decision:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors John Gardner, Phil Bibby CC (observer) and Robin Parker (observer).

 

There were no declarations of interest.

2.

MINUTES - 11 AUGUST 2021 pdf icon PDF 247 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting of the Executive held on 11 August 2021 for signature by the Chair.

Decision:

It was RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting of the Executive held on 11 August 2021 be approved as a correct record for signature by the Chair.

 

The Chief Executive confirmed that a draft Executive Action Tracker had been prepared for consideration by Members ahead of the next Executive meeting.

3.

MINUTES OF THE OVERVIEW & SCRUTINY COMMITTEE AND SELECT COMMITTEES pdf icon PDF 301 KB

To note the following Minutes of meetings of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee and Select Committees –

 

Overview & Scrutiny Committee – 17 August 2021

Decision:

The Strategic Director (CF) confirmed that it was intended that the further report on the Council’s Transformation Programme would be presented by the end of the current financial year.  In the meantime, Members would receive informal updates periodically.

 

It was RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee held on 17 August 2021 be noted.

 

4.

COVID-19 UPDATE

To consider an update on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Decision:

The Executive considered an overarching verbal progress report from the Strategic Director (RP), together with a short presentation from the Corporate Policy & Research Officer providing an update on the latest epidemiology statistics relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

The following matters were raised during the verbal progress report/presentation:

 

·        Officers undertook to seek statistics regarding Covid hospitalisations, with particular emphasis of the numbers of those un-vaccinated, single-vaccinated and double-vaccinated;

·        The Leader confirmed that she had circulated to Members the useful guidance produced by the Hertfordshire Public Health Officer regarding vaccination consent for 12-15 year olds;

·        The Leader reported that 3 additional one year fixed term posts had been approved to help Independent Living Schemes re-open communal lounges and re-introduce social activities for residents; and

·        It was acknowledged that some sectors were experiencing staff shortages (eg. HGV drivers and hospitality staff).  It was pleasing to note that Stevenage Direct Services had not had to suspend any services during the pandemic, but Stevenage Leisure Limited were experiencing staffing issues, particularly with recruitment of hospitality employees.  

 

It was RESOLVED that the Covid-19 update be noted.

5.

TRANSFORMING OUR TOWN CENTRE PROGRAMME UPDATE AND TOWNS FUND DECISION MAKING pdf icon PDF 685 KB

To consider an update on the Transforming Our Town Centre Programme and proposals in respect of Towns Fund decision making.

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Executive considered a report in respect of progress with regard to town centre regeneration, together with proposals for decision-making with regard to the Town Investment Plan projects benefitting from the Towns Fund.

 

The Executive supported the replacement wording of Recommendation 2.4 of the report proposed by the Assistant Director (Regeneration), as follows:

 

“To note that all Business Cases will be prepared for submission to the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) by 24 March 2022.  A report will be prepared for a meeting of Full Council confirming the approval of Business Cases for submission to the MHCLG with delegated authority to the Executive.”

 

In order to meet the challenging timescales relating to the submission of Business Cases, the Leader requested officers to identify some dates for additional Executive (and possibly one Council) meetings to consider the Business Cases.

 

In response to Members’ questions, the Assistant Director (Regeneration) replied;

 

·        The Regeneration Team had taken on additional resources to help progress the Business Cases, and external professional support had also been engaged.  Other Council Teams (particularly Planning and Finance colleagues) would also be assisting in the process.  He was confident that there was the necessary capacity to deliver the Business Case submissions;

·        Correspondence from the MHCLG indicated that successful Town Fund bidders should receive an upfront payment of 5% of the total Towns Fund award. For Stevenage this was estimated to be £1.875M, to assist with the development of Business Cases and the implementation of projects.  This sum had yet to be received; 

·        In approving the £37.5m Town Deal for Stevenage, the MHCLG had not as yet provided any supporting information regarding its rationale for approving the bid;

·        The Stevenage Development Board would be required to endorse Business Cases before they were considered by the Executive.  A Chair’s Panel, comprising of officers, external experts (including the Development Board Theme Lead for each project) and Members, would be established to vet the draft Business Cases before submission to the Development Board/Executive; and

·        The timing of any further planning approvals for projects would vary dependent on the size and complexity of each scheme.  Some projects (such as the Marshgate Science Innovation Centre) already benefitted from having planning permission in place.

 

The Leader requested the Portfolio Holder for Resources and her Street naming Sub-Group to compile a list of potential names for the new streets arising from the Town Centre Regeneration Programme.

 

The Leader asked the Chief Executive to invite the Chairman of the Stevenage Development Board to future Executive meetings where Town Deal Business Cases were being considered.

 

The Leader requested that consideration be given to the introduction of some form of interactive Town Centre Regeneration question and answer forum be developed for inclusion on the Council and Stevenage Even Better websites. 

 

It was RESOLVED:

 

1.          That the progress of the regeneration programme, including the Queensway North regeneration scheme, Town Square co-working & heritage project, and the construction of the new bus interchange, be noted.

2.          That the progress of Town’s Fund programme  ...  view the full decision text for item 5.

6.

CORPORATE PERFORMANCE QUARTER ONE 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 299 KB

To consider Corporate Performance for the First Quarter of 2021/22 (April to June 2021).

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Executive received a presentation from the Chief Executive concerning the Quarter One Corporate Performance report 2021/22.

 

Discussion points raised included:

 

·        Whilst recognising the 45% reported increase in calls to the Customer Service Centre (CSC) post the last lockdown, Members were very concerned about CSC response times.  An informal Executive meeting on 30 September would consider this matter further, including further opportunities to improve the performance of the CSC;

·        Notwithstanding the appointment system operated by the CSC during the pandemic, it was confirmed that customers with high priority needs continue to be seen in-person, with or without an appointment;

·        It was important that back-office services worked in collaboration with the CSC with regard to efficient responding to customers;

·        The response times on re-letting void properties were often skewed by the limited demand for sheltered housing units. The Leader highlighted that the Council had converted a number of bedsit units into one-bedroom homes and was continuing to do so

·        In relation to the Co-operative Neighbourhood FTFC priority, the Leader asked that the issues identified during Ward walkabouts be entitled “Actions List” rather than “Community Plan”;  officers were requested to ensure that there was an element of consistency with regards to action taken by the 6 Co-operative Neighbourhood Teams in respect of matters such as following up / resolving issues identified during walkabouts, guidance on the method of payment for issue resolution (ie. central budgets or Member Local Community budgets) and the promotion of Co-op Neighbourhood meetings;  officers were also asked to ensure that County Councillors were invited to participate in future walkabouts;

·        The Leader asked the Assistant Director (Stevenage Direct Services) to provide Members with an assessment of the success of the establishment of the new meadowland areas in the town;

·        It was confirmed that the first Climate Change Citizens’ Panel group had met and that a fresh Panel would be set up for 2021/22.  An annual report regarding progress on the Council’s Climate Change Strategy was scheduled to be submitted to the October Executive meeting.

 

It was RESOLVED:

 

1.          That the delivery of priorities which form the Future Town, Future Council Programme and performance of the Council across the key themes for quarter one 2021/22, together with the latest achievements, be noted.

2.          That the continued impacts of COVID-19 on the homelessness preventions service and actions to recover be noted (as set out in Paragraphs 3.60 to 3.74 of the report).

3.          That the issues with sheltered voids and void loss be noted and plans to improve performance bee endorsed (as set out in Paragraphs 3.75 to 3.86 of the report).

4.          That issues with asbestos and the letting of Council garages and the planned measures to improve performance be noted (as set out in Paragraphs 3.91 to 3.98 of the report).

5.          That work with the Business Technology Centre (BTC) to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 be monitored (as set out in Paragraphs 3.89 to 3.90 of the report).

6.          That work to investigate issues with  ...  view the full decision text for item 6.

7.

GENERAL FUND MEDIUM TERM FINANCIAL STRATEGY UPDATE (2020/22 - 2025/26) pdf icon PDF 716 KB

To consider the General Fund Medium Term Financial Strategy Update (2020/22 – 2025/26).

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Executive considered a report providing a General Fund Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) update for the period 2020/22 to 2025/26.

 

The Strategic Director (CF) undertook to provide the Leader with a breakdown of the “Other COVID spend (funded from grant)” figure of £500,210 set out in the Table at Paragraph 4.1.2 of the report.

 

It was RESOLVED:

 

1.          That change to the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) principles, as outlined in Paragraph 4.1.6 of the report and amended in Paragraph 4.10.9, be approved.

 

2.          That, for modelling purposes, Council tax increases be set at the threshold of 1.99%, subject to any change in Government rules to achieve a balanced budget, as set out in Paragraph 4.6.9 of the report.

 

3.          That the updated inflation assumptions used in the Medium Term Financial Strategy, as set out in Section 4 of the report, be approved.

 

4.          That the approach to Making Your Money Count (MYMC) budget options, as set out in Section 4.8 of the report, be approved.

 

5.          That an amount of £300,000 for 2022/23 be approved for inclusion in the budget setting process to support the Transformation Fund, to help deliver the MYMC Target, as set out in Paragraph 4.8.4 of the report.

 

6.          That a Making Your Money Count Target of £2.14million (of which £1.91Million is not identified), be approved for the period 2022/23- 2024/25, as set out in Section 4.9 of the report.

 

7.          That the potential expansion of the Revenues and Benefits Service be approved, subject to a full business case, as set out in Paragraph 4.8.11 of the report.

 

8.          That the 1st quarter changes to the General Fund, as outlined in Section 4.3 and also in Appendix B of the report, of £377,840 net underspend, be approved.

 

9.          That the changes to business rates and section 31 grants, as set out in Paragraph 4.5.5 of the report, be noted.

 

10.      That the financial impact of COVID in 2021/22 and future years, as set out in Section 4.1 of the report, be approved.

 

11.      That the use of £265,930 of COVID finance settlement funding for homeless pressures, as set out in Paragraph 4.3.10 of the report, be approved.

 

12.      That General Fund growth be only approved for the Council’s FTFC priorities and the growth allowance in the 2022/23 budget is £75,000. Growth above that level will need to be funded by further savings in addition to the £2.14Million target identified.

 

13.      That a minimum level of balances for the General Fund of £3.46million be approved for 2021/22, as set out in Paragraph 4.10.8 of the report.

 

14.      That the MTFS be regularly updated for any material financial pressures so forecasts are updated and then be re-presented to the Executive for approval.

 

15.      That the Trade Unions and staff be consulted on the key messages contained within the Medium Term Financial Strategies and more specifically when drawing up any proposals where there is a risk of redundancy.

 

Reason for Decision:  As contained in report.

Other Options  ...  view the full decision text for item 7.

8.

ANNUAL TREASURY MANAGEMENT STRATEGY REVIEW OF 2020/21 INCLUDING PRUDENTIAL CODE pdf icon PDF 738 KB

To consider the Annual Treasury Management Strategy review of 2020/21.

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Executive considered a report in respect of the annual review of the 2020/21 Treasury Management Strategy.

 

It was RESOLVED:

 

1.          That the 2020/21 Annual Treasury Management Review be recommended to Council for approval.

 

2.          That Council be recommended to approve that the wording in Appendix C, Table 1 of the report (Specified Investments Criteria) be amended as set out in Paragraph 4.2.6.5 of the report, in order to allow the use of Enhanced Cash Funds included in Table 3 (Treasury Limits).

 

Reason for Decision:  As contained in report.

Other Options considered:  As contained in report.

9.

URGENT PART I BUSINESS

To consider any Part I business accepted by the Chair as urgent.

Decision:

None.

10.

EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC

To consider the following motions

 

1.          That under Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as described in Paragraphs 1 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act as amended by Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006.

 

2.          That Members consider the reasons for the following reports being in Part II and determine whether or not maintaining the exemption from disclosure of the information contained therein outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

Decision:

It was RESOLVED:

 

1.          That under Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as described in Paragraphs 1 – 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act as amended by Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006.

 

2.          That the reasons for the following report being in Part II were accepted, and that the exemption from disclosure of the information contained therein outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

11.

PART II MINUTES - EXECUTIVE - 11 AUGUST 2021

To approve as a correct record the Part II Minutes of the meeting of the Executive held on 11 August 2021 for signature by the Chair.

Decision:

It was RESOLVED that the Part II Minutes of the meeting of the Executive held on 11 August 2021 be approved as a correct record for signature by the Chair.

12.

URGENT PART II BUSINESS

To consider any Part II business accepted by the Chair as urgent.

Decision:

None.