Agenda, decisions and draft minutes

Cabinet - Tuesday, 16th January, 2024 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, District Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City, SG6 3JF

Contact: Email: committee.services@north-herts.gov.uk  01462 474655

Media

Items
No. Item

243.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Decision:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Ruth Brown.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 3 minutes 48 seconds

 

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Ruth Brown.

244.

MINUTES - 14 NOVEMBER 2023 AND 12 DECEMBER 2023 pdf icon PDF 313 KB

To take as read and approve as a true record the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on the 14 November 2023 and 12 December 2023.

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED:That the Minutes of the Meetings of the Committee held on 14 November 2023 and 12 December 2023 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chair.

Minutes:

Audio Recording – 4 minutes 15 seconds

 

Councillor Elizabeth Dennis, as Chair, proposed and Councillor Keith Hoskins seconded and, following a vote, it was:

 

RESOLVED:That the Minutes of the Meetings of the Committee held on 14 November 2023 and 12 December 2023 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chair.

245.

NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS

Members should notify the Chair of other business which they wish to be discussed at the end of either Part I or Part II business set out in the agenda. They must state the circumstances which they consider justify the business being considered as a matter of urgency.

 

The Chair will decide whether any item(s) raised will be considered.

Decision:

There was no other business notified.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 5 minutes 7 seconds

 

There was no other business notified.

246.

CHAIR'S ANNOUNCEMENTS

Climate Emergency

The Council has declared a climate emergency and is committed to achieving a target of zero carbon emissions by 2030 and helping local people and businesses to reduce their own carbon emissions.

 

A Cabinet Panel on the Environment has been established to engage with local people on matters relating to the climate emergency and advise the council on how to achieve these climate change objectives. A Climate Change Implementation group of councillors and council officers meets regularly to produce plans and monitor progress. Actions taken or currently underway include switching to green energy, incentives for low emission taxis, expanding tree planting and working to cut food waste.

 

In addition the council is a member of the Hertfordshire Climate Change and Sustainability Partnership, working with other councils across Hertfordshire to reduce the county’s carbon emissions and climate impact.

 

The Council’s dedicated webpage on Climate Change includes details of the council’s climate change strategy, the work of the Cabinet Panel on the Environment and a monthly briefing on progress.

 

Declarations of Interest

Members are reminded that any declarations of interest in respect of any business set out in the agenda, should be declared as either a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest or Declarable Interest and are required to notify the Chair of the nature of any interest declared at the commencement of the relevant item on the agenda. Members declaring a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest must withdraw from the meeting for the duration of the item. Members declaring a Declarable Interest, wishing to exercise a ‘Councillor Speaking Right’, must declare this at the same time as the interest, move to the public area before speaking to the item and then must leave the room before the debate and vote.

Decision:

(1)        The Chair advised that, in accordance with Council Policy, the meeting would be audio recorded.

 

(2)        Members were reminded that this Council had declared a Climate Emergency. This was a serious decision and meant that, as this was an emergency, all of us, officers and Members had that in mind as we carried out our various roles and tasks for the benefit of our District.

 

(3)        The Chair drew attention to the item on the agenda front pages regarding Declarations of Interest and reminded Members that, in line with the Code of Conduct, any Declarations of Interest needed to be declared immediately prior to the item in question.

 

(4)        The Chair advised for the purposes of clarification that 4.8.23(a) of the Constitution did not apply to this meeting.

 

(5)        The Chair advised of a change in the order of the agenda. Agenda Items 17 and 18 would be considered after Agenda Item 10.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 5 minutes 14 seconds

 

(1)        The Chair advised that, in accordance with Council Policy, the meeting would be audio recorded.

 

(2)        Members were reminded that this Council had declared both a Climate Emergency and an Ecological Emergency. These are serious decisions, and mean that, as this was an emergency, all of us, Officers and Members had that in mind as we carried out our various roles and tasks for the benefit of our District.

 

(3)        The Chair drew attention to the item on the agenda front pages regarding Declarations of Interest and reminded Members that, in line with the Code of Conduct, any Declarations of Interest needed to be declared immediately prior to the item in question.

 

(4)        The Chair advised for the purposes of clarification that 4.8.23(a) of the Constitution did not apply to this meeting.

 

(5)        The Chair advised the change in order of the agenda and Agenda items 17 and 18 would be taken following item 10.

247.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

To receive petitions, comments and questions from the public.

Decision:

There was no public participation at this meeting.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 7 minutes 18 seconds

 

There was no public participation.

248.

ITEMS REFERRED FROM OTHER COMMITTEES pdf icon PDF 138 KB

6a)       Finance, Audit and Risk Committee – Second Quarter Revenue Budget Monitoring 2023/24 – to be considered with Item 12

6b)       Finance, Audit and Risk Committee – Second Quarter Investment Strategy (Capital and Treasury) Review 2023/24 – to be considered with Item 13 

6c)       Finance, Audit and Risk Committee – Mid Year Update on Risk Management Governance – to be considered with Item 14

6d)       Finance, Audit and Risk Committee – Draft Budget 2024-25 – to be considered with Item 15

 

Any further referrals from other Committees will be circulated as soon as they are available.

 

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Chair advised that the items referred from the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee and the Overview and Scrutiny Committee would be taken with the respective items on the agenda.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 7 minutes 25 seconds

 

The Chair advised that the items referred from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee would be taken with the respective items on the agenda.

249.

MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY 2024-2028 pdf icon PDF 380 KB

REPORT OF THE SERVICE DIRECTOR – PLACE

 

To outline the Council’s proposed approach to Marketing and Communications for the five-year period from 2024 – 2028.

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED: That Cabinet approved the 2024 - 2028 Marketing and Communications Strategy.

 

REASONS FOR DECISION:

 

(1)   With residents facing a cost-of-living crisis and council budgets being tightened further, it has never been more important for councils to communicate effectively with their audiences.

 

(2)   Effective communication is critical as it has the power to engage communities, challenge misconceptions, build trust and confidence in the council and through that, strengthen relationships with residents, stakeholders, and staff.

 

(3)   Although communications help to tell the story of North Herts Council (and improve resident perceptions of the council), marketing is needed to promote and raise awareness of our vision, priorities, and themes, to ensure that the right people, get the right message, at the right time through their preferred channel of choice.

 

(4)   It is therefore recommended, that the 2024 - 2028 strategy is a Marketing and Communications Strategy.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 7 minutes 49 seconds

 

The Chair invited Councillor Val Bryant, as Vice Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Committee to present the referral on this item. Councillor Bryant advised that:

 

·       It was important for councils to communicate effectively with their residents to build confidence and strengthen relationships with residents.

·       Marketing was essential to promote and raise awareness of the vision, priorities and themes of the Council.

 

The Leader of the Council, Elizabeth Dennis, presented the report entitled ‘Marketing and Communications Strategy 2024-28’ and advised that:

 

·       The Council must consider the best way to communicate effectively with the community, its partners and stakeholders.

·       A marketing-based approach to communications was needed to assist in delivering those messages more effectively.

·       Data analysis had shown that where communications teams were involved at the start of a project, there was an 82% success rate and 15% if communications were not involved at all.

·       Communication was the responsibility of everyone who worked at the Council or in the local community.

·       This Council considered the impact on the environment in every piece its work. With regard to the environmental impact marketing and communications at the Council, the only item printed was the Outlook magazine, which was published twice a year. Items were printed by North Herts Museum and Hitchin Town Hall.

·       The communications team worked on a hybrid basis, therefore keeping their carbon footprint down and helping to promote climate initiatives across the district with a view to everyone working towards a more sustainable future. 

 

Councillor Elizabeth Dennis proposed and Councillor Alistair Willoughby seconded and, following a vote, it was:

 

RESOLVED: That Cabinet approved the 2024 - 2028 Marketing and Communications Strategy.

 

REASONS FOR DECISION:

 

(1)   With residents facing a cost-of-living crisis and council budgets being tightened further, it has never been more important for councils to communicate effectively with their audiences.

 

(2)   Effective communication is critical as it has the power to engage communities, challenge misconceptions, build trust and confidence in the council and through that, strengthen relationships with residents, stakeholders, and staff.

 

(3)   Although communications help to tell the story of North Herts Council (and improve resident perceptions of the council), marketing is needed to promote and raise awareness of our vision, priorities, and themes, to ensure that the right people, get the right message, at the right time through their preferred channel of choice.

 

(4)   It is therefore recommended, that the 2024 - 2028 strategy is a Marketing and Communications Strategy.

250.

COMMUNITY SURVEY RESULTS (MARCH - JUNE 2023) pdf icon PDF 250 KB

REPORT OF THE SERVICE DIRECTOR – PLACE

 

To advise Cabinet of the key findings from the Community Survey results (March – June 2023).

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

 

(1)   Commented on and noted the key findings and observations from round one of the Community Survey and comment on the approach to future surveys (as detailed in section 8.5).

 

(2)   Supported the suggested approach set out at 8.5, save for 8.5.4 whereby Cabinet would encourage future survey results and associated action plans, being brought to Cabinet. 

 

REASON FOR DECISIONS: To ensure that Cabinet is aware of the results of the Community Survey (our first digital residents’ survey) and how they compare to the Local Government Association (LGA) June 23 Resident Satisfaction phone survey results.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 18 minutes 37 seconds

 

The Chair invited Councillor Val Bryant, as Vice Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Committee, to present the referral on this item. Councillor Bryant advised that the key findings of the survey detailed in section 8.5 detailed how the first digital survey results compared to the phone survey results.

 

The Chair advised that Councillor David Levett had submitted a question to the Cabinet, in with the Constitution. The Chair invited Councillor Levett to ask his question and to add any further comments he wanted to make to the referral from Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

 

Councillor Levett asked, ‘Does the Leader of the Council have any concerns with the results of the Community Survey?’ and provided further comments for Members, including that:

 

·       There was a dramatic change to the results of the last survey in 2022 which either highlighted that the services had deteriorated in short space of time, or that the methodology used in the survey had changed.

·       The number of respondents shown in the digital survey was 715, but this was usually 1000 responses from a telephone survey and therefore this survey did not have a larger response than the 2022 survey.

·       These results would have a negative impact on the reputation of the Council.

·       Therefore, future survey results should still be brought back to Cabinet and monitored if they were changing so dramatically, rather than only being published on the website.

 

The Chair thanked Councillor Levett and agreed that there was a need to understand why there had been such a difference in the results and to also understand what methodology had been used to obtain them.

 

The Communications Manager advised that:

 

·       This survey had been carried out by Zencity who were clear that quality data, which is representative of our district makeup, was much more valuable than quantity. .

·       Zencity had obtained their results from targeting a representative sample of the district which matched the population census data.

·       The representative responses collected by Zencity equated to the 715 respondents.

·       The Council had reached 1075 residents though its own channels, but this data was not representative, so only included the open-ended question results.

 

The following Members asked questions:

 

·       Councillor Ian Albert

·       Councillor Steve Jarvis

·       Councillor Alistair Willoughby

·       Councillor Sean Prendergast

 

In response to questions, the Communications Manager advised:

 

·       Zencity had used the population of census data variables to adjust the weighting of responses to ensure that the sample distribution aligned with the population of North Herts.

·       Rake weighting had enabled Zencity to ensure they had a true sample of the North Herts population of the district.

 

The Leader of the Council, Councillor Elizabeth Dennis advised:

 

·       The Council needed more detail on how the survey was carried out and the methodology behind it.

·       A further recommendation should be added to Section 8.5.4 to ensure that Cabinet continued to oversee all future survey results.

·       All Councillors were influencers and should consider their own impact on resident views of North Herts Council.

·       Actions plans were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 250.

251.

LOCAL PLAN REVIEW pdf icon PDF 654 KB

REPORT OF THE SERVICE DIRECTOR – REGULATORY

 

Cabinet is requested to note the review of the policies and agree to undertake the full update of the North Hertfordshire Local Plan.

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED:

 

(1)   That Cabinet noted the results of the review of the policies of the NHLP set out in Appendix A and the PAS toolkit in Appendix B.

 

(2)   That Cabinet agreed that a full review and update of the NHLP is undertaken.

 

(3)   That work commenced during 2024/25 on updating the technical studies needed to provide a robust evidence base to inform an update of the Local Plan and early community engagement take place.

 

(4)   That a further report on the detailed scope of the update and the timetable for its preparation, submission and examination was prepared at the earliest opportunity once the implications of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) are better understood and the statutory framework required to implement the reforms has been approved.

 

REASON FOR DECISIONS: To ensure that North Herts Council fulfils its commitments as set out in Policy IMR2 of the North Herts Local Plan which requires the Council to undertake a whole plan review by the end of 2023 to determine whether the plan needs to be updated either in whole or in part.

Minutes:

 Audio Recording – 57 minutes 13 seconds

 

The Chair invited Councillor Val Bryant, as Vice Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Committee, to present the referral on this item. Councillor Bryant advised that:

 

·       The results of the review were set out in Appendix A and Appendix B.

·       The recommendation was that a full review of the Local Plan was undertaken.

·       Work should commence in 2024/25 to update the technical studies required to update the Local Plan.

 

Councillor Ian Mantle, Deputy Executive Member for Planning and Transport, presented the report entitled ‘Local Plan Review’ and advised that:

 

·       The district Local Plan even though recently adopted, was effectively ten years out of date.

·       A full review needed to be undertaken to take account of the changes in both council policy and in the national framework.

·       This review should commence as soon as practicable, but it should not be rushed to meet any deadlines.

 

Councillor Elizabeth Dennis proposed and Councillor Steve Jarvis seconded and, following a vote, it was:

 

RESOLVED:

 

(1)   That Cabinet noted the results of the review of the policies of the NHLP set out in Appendix A and the PAS toolkit in Appendix B.

 

(2)   That Cabinet agreed that a full review and update of the NHLP is undertaken.

 

(3)   That work commenced during 2024/25 on updating the technical studies needed to provide a robust evidence base to inform an update of the Local Plan and early community engagement take place.

 

(4)   That a further report on the detailed scope of the update and the timetable for its preparation, submission and examination was prepared at the earliest opportunity once the implications of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) are better understood and the statutory framework required to implement the reforms has been approved.

 

REASON FOR DECISIONS: To ensure that North Herts Council fulfils its commitments as set out in Policy IMR2 of the North Herts Local Plan which requires the Council to undertake a whole plan review by the end of 2023 to determine whether the plan needs to be updated either in whole or in part.

252.

STRATEGIC PLANNING MATTERS pdf icon PDF 499 KB

REPORT OF THE SERVICE DIRECTOR – REGULATORY

This report identifies the latest position on key planning and transport issues affecting the District.

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED: That the report on strategic planning matters was noted.

 

REASON FOR DECISION: To keep Cabinet informed of recent developments on strategic planning matters.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 1 hour 2 minutes 48 seconds

 

The Deputy Executive Member for Planning and Transport presented the report entitled ‘Strategic Planning Matters’ alongside supplementary documents and advised that the Service Director – Regulatory and the Strategic Planning Manager were in attendance if Members had any questions.

 

Councillor Keith Hoskins proposed and Councillor Sean Prendergast seconded and, following a vote, it was:

 

RESOLVED: That the report on strategic planning matters was noted.

 

REASON FOR DECISION: To keep Cabinet informed of recent developments on strategic planning matters.

253.

Q2 UPDATE ON PROGRESS AGAINST THE COUNCIL DELIVERY PLAN pdf icon PDF 158 KB

REPORT OF THE SERVICE DIRECTOR – RESOURCES

 

This report presents progress on delivering the Council Delivery Plan for 23-24 at the end of Quarter 2.

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED: That Cabinet noted the progress against Council projects as set out in the Council Delivery Plan (Appendix A) and approved changes to milestones, performance indicators and risks.

 

REASON FOR DECISION: The Council Delivery Plan (CDP) monitoring reports provide Cabinet with an opportunity to monitor progress against the key Council projects, and understand any new issues, risks or opportunities.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 1 hour 13 minutes 15 seconds

 

The Chair invited Councillor Val Bryant, as Vice Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Committee to present the referral on this item. Councillor Bryant advised that:

 

·       Details of changes to milestones, performance indicators and risks were set out in Appendix A of the Council Delivery Plan.

·       The monitoring of reports provided an opportunity to monitor progress against the key Council projects and to understand any new issues, risks, or opportunities.

 

Councillor Ian Albert, Executive Member for Finance and IT, presented the report entitled ‘Q2 Update on progress against the Council Delivery Plan’ and advised that:

 

·       This plan related to ongoing Council projects.

·       An update on the Local Authority Housing Fund project. The three phase one properties had been completed and were now occupied and the Memorandum of Understanding had been signed. For phase two Home Group would not be able to deliver their allocation and settle could not deliver any further units. The Council had asked government to reduce the phase two allocation and targets.

·       The outcome of the public sector decarbonisation fund application was not yet known.

·       Detailed progress against each project was shown in Appendix A.

·       A tool had been developed to help prioritise projects and was detailed in Appendix B.

 

Councillor Ian Albert proposed and Councillor Alistair Willoughby seconded and, following a vote, it was:

 

RESOLVED: That Cabinet noted the progress against Council projects as set out in the Council Delivery Plan (Appendix A) and approved changes to milestones, performance indicators and risks.

 

REASON FOR DECISION: The Council Delivery Plan (CDP) monitoring reports provide Cabinet with an opportunity to monitor progress against the key Council projects, and understand any new issues, risks or opportunities.

254.

SECOND QUARTER REVENUE BUDGET MONITORING 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 558 KB

REPORT OF THE SERVICE DIRECTOR - RESOURCES

To inform Cabinet of the summary position on revenue income and expenditure forecasts for the financial year 2023/24, as at the end of the second quarter.

Decision:

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

 

(1)   Noted this report.

 

(2)   Approved the adjustments to the 2023/24 General Fund budget, as identified in table 3 and paragraph 8.2, a £475k decrease in net expenditure.

 

(3)   Noted the changes to the 2024/25 General Fund budget, as identified in table 3 and paragraph 8.2, a total £799k increase in net expenditure. These will be incorporated in the draft revenue budget for 2024/25.

 

REASON FOR DECISIONS:  Members are able to monitor, make adjustments within the overall budgetary framework and request appropriate action of Services who do not meet the budget targets set as part of the Corporate Business Planning process.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 1 hour 17 minutes 17 seconds

 

The Chair invited Councillor Sean Nolan, as Chair of Finance, Audit and Risk Committee, to present the referral on this item. Councillor Nolan advised that the main focus of questions was around the shortfalls in staffing and what proactive steps were being taken.

 

Councillor Ian Albert, Executive Member for Finance and IT, presented the report entitled ‘Second Quarter Revenue Budget Monitoring 2023/24’ and advised that:

 

·       The underspend figure of £430k in the bottom line of table 3 which showed the forecast return was incorrect and it should be amended to £475k.

·       The main budget variances were highlighted in table 3 which related to investment income.

·       The ongoing impact of waste and car parking would be incorporated into the budget going forward.

 

Councillor Ian Albert proposed the amended motion, and Councillor Sean Prendergast seconded and, following a vote, it was:

 

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

 

(1)   Noted this report.

 

(2)   Approved the adjustments to the 2023/24 General Fund budget, as identified in table 3 and paragraph 8.2, a £475k decrease in net expenditure.

 

(3)   Noted the changes to the 2024/25 General Fund budget, as identified in table 3 and paragraph 8.2, a total £799k increase in net expenditure. These will be incorporated in the draft revenue budget for 2024/25.

 

REASON FOR DECISIONS:  Members are able to monitor, make adjustments within the overall budgetary framework and request appropriate action of Services who do not meet the budget targets set as part of the Corporate Business Planning process.

255.

SECOND QUARTER INVESTMENT STRATEGY (CAPITAL AND TREASURY) REVIEW 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 469 KB

REPORT OF THE SERVICE DIRECTOR – RESOURCES

To update Cabinet on progress with delivering the capital and treasury strategy for 2023/24, as at the end of September 2023.

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

 

(1)   Noted the forecast expenditure of £8.225M in 2023/24 on the capital programme, paragraph 8.3 refers.

 

(2)   Approved the adjustments to the capital programme as a result of the revised timetable of schemes detailed in table 2, increasing the overall estimated spend in 2024/25 and beyond by £3.898M.

 

(3)   Noted the position of the availability of capital resources, as detailed in table 4 paragraph 8.6 and the requirement to keep the capital programme under review for affordability.

 

(4)   Approved the additional £40K spend on CCTV Replacement, as detailed in table 3.

 

RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL:

 

(1)   That it notes the position of Treasury Management activity as at the end of September 2023 including the new Capital items.

 

(2)   That it confirms the addition of the Local Authority Housing Fund Phase 2 to the capital programme for 2023/24 and approves the reprofiling of Bancroft & Priory Splash Pads from 2024/25 into 2023/24. Both as detailed in table 3.

 

REASONS FOR DECISIONS:

 

(1)            Cabinet is required to approve adjustments to the capital programme and ensure the capital programme is fully funded.

 

(2)            To ensure the Council’s continued compliance with CIPFA’s code of practice on Treasury Management and the Local Government Act 2003 and that the Council manages its exposure to interest and capital risk.

Minutes:

Audio recording 1 hour 21 minutes 55 seconds

 

The Chair invited Councillor Sean Nolan, as Chair of the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee, to present the referral on this item. Councillor Nolan advised that the committee had raised a few items with increased costs, which included that:

 

·       Options were still being sought for museum storage at Burymead, which was currently on hold.

·       There were some concerns regarding the associated costs with the John Barker Place development and the impact of the contractor going into administration.

·       There has been reduced costs of resurfacing of carparks, which was due to the better than expected conditions of the existing surfaces.

·       Delays may mean that schemes would cost more due to inflation, but this would be partly off-set by increased returns from investing the money in the interim period.

 

Councillor Ian Albert, as Executive Member for Finance and IT, presented the report entitled ‘Second Quarter Investment Strategy (Capital and Treasury) Review 2023/24’ and advised that:

 

·       This report detailed the reasons for the increase in investment income.

·       Details of how the Council had complied with the Investment Strategy treasury and prudential indicators were detailed in the report and at Appendix B.

·       The Local Authority Housing Fund allocation was fully funded by the grant and was to be referred to Council to confirm that it is in the capital programme as the amount is large, but the majority of the risk had been assumed by settle.

·       Approval was sought for the replacement of CCTV cameras.

 

Councillor Ian Albert proposed and Councillor Keith Hoskins seconded and, following a vote, it was:

 

RESOLVED: That Cabinet

 

(1)   Noted the forecast expenditure of £8.225M in 2023/24 on the capital programme, paragraph 8.3 refers.

 

(2)   Approved the adjustments to the capital programme as a result of the revised timetable of schemes detailed in table 2, increasing the overall estimated spend in 2024/25 and beyond by £3.898M.

 

(3)   Noted the position of the availability of capital resources, as detailed in table 4 paragraph 8.6 and the requirement to keep the capital programme under review for affordability.

 

(4)   Approved the additional 40K spend on CCTV Replacement, as detailed in table 3.

 

REASON FOR DECISION: Cabinet is required to approve adjustments to the capital programme and ensure the capital programme is fully funded.

 

RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL:

 

(1)   That it notes the position of Treasury Management activity as at the end of September 2023 including the new Capital items.

 

(2)   That it confirms the addition of the Local Authority Housing Fund Phase 2 to the capital programme for 2023/24 and approves the reprofiling of Bancroft & Priory Splash Pads from 2024/25 into 2023/24. Both as detailed in table 3.

 

REASON FOR RECOMMENDATION: To ensure the Council’s continued compliance with CIPFA’s code of practice on Treasury Management and the Local Government Act 2003 and that the Council manages its exposure to interest and capital risk.

256.

MID YEAR UPDATE ON RISK MANAGEMENT GOVERNANCE pdf icon PDF 194 KB

REPORT OF THE SERVICE DIRECTOR – RESOURCES

 

To provide the Committee with an update on the effectiveness of the Risk Management Governance arrangements at North Herts Council.

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

 

(1)   Noted the mid-year Risk Management Governance update, including the update on completion of audit recommendations.

 

(2)   Commented on the type of Risk Management training they would like to receive going forward.

 

(3)   Noted the review of the Performance and Risk Management Group Terms of Reference.

 

REASONS FOR DECISIONS:

 

(1)   The responsibility for ensuring the management of risks is that of Cabinet.

 

(2)   This Committee has responsibility to monitor the effective development and operation of Risk Management.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 1 hour 26 minutes 23 seconds

 

The Chair invited Councillor Sean Nolan, as Chair of Finance, Audit and Risk Committee to present the referral on this item. Councillor Nolan advised that there had been discussion about risk management to try and understand the reviews and the process that projects go through to be assigned a level of risk awarded by officers.

 

Councillor Ian Albert, Executive Member for Finance and IT, presented the report entitled ‘Mid Year Update on Risk Management Governance’ and advised that:

 

·       This report commented on the strategy and application of strategy for risk management.

·       The report demonstrated the risk reviews that were currently taking place and as the risk register was a live document, there would be changes to risk scores.

·       New and emerging risk was covered in Section 8.5.

·       Items with a corporate risk score of 4.2 or above were detailed in Section 8.6.

·       Training could be provided to assist Cabinet to develop their knowledge further regarding risk management.

 

Councillor Elizabeth Dennis, as Chair, asked the Service Director – Resources to provide details of what risk management training had been provided in the past to Members and that could then be discussed by Members so they could make an informed choice.

 

In a response to a question from Councillor Steve Jarvis, the Service Director – Resources advised that there would always be a gap between the risk review date and when they were reported to Cabinet. That gap was longer this time as the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee meeting took place prior to Christmas. 

 

Councillor Ian Albert proposed and Councillor Alistair Willoughby seconded and, following a vote, it was:

 

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

 

(1)   Noted the mid-year Risk Management Governance update, including the update on completion of audit recommendations.

 

(2)   Commented on the type of Risk Management training they would like to receive going forward.

 

(3)   Noted the review of the Performance and Risk Management Group Terms of Reference.

 

REASONS FOR DECISIONS:

 

(1)   The responsibility for ensuring the management of risks is that of Cabinet.

 

(2)   This Committee has responsibility to monitor the effective development and operation of Risk Management.

257.

DRAFT BUDGET 2024/25 pdf icon PDF 269 KB

REPORT OF: SERVICE DIRECTOR – RESOURCES

 

Cabinet is asked to consider the latest information in relation to funding, income and expenditure in relation to the revenue budget for 2024/25.

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

 

(1)   Noted the latest funding forecasts for 2024/25 onwards and the significant uncertainty that still remains.

 

(2)   Confirmed that it will be necessary to increase Council Tax by the maximum amount allowed without a local referendum, as this is what will be assumed by Government in determining the Business Rates that the Council can retain and calculating the Council’s Core Spending Power.

 

(3)   Noted the comments made at the budget workshops, and comment on the inclusion of the revenue savings and investments in the budget to be brought back for consideration in February, for referral on to Council at the end of February.

 

(4)   Considered the additional revenue investment proposals that are detailed in paragraph 8.8 and confirm that they should be included in the February budget report.

 

(5)   Noted the comments made at the budget workshops, and comment on the inclusion of the capital investments in the Investment Strategy to be brought back for consideration in February, for referral on to Council at the end of February.

 

REASON FOR DECISIONS: To ensure that all relevant factors are considered in arriving at a proposed budget, Investment Strategy and Council Tax level for 2024/25, to be considered by Full Council on 29 February 2024.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 1 hour 33 minutes 26 seconds

 

The Chair invited Councillor Sean Nolan, as Chair of Finance, Audit and Risk Committee, to present the referral on this item. Councillor Nolan advised that:

 

·       There had been questions and discussions about the pressures faced by the Council and to try to look at what choices there might be in the future.

·       They had studied trading between spending and investment and the retaining of reserves for investment purposes.

·       They had looked at which revenue streams were successful and which were a risk to the financial position of the Council.

 

Councillor Ian Albert, Executive Member for Finance and IT, presented the report entitled ‘Draft Budget 2024/25’ and advised that:

 

·       This was the first budget report following agreement of the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS).

·       An update to forecast funding was provided at the beginning of the report.

·       The draft local government settlement provided inadequate funding which combined with the delay to the funding formula, put pressure on the Council.

·       Council Tax would need to be raised by the maximum amount allowed to try to protect and, where the Council could, improve services to residents of North Herts.

·       General fund reserves were in a good state which allowed time for a longer-term view of how to balance the budget by the end of the MTFS period.

·       Additional proposals with short term impacts on the budget were highlighted in paragraph 8.10.

·       Some updates, mainly affecting capital, that Officers would update in the next version of the budget report.

·       Reflect the additional income from the award of the new leisure contract.

·       The capital allocation for waste vehicles aligned to the start of the new waste contract to be increased to £8.5 million.

·       Funding for the new graduate post for a 2 year period to support delivery capacity.

·       Capital allocation for the new learner pool at Royston, would be subject to a viable business case.

·       Capital funding for the new leisure provider to invest in the leisure centres, which would generate returns through improved contract payments.

·       The outcome of the bid for a public sector decarbonisation bid for the leisure centres was not yet known.

·       The Council was required to provide match funding which was estimated at about £3 million. Some of this match funding was already in the capital programme, and the proposal was for the remaining allocation to be added. An off-setting revenue saving would also be added.

·       The proposal would not only cover its costs but would provide environmental benefits.

·       The next version of the budget would include a review of budget forecasts and would include the treasury income forecast.

·       This was a prudent, pragmatic and sensible budget to ensure the Council could continue to deliver the services that the residents of North Herts value.

 

In a response to a question from Councillor Elizabeth Dennis, the Service Director – Resources advised that only about 12% of Council Tax income was retained by the Council.

 

In a response to a question from Councillor Alistair  ...  view the full minutes text for item 257.

258.

COUNCIL TAX REDUCTION SCHEME 2024/2025 pdf icon PDF 330 KB

REPORT OF THE SERVICE DIRECTOR – CUSTOMERS

 

The review of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme in accordance with the requirements of the schedule 1A of the Local Government Finance Act.

Decision:

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

 

(1)   Noted that the new scheme has had a greater financial impact than expected, and any resultant Collection Fund shortfall will be split between the Council and its Major Precepting Authorities. The Councils share will be around 12.5%.

 

(2)   Noted that the Discretionary Exceptional Hardship Scheme, previously agreed to provide additional transitional support, has been underspent, largely due to the positive impacts of the main scheme. (The surplus of this will be used to off-set the impact on the District Council in relation to the main scheme).

 

(3)   Noted a further review is being undertaken during 2024/2025, to ascertain any further changes to be considered for the scheme in 2025/2026.

 

RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL:

 

(1)   That the new branded scheme for working age applicants remains unchanged for 2024/2025.

 

REASON FOR DECISIONS: To ensure that the Council has a Council Tax Reduction Scheme that continues to:

 

·       Provide the greatest support to the lowest income households.

·       Reduce the administrative burden that has been placed on the Council since the introduction of Universal Credit (UC).

·       Be simple to understand, meaning that customers will be able to calculate entitlement and assess the impact of potential changes in circumstance.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 1 hour 53 minutes 9 seconds

 

The Executive Member for Finance and IT, Councillor Ian Albert, presented the report entitled ‘Council Tax Reduction Scheme 2024/25’ and advised that:

 

·       The aim of the new scheme was to provide significant help to the residents in North Herts who were in most need.

·       This new scheme, in the first year, had cost more than was forecast and details of the additional costs were detailed in section 10 of the report, which was approximately £125k.

·       The Discretionary Exceptional Hardship Scheme, previously agreed to provide additional transitional support, had been underspent. The surplus of this would be used to off-set the impact on the District Council in relation to the main scheme.

·       A further review would take place ahead of consideration of the scheme in 2025/26 to seek to reduce these additional costs.

·       The recommendation for 2024/25 to make no changes to the scheme was to allow time to provide the help that was needed and to collect 18 months of data before considering further amendments.

·       In November and December 2023, a light touch consultation was carried out with Herts County Council, Police and Crime Commissioner and residents via the Council website.

·       The Council acknowledged the Royal British Legion campaign for war veterans and confirmed that it already supported war veterans and was aligned to the aims of the RBL campaign.

·       Herts County Council were proposing to provide council tax support to care leavers across the district up to the age of 21, which would be funded by the County Council. Details of this proposal were still being considered.

 

Councillor Ian Albert proposed and Councillor Alistair Willoughby seconded and, following a vote, it was:

 

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

 

(1)   Noted that the new scheme has had a greater financial impact than expected, and any resultant Collection Fund shortfall will be split between the Council and its Major Precepting Authorities. The Councils share will be around 12.5%.

 

(2)   Noted that the Discretionary Exceptional Hardship Scheme, previously agreed to provide additional transitional support, has been underspent, largely due to the positive impacts of the main scheme. (The surplus of this will be used to off-set the impact on the District Council in relation to the main scheme).

 

(3)   Noted a further review is being undertaken during 2024/2025, to ascertain any further changes to be considered for the scheme in 2025/2026.

 

RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL:

 

(1)   That the new banded scheme for working age applicants remains unchanged for 2024/25.

 

REASON FOR RECOMMENDATION: To ensure that the Council has a Council Tax Reduction Scheme that continues to:

 

·       Provide the greatest support to the lowest income households.

·       Reduce the administrative burden that has been placed on the Council since the introduction of Universal Credit (UC).

·       Be simple to understand, meaning that customers will be able to calculate entitlement and assess the impact of potential changes in circumstance.

259.

ICKLEFORD NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN pdf icon PDF 246 KB

REPORT OF THE SERVICE DIRECTOR – REGULATORY

 

To consider the examiner’s report and the proposed modifications to the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan and to agree that officers make arrangements to conduct a referendum within the designated neighbourhood planning area for Ickleford.

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED:

 

(1)            That the Examiner’s report for the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan was noted.

 

(2)            That following the inclusion of the Examiner’s proposed modifications to the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan, as set out in Appendix A, the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan was approved and it was approved to proceed to a referendum.

 

(3)            That the Counting Officer was instructed to conduct a referendum on the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan.

 

(4)            That the decision to “make” the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan would be delegated to the Service Director – Regulatory in consultation with the Executive Member for Planning and Transport, as previously agreed be Cabinet in July 2018 (Minute 21).

 

REASON FOR DECISIONS: To progress the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan, enable a referendum to take place and if more than 50% of those voting in favour of the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan to “make” the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 1 hour 4 minutes 6 seconds

 

The Deputy Executive Member for Planning and Transport presented the report entitled ‘Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan’ and advised that the plan required approval for a referendum to take place.

 

Councillor Alistair Willoughby proposed and Councillor Keith Hoskins seconded and, following a vote, it was:

 

RESOLVED:

 

(1)            That the Examiner’s report for the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan was noted.

 

(2)            That following the inclusion of the Examiner’s proposed modifications to the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan, as set out in Appendix A, the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan was approved and it was approved to proceed to a referendum.

 

(3)            That the Counting Officer was instructed to conduct a referendum on the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan.

 

(4)            That the decision to “make” the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan would be delegated to the Service Director – Regulatory in consultation with the Executive Member for Planning and Transport, as previously agreed be Cabinet in July 2018 (Minute 21).

 

REASON FOR DECISIONS: To progress the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan, enable a referendum to take place and if more than 50% of those voting in favour of the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan to “make” the Ickleford Neighbourhood Plan.

260.

WALLINGTON NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN pdf icon PDF 246 KB

REPORT OF THE SERVICE DIRECTOR – REGULATORY

To consider the examiner’s report and the proposed modifications to the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan and to agree that officers make arrangements to conduct a referendum within the designated neighbourhood planning area for Wallington.

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED:

 

(1)   That the Examiner’s report for the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan was noted.

 

(2)   That following the inclusion of the Examiner’s proposed modifications to the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan, as set out in Appendix A, the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan was approved and it was approved to proceed to a referendum.

 

(3)   That the Counting Officer was instructed to conduct a referendum on the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan.

 

(4)   That the decision to “make” the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan be delegated to the Service Director – Regulatory in consultation with the Executive Member for Planning and Transport, as previously agreed by Cabinet in July 2018 (Minute 21).

 

REASON FOR DECISIONS: To progress the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan, enable a referendum to take place and if more than 50% of those voting in favour of the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan to “make” the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan.

Minutes:

Audio recording – 1 hour 5 minutes 26 seconds

 

The Deputy Executive Member for Planning and Transport presented the report entitled ‘Wallington Neighbourhood Plan’ and advised that the plan required approval for a referendum to take place.

 

Councillor Steve Jarvis proposed and Councillor Alistair Willoughby seconded and, following a vote, it was:

 

RESOLVED:

 

(1)   That the Examiner’s report for the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan was noted.

 

(2)   That following the inclusion of the Examiner’s proposed modifications to the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan, as set out in Appendix A, the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan was approved and it was approved to proceed to a referendum.

 

(3)   That the Counting Officer was instructed to conduct a referendum on the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan.

 

(4)   That the decision to “make” the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan be delegated to the Service Director – Regulatory in consultation with the Executive Member for Planning and Transport, as previously agreed by Cabinet in July 2018 (Minute 21).

 

REASON FOR DECISIONS: To progress the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan, enable a referendum to take place and if more than 50% of those voting in favour of the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan to “make” the Wallington Neighbourhood Plan.