Agenda and minutes

Agenda and minutes

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Venue: Plowman Room - Oxford Town Hall. View directions

Contact: Andrew Brown, Scrutiny Officer 

Items
No. Item

49.

Apologies

Substitutes are not allowed.

Minutes:

There were no apologies.

50.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

None.

51.

Election of Chair for the 2017/18 Council year

The Panel is asked to elect a Chair for the Council year 2017/18.

 

The Chair must be a member of the Scrutiny Committee and can be from any political group.

Minutes:

Councillor James Fry was elected chair for the 2017/18 Council year.

52.

Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 138 KB

 

Background Information

The Scrutiny Committee have asked for this item to be included on the agenda for pre-decision scrutiny.

Why is it on the agenda?

The City Executive Board (CEB) on 18 July 2017 will be asked to:

1.    Agree which options as set out in the table at paragraph 9 should be subject to public consultation.

2.    Consult on the proposals for an 8 week period form 19 July 2017 and;

3.    Instruct the Executive Director of Organisational Development and Corporate Services to bring a further report to December CEB subject to the outcome of the consultation process.

This is an opportunity for the Panel to make recommendations to the City Executive Board.  The Panel may also wish to see the post-consultation CEB report in December.

Who has been invited to comment?

·         Cllr Susan Brown, Board Member for Customer and Corporate Services;

·         Paul Wilding, Revenue and Benefits Programme Manager.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Revenue and Benefits Programme Manager introduced the report.  He said that significant reductions in a range of benefits are making it harder and harder for people to live in the city.  Responsibility for supporting low income working age households with Council Tax was passed to local authorities from the Department for Work and Pensions in 2013 with 10% of the funding removed.  The devolved funding was subsequently subsumed into the Revenue Support Grant, which is on course to reduce to zero in April 2019.  The Council is one of only 37 local authorities to maintain a local Council Tax Reduction (CTR) scheme that provides the same level of support as the Council Tax Benefit it replaced.  CTR currently costs the Council £1.2m and this figure will rise to at least £1.8m in April 2019 when the Council bears the full cost of the scheme (this is already built into the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan).  The Panel note that the cost of the scheme is likely to increase in the event of an economic downturn.

 

The Panel note that the cost of the scheme is shared between the precepting authorities and that the total notional income foregone by these authorities will be in the region of £11m by 2019.  The Panel received assurances that the County Council and Thames Valley Police were fully involved in the original detailed design of the scheme and are aware of the direction of travel.  The Panel heard that the Council has a duty to consult with the other precepting authorities and wants to work with them but those authorities have no veto or recourse to challenge the Council’s scheme if they are consulted.

 

The Panel voiced support for the Council’s CTR scheme and the principle of supporting the lowest income households in the city with a full Council Tax reduction rather than billing those who genuinely can’t afford to pay.  This approach contributes to wider Council aims such as homelessness prevention. 

 

The Panel noted the difficulty in ensuring a worthwhile response to consultation on the options. The reasons for favouring options that continue the CTR scheme will need to be explained carefully, as the apparent savings from scrapping the scheme may appeal to residents who see this as a way in which to cut Council spending.

 

The Panel considered the merits of the various options for changing the scheme and made the following observations: 

·         Option 1: Introducing a banded scheme that is calibrated to income for Universal Credit recipients and provides the greatest level of support to households with the lowest incomes seems very sensible.  While this option would add costs in the short term it would over time simplify administration and release efficiency savings as Universal Credit is rolled out more widely.  The Council would retain flexibility to adjust the income parameters in future years should it wish to do so.

·         Option 2: This is a stand alone cost-saving option that is not linked to Housing Benefit.

·        Options 3-7 & 9: These options  ...  view the full minutes text for item 52.

53.

Budget monitoring - quarter 4 pdf icon PDF 148 KB

 

Background Information

The Panel has a role in scrutinising the Council’s financial performance and monitoring spend against budgets. 

 

The integrated performance report for quarter 4 2016/17 sets out the Council’s financial position at 31 March 2017.  The recommendations in the report were agreed by the City Executive Board on 20 June 2017.

Why is it on the agenda?

For the Panel to note and comment on the Council’s financial outturn at the end of the 2016/17 council year.

Who has been invited to comment?

·         Nigel Kennedy, Head of Financial Services.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Financial Services introduced the report.  He said that the City Executive Board agreed the recommendations in June.  He highlighted that 78% of the original capital budget agreed in February 2016 had been spent although the capital programme had been monitored monthly and adjusted during the year.  The reasons for the variances were given on page 43.  He also advised that there was one red risk on the corporate risk register which related to the governance of new Council-owned companies.

 

In response to a questioned, the Head of Financial Services confirmed that the £220k that had been transferred to the capital financing reserve was not earmarked and was a relatively small sum in the context of a £60m capital programme.

 

The Panel asked what the latest situation was regarding cladding on tower blocks in light of the Grenfell disaster and how any additional costs would be met.  The Head of Financial Services said that it was unclear whether government would provide additional funding to local authorities so it would be a case of looking at reserves generally.  The Council was quantifying what the precise cost of removing cladding from two tower blocks would be but a figure of £1.6m had appeared in the press.  By the next Panel meeting the situation would be clearer.

 

The Panel asked for a comment on the red risk and the Head of Financial Services said that there was lots of work to do such as creating client side monitoring arrangements for the trading company.  The housing company was more established but was still finding its way.  The Council’s internal auditors would be reviewing company governance arrangements in the coming months.

 

The Panel noted the report and responses.

54.

Work plan pdf icon PDF 165 KB

The Scrutiny Committee on 14 June 2017 agreed a work plan for the 2017/18 council year.

 

For the Panel to note and agree its work plan, which can be adjusted to reflect the wishes of the Panel.

 

Minutes:

The Panel asked for a briefing on the Discretionary Business Rates Relief Scheme report, which would be presented to the City Executive Board in August.  The Head of Financial Services explained that the Council had been allocated grant funding over 4 years for a local scheme to offset some of the impacts of the national Business Rates revaluation, with an initial £480k reducing down to £18k per year.  The Council was proposing to fund 70% of any Business Rates increase greater than 12.5% for those premises with a rateable value of more than £200k.  The Council would ensure that it would not exceed the grant allocation because doing so would result in a direct cost to the Council.

 

The Panel agreed:

·         Not to look at the Discretionary Business Rates Relief Scheme if it goes to CEB in August.

·         Not to look at Building Control as this had been considered in some depth by Audit and Governance.

·         To invite experts in monitoring social value to a future meeting.

 

 

55.

Notes of previous meeting pdf icon PDF 72 KB

For the Panel to note the record of the meeting held on 29 March 2017.

Minutes:

Noted.

56.

Future Meeting Dates

Meetings are scheduled as follows:

 

11 September 2017

7 December 2017

31 January 2018

14 March 2018

 

All meetings start at 6.00pm.

Minutes:

The Panel agreed to move the date of their next meeting from 11 September 2017 to 4 September 2017.