Agenda and minutes
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Venue: Plowman Room - Oxford Town Hall. View directions
Contact: Andrew Brown, Committee & Member Services Manager
Substitutes are not allowed.
Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Munkonge.
Declarations of interest
Cllr Simmons declared for transparency that the company he works for under contract and in which he has a small shareholding (<5%) was doing a small amount of work supporting the Council with its climate change strategy, as listed on his Register of Interests. Cllr Simmons had taken no part in the bid process or in any of the commissioned work. This company may or may not stand to win further work from the Council as a result of the recommendation under item 5 that Council makes a budget provision of £200k in respect of costs to establish a citizens’ assembly.
The Panel sought advice from the Monitoring Officer who ruled that this was not a disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI) because the matter was not before the Panel for decision and because the recommendation had no direct financial or contractual benefit to the company or Councillor Simmons.
For the Panel to approve the record of the meeting held on 30 January 2019.
The Panel noted the record of the meeting held on 30 January 2019.
In response to questions, the Panel noted that:
· A number of capital schemes were progressing through the various stages of the new project management process, including Floyds Row.
· Reports on large projects were presented to officers monthly and to members quarterly.
· The County Council had not been willing to fund an investigative review of Council Tax discounts offered to students and single persons, despite standing to be a material beneficiary of any financial benefits arising from such a review.
The Finance Panel is requested to agree its work plan for the year, which can be adjusted to reflect the wishes of the Panel at each subsequent meeting. The Scrutiny Committee has referred a number of items to the Panel for consideration in 2019/20, which are included as an appendix to this item. The Panel may add its own additional work plan items, having had regard to the resources and capacity of the organisation. There are currently no outstanding work plan items from 2018/19, other than the quarterly finance reports.
The Panel noted the work plan and agreed to consider homelessness reserves and contingencies within the annual budget review process.
In response to a question the Panel heard that the Strategic Procurement and Payments Manager role had been filled, subject to references.
To consider the Quarter 4 Integrated Performance Report which makes the following recommendations to Cabinet on 10 July 2019:
1. Note the financial outturn and performance of the Council for the year 2018/19 and also the position on risks outstanding as at 31st March 2019;
2. Agree the carry forward requests in respect of the General Fund as shown in paragraph 6 and on Appendix D;
3. Agree the additional transfer to the General Fund Repairs and Maintenance Reserve of £0.610 million detailed in paragraph 2 a;
4. Agree the carry forward requests in respect of the HRA as shown in paragraph 14 and on Appendix D.
5. Agree the additional transfer to the HRA Contributions to HRA Projects Reserve of £3.716 million detailed in paragraph 2 (c)
6. Recommend to Council the inclusion of £200k in 2019-20 in respect of costs to establish a citizens assembly together with associated staffing costs for reporting and research.
The Head of Financial Services and the Head of Housing Services tabled revisions to the report, which included two further recommendations, an additional supporting paragraph and exempt Appendix G. The Panel was able to subject these new elements to Scrutiny and supported the use of urgency provisions in respect of the key decision contained in the additional recommendations.
The Head of Financial Services introduced the report and drew attention to the proposed carry forwards, additional resources for a Citizens’ Assembly, slippage in the capital programme and the 13 corporate performance measures, three of which had not been achieved.
The Panel considered the recommendation that a £200k budget is allocated in 2019/20 in respect of costs to establish a Citizens’ Assembly. The Panel questioned why this was approximately double the amount that other local authorities had spent on establishing Citizens’ Assemblies and heard that this sum included other associated costs including an officer post. The Panel commented that this was not clear from the explanation in paragraph 7 of the report.
The Panel also suggested that within this proposed additional budget, officer resource should be made available to support a scrutiny review focused on considering the outcomes of the Citizens Assembly and informing the Council’s response to the Climate Emergency motion, given that staffing changes had meant that fewer scrutiny reviews could be supported within the current year than would otherwise have been the case.
The Panel questioned whether capital slippage should be framed in positive terms as “favourable variance” and suggested that it would be helpful if reasons for capital slippage could be included in future reports. As a more general point, the Panel suggested that accounting terms, such as favourable variance which may be misleading for lay people, should be covered by a standard brief note as part of relevant papers, including for the Audit and Governance Committee and in the Budget.The Panel also suggested that future integrated performance reports include a summary of financing as well as spend, including summary details of any external funding streams. This would help in identifying where external funding, such as government grants for particular purposes, might be at risk.
The Panel asked about the oversight of major capital schemes and the frequency of reporting. The Panel heard that progress is reported monthly at an officer level and while this information could be made available to elected members it might be overly cumbersome to provide this information in a useful format on a monthly basis. The Panel suggested that monthly reporting on large projects is made available to elected members upon request.
The Panel noted the £612k slippage in the compulsory purchase of property and questioned whether the Council was pursuing a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) in respect of a long term empty residential property where the Council was engaged in a protracted dispute with the owner. Officers clarified that this particular property was unrelated to the budget provision. The Panel heard that the CPO option had previously been explored and it had ... view the full minutes text for item 22.
Future Meeting Dates
Meetings are scheduled as follows:
5 September 2019
5 December 2019
20 January 2020 (provisional)
29 January 2020
All meetings start at 6.00pm.
The Panel noted that the dates listed in the agenda were incorrect and that Finance Panel meetings would be held on the following dates:
5 September 2019
5 December 2019
29 January 2020