Agenda and minutes

Agenda and minutes

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Contact: Tom Hudson, Scrutiny Officer 

Note: This meeting was held by Zoom and streamed to the Council's YouTube channel 

No. Item



Substitutes are not allowed.




Declarations of interest




Finance and Performance Panel Work Plan pdf icon PDF 135 KB

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



The Panel considered the proposed workplan. It was informed that unless timing permitted for the item be considered by the Companies Scrutiny Panel, the plans for the Boswells site would be considered at the Finance and Performance Panel.


It was requested and AGREED that a Financial Update be provided to the Panel.


Notes of previous meeting pdf icon PDF 394 KB

For the Panel to approve the record of the meeting held on 07 July 2020.

Additional documents:


The notes of the meeting held on 07 July 2019 were AGREED.


In considering the previous minutes, further information regarding the ODS depot rationalisation was requested. The outline business case was ready, but the Council was currently working through some of the more technical planning issues. At the time of having a full business case there would be a Cabinet paper, which would be available for Scrutiny to consider. Questions were also asked about the process by which the consultants chosen were appointed; it was confirmed that there had not been a procurement process but instead the Council had, as permitted, employed its Professional Services Framework to run a mini-competition between three companies.


Revised Oxford City Council Business Plan 2020-21 pdf icon PDF 140 KB

On 09 September the Cabinet will consider a report on the Revised Oxford City Council Business Plan 2020/21. The Panel is asked to consider the report, making any recommendations to Cabinet as it sees fit.

Mish Tullar, Corporate Policy, Partnerships and Communications Manager, and Shelley Ghazi, Policy and Partnerships Officer, will be at the meeting to present the report.

NB The report for this item will be issued as a supplement.


Additional documents:


Leader of the Council, Councillor Susan Brown introduced the report on the revised Oxford City Council Business Plan. With the immense disruption of Covid it had been necessary to revisit the Council’s plans for the current year, particularly due to the increased need to support economic recovery and promote safe, green travel. It was reassuring, however, how much of the Council’s plans and priorities remained. Particular highlights and priorities within the updated Business Plan included the launch of a new Procurement Strategy, which was being considered by the Panel that evening. The importance of the Council’s staff reflecting the demographics of the city they sought to serve was also underlined. Black Lives Matter had really resonated with residents in the city and given fresh impetus to a priority for the Council where progress had been made, but where work remained still to do. The area within the Business Plan most changed was in relation to economic recovery, but it was pleasing to see that much of the Council’s original ambitions would help to support recovery. One caveat to the Business Plan was in regards to how much central government’s new Planning guidance might alter the Council’s ability to deliver its housing ambitions. Finally, an amendment was also put forward to the text on page 32 of the report pack. The amended version was to read ‘continue to reduce the carbon footprint of Oxford City Council’s operation so that each year there is a reduction in line with achieving zero carbon by 2050 or earlier.’


Mish Tullar, Head of Communications, Partnerships & Policy, underlined that the Business Plan was Year 1 of the Council Strategy, which had been adopted in February 2020. Regarding KPIs, it was explained that under usual circumstances there would normally have been 16 or so corporate-level KPIs for the entire Corporate Strategy. That had not happened due to Covid and was being deferred until March 2021. At the same time, service level KPIs would also be considered. The Council’s auditor would work with the Council to collaborate on developing the most beneficial KPIs.


In response to the presented report, the Panel raised a number of questions and suggestions. Potential concern was raised over the Council’s support for the County Council’s bus gate plans on small businesses and overall economic recovery, and it was asked what research had been done to underpin the Council’s position. The exact proposals had not been made available by the County Council, making it difficult to assess their detail. However, the idea behind bus gates was to support businesses, and national and local policy indicated that reduced congestion and greater ease of access for customers was supportive of local business overall. The County Council would be expected to produce a case looking at those issues, but it was fair to say that business in those streets which had reduced traffic significantly through pedestrianisation were amongst the most thriving. Further, consultation on the proposals had included many businesses and the results would be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.


Treasury Management Performance pdf icon PDF 342 KB

On 09 September the Cabinet will consider a report on Treasury Management Performance 2019/20. The Panel is asked to consider the report, making any recommendations to Cabinet as it sees fit.

Bill Lewis, Financial Accounting Manager, will be at the meeting to present the report.


The Financial Accounting Manager introduced the Treasury Management Annual Report 2019/20. He reported that the Council had fully complied with its Treasury Management Strategy and prudential indicators.

The overall performance for investment and debt reported at the year ending 31 March 2020 was better than had been budgeted for. This was due to slippage in the capital programme resulting in lower debt and higher investments than planned. The reduction in the base rate from 0.25% to 0.1% announced on 19 March 2020 had not impacted the Council’s returns on its long term and money market investments within the reporting period.

The values of the Council’s property funds had seen a reduction at the year-end however this did not represent a loss position for the Council although there was now material uncertainty placed on the value of commercial property and property funds.

Investment rates had fallen since the end of March 2020 meaning the treasury performance would not be as strong in the current financial year however the deferment of capital schemes resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic would provide some mitigation.

A crucial factor for the Council in the current year would be the impacts of the pandemic and the current economic conditions on the Council’s wholly owned companies, particularly the Housing Group (Oxford City Housing Limited and its subsidiaries).

The Head of Financial Services highlighted that the Council had achieved an average return of 1.27% in 2019/20 whereas it was currently only able to secure investment returns of 0.35%. The Council’s cash balances had been impacted by the Council’s response to Covid-19 and a reduction in income in the order of £10m.

The Panel asked a number of questions and in discussion noted the following:

·         The need for careful prioritisation within the capital programme in the current economic climate.

·         The Council was able to achieve good returns by investing in other local authorities prior to the end of March 2020 but this was no longer the case.

·         The Council was planning to refinance a £20m tranche of its external debt which was due to be repaid in March 2021. The Council was currently able to achieve a significantly improved interest rate on this debt but was not planning to borrow in advance of need at the current time.

·         A planned 1% increase to interest rates offered by the Public Works Loan Board was expected to be waived, subject to consultation.

·         The Treasury Management Strategy and the prudential indicators within it had been set in parallel with the budget setting process, prior to the end of the previous financial year, hence table 2 compared the actual capital financing requirement with estimated opening balance.

·         Tables 1 and 2 were incorrectly titled and provided data for the 2019-20 financial year only.

·         Cash had performed better than fixed term investments for the majority of the reporting period, which was unusual. Treasury officers monitored this position closely in order to maximise returns for the Council.

·         The Operational Boundary Limit (para. 20) was set at a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.


Procurement Strategy 2020 - 2021 pdf icon PDF 144 KB

On 09 September the Cabinet will consider a report on the Council’s Procurement Strategy. The Panel is asked to consider the report, making any recommendations to Cabinet as it sees fit.

Annette Osborne, Procurement Manager, will be available to present the report.

NB The report for this item will be issued as a supplement.


Additional documents:


The Procurement Manager introduced the Procurement Strategy 2020-22 which would be recommended to Cabinet for approval, having been through multiple iterations. The Strategy supported the Council’s aim of fostering an inclusive economy. The Council would seek a commitment from suppliers that extended to sub-contractors where appropriate, to pay their employees at least the Oxford Living Wage for work undertaken within Oxford or otherwise the Living Wage Foundation rate.

The Panel explored the extent to which the Council’s wholly owned companies had bought in to the Procurement Strategy. The Head of Financial Services explained that the Strategy had been shared with both the Housing Group and Oxford Direct Services (ODS) companies, which had not proposed any substantive amendments. While both groups of companies were working on their own separate procurement strategies they were expected to align with the broad principles of the Council’s strategy, specifically around delivering social value. It was noted that certain aspects of the Strategy may not fit well with ODS due to its commercial direction.

The Panel questioned whether the intention was to employ a single procurement manager across the Council and its companies. The Procurement Manager was employed by ODS and had also been working in part for the Council under a joint arrangement however ODS had signalled its intention to end that arrangement, so consideration would need to be given to what happened next.

The Panel asked how the Council would assess a company that was delivering social value outside of the City. The Procurement Manager said that the Council had to be transparent and fair to all potential suppliers in order to minimise the risk of challenge and could not be biased against good employers based elsewhere. The Council could target local social value in how it asked questions, where this was justifiable, and could in some cases apply some weighting based on mileage distance e.g. how far a prospective waste supplier would be travelling to a waste transfer station.

In discussion the Panel also noted:

·         Alternatives to the conventional delivery of goods and services such as digital solutions would generally be explored pre-procurement when the Council engaged with industry to inform specifications.

·         The Panel would see the percentage of ODS spend within the city in future performance reports. This data would be split out from the Council’s own figure, as previously requested by Scrutiny.

·         That given that Oxford had been a Fairtrade City for many years it seemed odd that the Town Hall caterers were only now developing Fairtrade procurement in their supply chain. The Procurement Manager offered to look into this point.

The Panel resolved to note and support the Procurement Strategy 2020-22 and thanked officers for their work in producing a high quality Strategy document.



Date of next meeting

Meetings are scheduled as follows:


-       29 September 2020

-       03  December 2020


All meetings begin at 6.00pm.


The Panel NOTED the date of the next meeting, 29 September 2020.