Agenda and draft minutes

Agenda and draft minutes

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Speaking at a Council or Committee meeting

Venue: Remote (Zoom)

Contact: Tom Hudson, Scrutiny Officer  email  DemocraticServices@oxford.gov.uk

Note: Meeting moved from 08 December 2021 

Items
No. Item

25.

Apologies

Substitutes are not permitted.

Minutes:

Councillors Duncan Hall and Andrew Gant tendered apologies for the meeting

26.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

None

27.

Finance and Performance Work Plan

The Panel is asked to NOTE that there are currently no relevant reports going to Cabinet in January. The only work currently scheduled for the Panel of that meeting is to sign off the draft Budget Review Group report. Although the meeting is liable to be short, the Panel is recommended to AGREE to retain the meeting of the Finance and Performance Panel scheduled for 24 January 2022.

Minutes:

The Panel NOTED the absence of Cabinet reports coinciding with its January meeting and discussed whether to move the meeting to February. It was AGREED not to move the January meeting to February and use the meeting to sign off the Budget Review Group report.  

28.

Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 374 KB

Attached are the notes of the meeting held on 06 September 2021. The Panel is asked to agree the notes as an accurate record having made any necessary amendments.

Minutes:

The notes of the meeting held on 06 September 2021 were AGREED as a correct record.

 

29.

Integrated Performance Report Q2 pdf icon PDF 268 KB

At its meeting on 15 December Cabinet will consider the Integrated Performance Report Q2. Nigel Kennedy, Head of Financial Services, and Anna Winship, Management Accountancy Manager, will be available to present the report and answer questions.

The Panel is recommended to NOTE the report, having raised any questions it may have and having AGREED any recommendations to make to Cabinet arising therefrom.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Anna Winship, Management Accountancy Manager, presented to the Panel the Cabinet Integrated Performance Report Q2, detailing the Council’s position regarding finance, performance and risk.

Financially, the General Fund was forecast to show a favourable variance of £573k. Key changes included a £470k favourable variance for Housing Services following receipt of external grant funding. Car parking income was seen to be returning and expectations were that they would rise to budgeted figures by the end of the year. However, not all parking had recovered equally, with city centre parking improving at a much faster rate than park and ride income. The Council’s claim to recoup sales, fees and charges reduced due to Covid for Q1 of the year had been submitted, totalling £1.1m, the payment of which was being awaited. The claims were being made on the same basis as previously, claims which had been paid out in full indicating a good level of confidence that the money would be received.

The Housing Revenue Account was forecast to show a small adverse variance of £29k, a figure unchanged from Q1.

Spending on the Capital Programme indicated a spend of £146m over the year, with slippage of £28m occurring in the second quarter, with the East Oxford Community Centre (decanting current tenants), Bullingdon Community Centre (surveys) and affordable housing supply (in line with the changes to the Oxfordshire Growth Deal programme) and regeneration (non-purchase of properties) being the primary causes. There was a marginal overspend of £37k. The issue of low spend at the time of year relative to the budget was addressed; £20m of loans to OCHL would be made in large chunks rather than drip fed throughout the year. Likewise, purchases from the HRA of homes worth £35m and property purchases of up to £13m for regeneration would also happen in big steps. Furthermore, issues with the QL implementation meant that some capital spend was not showing up at present. As such, the expected spend of £146m was still sound, even if the pro rata spend was lagging. The Panel expressed disappointment at the slippage of the Go Ultra Low project, in light of the Council’s climate change aspiration.

Corporate performance indicators showed 11 out of 23 indicators as green, 3 red and no amber (the remainder either being annual targets or requiring a baseline to set a KPI). The three red indicators were: council spend on local SMEs; council spend on local SMEs (excluding OCHL and ODS); and the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough.  

Three risks were identified as being red: ensuring housing delivery and supply; economic growth; and the progress towards net zero. Overall, this presented an improved set of results on the previous quarter.

In response to the report presented the Panel raised a number of questions and comments, and sought clarifications over a variety of issues. Discussion was held over the proportion of the Council’s homelessness budget the £470k grant received covered; a welcome proportion, though the total spend by the Council  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.

30.

Treasury Management Mid-Year Report pdf icon PDF 519 KB

At its meeting on 15 December Cabinet will consider the Treasury Management Mid-Year report. Nigel Kennedy, Head of Financial Services, and Bill Lewis, Financial Accounting Manager, will be available to present the report and answer questions.

The Panel is recommended to NOTE the report, having raised any questions it may have and having AGREED any recommendations to make to Cabinet arising therefrom.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Bill Lewis, Financial Accounting Manager, presented to the Panel the Cabinet’s Treasury Management Mid-Year Report.

Most importantly, the Council had complied with all its treasury and prudential indicators in the year to date. A number of causes – such as lower external borrowing, increased investment and lower minimum revenue provision-levels – meant that the overall the Council was expected to have £211k more from Treasury investments than budgeted. Performance in property funds had recovered since the start of the pandemic, with NCLA being higher than its pre-pandemic level and Lothbury approaching that level. Investments in multi-asset funds were showing dividend returns at expected levels.

The Panel’s Scrutiny explored issues around broadening the asset base for treasury investments, though the suggestions made typically did not constitute treasury investments but capital spends. The Panel noted that that the Council had been sent a breakdown of the ethical, social and governance policies of their investments and requested that that information be shared with members. A progress update on the Council’s £7.5m holding in Barclays was requested and it was confirmed that the money had been withdrawn. This was due to the accounts being replaced with ones paying significantly lower rates of interest. To date a suitable replacement had not been found. Finally, discussion was held over the resilience of the Council’s finances with changes to how property funds should be accounted for. Government changes could technically make it harder it to set a balanced budget in the event of a significant slide in property values. However, having seen good levels of capital appreciation since purchase a significant buffer existed to protect the Council from this situation.

31.

Asset Management Strategy pdf icon PDF 200 KB

At its meeting on 15 December Cabinet will consider the Asset Management Strategy report. Jane Winfield, Head of Corporate Property and Mike Scott, Senior Asset Manager, will be available to present the report and answer questions.

The Panel is recommended to NOTE the report, having raised any questions it may have and having AGREED any recommendations to make to Cabinet arising therefrom.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mike Scott, Senior Estates Surveyor, presented to the Panel the Cabinet report on the Asset Management Strategy, supported by Emma Gubbins, Senior Estates Surveyor.

The Strategy would cover the next 10 years, a change in approach from previously, where the Council had had five year plans. The key difference would be that the new arrangements would allow delineation between strategic objectives, and the plans how to achieve those objectives, enabling the Council to have a more flexible and dynamic approach. In terms of its contents, the strategy engaged with new issues, such as the impacts of Covid on the commercial property market, but was generally an evolution from previous iterations. An investment of £20m in regenerative activities would help dilute the Council’s high concentration of property within the retail sector. Another issue more prominent in the Strategy compared to previous documents was the activity of the Council in seeking to address the Climate Emergency. Cost-wise, the Strategy was already included within the Medium Term Financial Plan, meaning the costs formed part of the Council’s existing budget.

Issues discussed by the Panel in response to the report presented included; exploring issues around alternative diversification possibilities, particularly housing and logistics; the importance of integration of biodiversity into projects rather than just including it in designated sites; noting the value of taking a policy view on whether to support boats as homes in the City in order to maximise the utility of the Council’s waterway assets; the comparative attractiveness of the city centre as a shopping destination; the level of resource available for the implementation of the Strategy, and the degree of cross-working between Council departments to deliver it and the issues arising from the need to work within the constraints of the Local Plan.

Discussion was held by the Panel over the importance to the Council’s net zero ambitions of phasing out gas use over the medium to long term. The Panel was in agreement with the Asset Management Strategy, which stated in s 7.4 that ‘The Council’s strategic response to these challenges are not to be seen as ‘nice to have’ but as ‘must have’ if it is to deliver on our carbon goals for our operational property assets, as set out in our Carbon Management Plan.’ Given this importance, the Panel felt that the phasing out of gas use in the medium to long term was sufficiently strategic as to warrant inclusion within the Asset Management Strategy. The Panel AGREED to make the following recommendation to Cabinet:

That the Council includes within the Strategy a commitment to working towards phasing out the use of gas within its non-domestic properties over the medium to long term.

 

 

32.

Budget 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 850 KB

The Scrutiny Committee has established a Budget Review Group to Scrutinise the 2022/23 Budget. The Panel is asked for the time being to NOTE the Budget, but to AGREE the proposed list of written questions to Heads of Service and add any further questions which are missing. These questions will form part of the discussion for the Budget Review Group meetings.

NB These papers will follow as a supplement. Owing to the publication dates for Cabinet Panel members will only receive this on the day of the meeting itself.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Panel considered a list of questions for pre-submission to Heads of Service to inform its discussions as part of the Budget Review Group. The existing questions were AGREED. It was further AGREED that additional questions would be submitted otuside the meeting to the Scrutiny Officer for inclusion.

33.

Dates of next meeting

Further Finance and Performance Panel meetings are scheduled for:

-       08 Dec 21

-       24 Jan 22

-       09 Mar 22

These meetings of the Finance and Performance Panel will be held in person at the Town Hall.

Following discussion the dates of the Budget Review Group are scheduled for

-       05 January 22

-       06 January 22

-       10 January 22

-       17 January (review)

Budget Review Group meetings will be held virtually.

 

Minutes:

The dates of the next meetings were NOTED, including dates of the Budget Review Group on 04, 06 and 10 January 2022.