Agenda and minutes
To receive apologies for absence
Apologies were received from Cllrs Diana Edwards, Cabinet Member for Strategic Partnerships and Projects and Martin Quaile, Cabinet Member for Environment.
To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 6 September 2012 (minutes attached)
Cllr Molyneux, Leader of the Council, welcomed members, officers and members of the public to the meeting.
The cabinet agreed that the minutes needed to show that the meeting was disrupted by a member of the public who advanced towards the cabinet members taking photos or video, while at the same time the fire alarm was activated, bringing the meeting to a hasty conclusion and inconveniencing everyone present. The Leader thanked the fire and rescue service for attending so quickly and apologised for the waste of their time, hoping that it had not led to a real emergency being unattended.
The minutes of the meeting held on 6 September 2012 were confirmed and signed as an accurate record.
The chairman to identify any items of urgent business
Upon the Leader's request, the Solicitor to the Council explained that the council had completed the lease of Unit 4 Hollyhill Road, Forest Vale Industrial Estate after talking to the Deputy Leader
The Leader suggested that the council amend the Scheme to allow officers to complete leases where the annual rent was up to £10K with immediate effect. As this was an executive function, the cabinet could do this. He was sure that the change would work well, given the close working relationship between cabinet members and officers. The Solicitor would update the Scheme in the next Constitution review and report to Full Council.
RESOLVED - to allow officers to complete leases where the annual rent was up to £10K
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest in any matter to be discussed at the meeting. Members and officers are requested to identify the nature of the interest
No declarations of interest were made.
To note the forward plan and the Regulation 10 Notice under the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012.
The Solicitor to the Council explained that the new regulations required the council to give 28 days' public notice of all key decisions, including exempt items. For that reason an exempt item had been moved to the November meeting.
The Solicitor to the Council confirmed for Cllr Robinson, Cabinet Member for an Efficient Council and Planning Policy, that the new deadline for trade union response to Single Status proposals was 17 October 2012, so she hoped to still bring the item to the November cabinet meeting.
The cabinet noted the forward plan.
To answer questions from members of the public in accordance with the published protocol. To submit a question, please contact Democratic Services on 01594 812625 or email email@example.com. All questions must be submitted in writing at least two working days prior to the meeting.
The following question has been received from Lady Jennie McHattie
Will you please inform me of the cost of the recent alterations to the ground floor of the District Council Offices and explain why they were necessary when the ground floor had been renovated a few years ago and was not in any state of disrepair.
The District Council has led taxpayers to believe that they are short of funds, but evidently have sufficient to pay for a grandiose scheme of unnecessary ostentatious changes to public areas and offices.
Response from Cllr Molyneux, Leader of the Council
The refurbishment of the reception area and ground floor office space was undertaken in September 2009. This was the first renovation of these areas since the building was completed in 1991. The works included removal of unused cash offices, conversion of old offices into an open plan work area, improved security arrangements and improved reception facilities for customers. The overall cost was £403,808.
The cost of this work was met from capital resources. The Council’s revenue spend (day to day costs) and capital expenditure (assets, vehicles, etc.) have to be kept separate. This investment has not only provided more modern facilities but has produced revenue savings by allowing the Council to move staff from Lawnstone House. This building does not have full disabled access throughout and whilst in use meant customers needing housing and housing benefit advice had to visit two buildings.
The Council has saved annual running costs of £35,400 by this change through savings on heating, lighting, business rates and cleaning. By reorganising use of space we are able to accommodate the police within the building who will help us reduce running costs further.
The questioner asked for confirmation that if the savings per year were £35,000 there would be no building work for the next 15 years.
Response from Cllr Molyneux
He replied that the savings were per year and that the council could not guarantee no more building work. He added that it was in a position to redevelop the site to repay the investment. There would be some internal works to accommodate council teams that would move when the police moved in to share the building. Initially rental income from the police would cover that work and would then become regular income, helping to save year-on-year. The police would pay for any internal works it needed.
The following question has been received from Lady Jennie McHattie
Of all the councillors who voted for car parking charges, how many actually pay any, especially overnight?
Response from Cllr Molyneux, Leader of the Council
Any councillor using a Forest of Dean managed car park will have to pay. The members’ allowance scheme allows councillors to claim such costs as expenses where they are attending council meetings. Any private use, such as an overnight permit, would incur the same costs as the general public.
The following question has been received from Lady Jennie McHattie ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
The Leader of the Council to consider questions from non-executive members of the council. (A maximum of 15 minutes will be allocated) Questions must relate to an item on the agenda and avoid confidential, personal or any other information where the law requires the council to consider the matter in private. To submit a question, please contact Democratic Services on 01594 812625 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions should be submitted in writing at least two working days prior to the meeting.
Cllr Winship had sent in questions relating to item 13 on the agenda, which would be addressed at that point.
Cllr Robinson, Cabinet Member for an Efficient Council and Planning Policy, to present report F.178 for consideration.
Cllr Robinson presented report F.178, explaining that the medium term financial plan (MTFP) set the scene for the budget setting exercise and highlighted issues that needed to be addressed in the future. He commented that the year had produced a number of central government policies, which had yet to be finalised.
He emphasised that the council would retain part of business rates, and that if there were growth in that area, then the council would benefit. The arrangements were complex and the council was looking at the possibility of pooling arrangements with other authorities in the county. The proposal would be brought to Full Council and there would be an opportunity for the council to change its mind once the final figures were known. He publicised a member briefing session to be held on Tuesday 9 October at 6pm.
In future central government would only be giving the council 90 per cent of the funding level for council tax support. The council intended to continue funding at 100 per cent the support as a discount for 2013/14, so that there was no impact on those in need. The council was addressing how to cover the 10 per cent shortfall.
In the medium term the council would have increased income from garden waste collection licences and car park charges, alongside significant New Homes Bonus funding.
He recognised the exceptional support given by council staff during the past three years of no pay increases, adding that the council assumed a one per cent rise following national pay negotiations, to which the council could add its input.
Overall he believed that the medium term financial plan presented a framework to produce a balanced budget
The Solicitor to the Council confirmed for Cllr Burford that the cost of running the election for the Police and Crime Commissioner was separate from the council's budget. The council had just had confirmation of the fees it would receive, which would cover the cost. To complete the work extra staff were employed and some council staff worked extra hours.
Cllr Robinson shared Cllr Baynham's concern that the public convenience in Coleford had not been open when needed by a visitor. He had been informed of the reason and would ensure that details were sent to Cllr Baynham. He added that the possible transfer of public conveniences to town councils had been on the MTFP for some time, but perhaps needed to be reviewed in light of the council now charging for car parks, where the conveniences were situated.
Answering a question from Cllr Winship regarding the marked difference between the original and revised figure for supplies and services (agenda page 27) Cllr Robinson said that it concerned capital payment relating to garden waste collection. The Group Manager for Finance and Property added that the figure included funding for green bins and LAG expenditure, which was balanced elsewhere. He would send Cllr Winship a more detailed answer that he had sent to a councillor previously.
The Leader agreed that ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
Cllr Robinson, Cabinet Member for an Efficient Council and Planning Policy, to present report F.179 for consideration.
Cllr Robinson presented report F.179, reminding members that he was required to bring it twice a year. For the past four years it had been concerned with maintaining investments with low risk. The council was not achieving good rates of interest, but was doing well compared to its peer group. There was a glimmer of hope in the fact that unemployment seemed to be edging down, but overall the economy was still in uncertain times.
The Group Manager for Finance and Property explained that the council had breached its rules of investment for a period of four days in August, because it had to wait to invest in a particular bank and had therefore deposited money into a safe money market fund.
The cabinet noted the report.
Cllr Molyneux, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Regeneration to present report SD.100 for consideration.
The Leader, as Cabinet Member for Regeneration, presented report SD.100, emphasising that the issue was in the hands of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire County Councils, who were finalising the contract with the contractor. The councils were just ensuring that there were no loopholes in the contract, to ensure that the contractor would deliver the project. He hoped for another update in the near future.
Cllr Brian Edwards, the cabinet's broadband champion, said that the council had worked hard to ensure that the Forest of Dean was at the forefront of the project and would be the place where work would begin. The project would open doors to new businesses, while helping old ones and providing a boost for others such as private homes and schools. He pledged to continue to champion the take-up of this great opportunity.
Cllr Robinson had been involved as a county councillor and had recently visited Cornwall, which was two years into its project, having achieved 40 per cent coverage and soon to reach 70 per cent. He had been impressed at how businesses had responded, citing a pub, which had used Skype to enable wine producers to speak live to customers at a wine tasting. The initiative enabled businesses to add value at no added cost.
The Leader confirmed that the £35.4m public funding had not been paid into a pot but had been allocated by the authorities and BDUK. He would find out if the Borders Broadband economic impact assessment was a public document and if so would arrange for it to be forwarded to Cllr Bill Evans. He thought that the contract would be signed and announced later in the month and that work on the ground would begin in Spring 2013.
a) To thank the Cabinet Broadband Champion for his work to date.
b) To note the report.
Cllr Hale, Cabinet Member for Community, to present report CSW.19 for consideration.
Cllr Hale presented report CSW.19, stating that the meeting referenced at Agenda page 63, paragraph 3.4 had taken place on 26 September to start exploring how the proposed new single management body for all community facilities on the site could be progressed. The broad principles and outcomes had been discussed and these would now be developed into a draft Memorandum of Understanding to be agreed and signed up to by all interested parties.
By looking at current usage patterns the council had a good understanding of when most people entitled to a discount were using the facilities. A flexible pricing policy would recognise this.
The Group Manager for Customer Services had also advised that a full equalities impact assessment would be completed before any change was implemented.
Delivery of the schemes through a partner just 3 or 4 months quicker than trying to manage and procure each part in-house would mean the income stream started sooner and therefore would cover the additional cost.
The Leader said that the MTFP had contained tough targets for this important service to the community. It had been a bold move to employ an invest-to-save strategy to produce better run leisure services. The cabinet would keep a close eye on the delegated function. He emphasised that the strategy enabled the flexibility to react to markets and demand, so that potentially more people would use the leisure centres more often.
Cllr Robinson said that to operate variable pricing was one of the tools vital to the increased use of the leisure centres. He reminded members that while using a partner would incur a cost at the end of the process, the traditional route would incur costs throughout the process.
Cllr Burford, chairman of the Strategic Overview and Scrutiny Committee, reminded members that the committee would look at the strategy soon after visiting the leisure centres on 22 October. He urged the cabinet not to make any decision before taking into account the views of the committee, asking that recommendation d) of the report be changed to reflect that.
The Group Manager for Customer Services confirmed for the Leader that the timescales depended on the budget cycle. The competitive tender process would take 12 weeks and the appointment of a partner would not represent a commitment to a big spend at that point. To make the key decision about investing, the council needed first to find out the detail that a partner would work up.
The Solicitor to the Council said that the council would need to make clear to potential bidders that there might not be any work at the end of the process, which might deter some.
Cllr Robinson reminded members that the vast majority of members had been in favour of the strategy, which had been in existence since May 2012. The report under consideration was more about how the council was going to implement what it had agreed. He asked what the scrutiny process would look at.
Cllr Burford replied that scrutiny needed ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
Cllr Hale, Cabinet Member for Community, to present report PH.137 for consideration.
Cllr Hale presented report PH.137, explaining that it dealt with consultation and that the housing cabinet support group would consider the results of the consultation. He tabled a replacement appendix 2 to the strategy. The strategy would run until 2017
Cllr Robinson suggested that regarding funding the strategy should include the words take into account the council's overall investment strategy, since people should understand that the work needed to be done in that context.
Cllr Burford commented that the Strategic Overview and Scrutiny Committee would consider the strategy at its meeting on 18 October and he would have liked to see it coming back to the cabinet for a final decision.
The Leader agreed.
The Cabinet Member for an Efficient Council and Planning Policy explained that the £2.4 million in the capital programme was a statement of what the council had set aside at the time and was not all ringfenced.
The Strategic Director suggested inserting the words through some of before the words the proceeds for clarity (agenda page 81 paragraph 4.4.3)
Cllr Baynham was concerned about the needs of older people and asked if the cabinet member had read the recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation report concerning the affordability of living in retirement villages and associated additional on-costs and service charges.
The Strategic Housing Manager said that he was aware of the report and it was a concern over extra care costs for those people 'in the middle'. The council had looked at initiatives such as shared ownership schemes. He said that the council would want to avoid becoming involved in schemes such as ones mentioned by Cllr Baynham.
Subject to minor editorial changes to the strategy made at the meeting the cabinet agreed the following changes to the recommendations at the agenda.
In recommendation b) add at the end the words and bring the final version back to the cabinet for adoption
To remove recommendation c).
RESOLVED - to
a) Approve the draft Forest of Dean Housing Strategy and agree to publish for public consultation, following minor editorial changes
b) Thank the members of the Housing Portfolio Support Group for their work in producing the draft Strategy and request the Group to consider the feedback from the consultation and advise the Cabinet Member accordingly on any recommended changes and bring the final version back to the cabinet for adoption
Cllr Hale, Cabinet Member for Community, to present report PH.138 for consideration.
Cllr Hale presented report PH.138, commenting that he had wanted to bring it to an earlier meeting but that it had been important to clarify the changes and for all parties to agree them.
Cllr Winship asked the following questions:
1. When people make an enquiry about a possible home are they given confirmation that their application has been received?
2. Are they told (or indeed is there) a response time as to whether they have been successful?
3. Are they told the result of their application – either positive or negative – and after how long?
4. If these processes are NOT included currently, could they be added to the Homeseeker policy?
The Strategic Housing Manager gave the following replies.
The Gloucestershire Homeseeker system is delivered through the web
1. Applicants apply on line and immediately receive confirmation that application registered and a registration number given
2. A letter is sent within two days of registering --this sets out information required for verification of application
3. The system relies on the individual managing their own application –the great majority do this -- a few rely on the Housing Options team to do this for them –they therefore bid on properties and can see the result of that bid the following week
4. The system is very responsive but applicants can and do contact the team if they need help or clarification Some leaflets available for Members
The Strategic Housing Manager clarified that once people had registered, the system informed them that they needed to provide various pieces of information. The council sent a follow-up letter concerning verification documents.
Cllr Winship was concerned that people were phoning the council to chase the progress of bids and asked if they were informed within a certain time of the outcome of their bid.
The Strategic Housing Manager said that, to his knowledge, people were not contacting the council about the progress of their bids, but on other matters such as verification documents. They were informed of the closing time for bids and that unsuccessful bidders would not be contacted. During the following week bidders needed to check the publicised advert.
Cllr Martin believed that people were aware the following week of the outcome of their bid. The council had chosen to join the county scheme and she believed the concern was around eligibility. In the bronze band there were too many bidders chasing too few properties. She was also concerned about the impact of removing support from those under occupying houses as at agenda page 106, paragraph 3.7.
Cllr Stephens was sceptical of the county scheme, commenting that only six out of 10 had a computer and many did not have a car, so could not easily visit the offices.
The Leader agreed that those views needed to be taken into account, but said that they did not relate to the decision to be made on the report, as they concerned the process rather than the scheme itself.
The Strategic Housing Manager ... view the full minutes text for item 13.
Thursday 8 November 2012 at 5.30pm
Thursday 8 November 2012 at 5.30pm