Executive Minutes

Date:
Thursday, 29th January, 2004
Time:
7.30 p.m.
Place:
the Old Council Chamber, Town Hall, Reigate
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Mrs. J.M.A. Spiers, M.H.C. Buttery, R.K. Ellingham, Dr.L.R.Hack, J.B.P. Jones, A.J. Kay, J.V. Lyndon Morgan, R.C. Newstead, Mrs. D.A. Ross-Tomlin
Also Present:
Councillors Mrs. M.P. Brewster, B.C Cowle, J.M. Ellacott, N. Harris, N.D. Harrison, Mrs. S.F. King, M.J. Miller, D.J. Pay, B.A. Stead and Mrs. R.S. Turner.
Min NoDescriptionResolution
Part I
159 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Non-Executive Members: Councillors Mrs. M.H. Gates, S.A. Gates, F.J. Moore, E. Russell, M.J. Selby and C.T.H. Whinney.
160 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
None.
161 COUNCIL TAX BASE 2004/05
RESOLVED that in accordance with the Local Authorities (Calculation of Tax Base) Regulations 1992, the Council Tax base for 2004/05 for each of the Council's areas shall be as follows:

Reigate and Banstead Council as a whole: 54,697

Horley Town Council: 8,298

Salfords and Sidlow Parish Council: 1,352
162 ANCHOR STAYING PUT (HOME IMPROVEMENT AGENCY)
RESOLVED that a bid be supported via the Supporting People Administration Authority (SCC) for increased funding to the Anchor Staying Put scheme.
163 COUNCIL PRIORITIES FOR 2004/05 AND SUPPORTING SERVICE PLANS, HUMAN RESOURCE PLANS AND TRAINING PLANS
RECOMMENDED that:

(i) the Council's key priorities for 2004/05 set out in Appendix A to these Minutes be approved;

(ii) the 2004/05 Service, Human Resource and Training Plans, as set out as an annex to the previously circulated report be approved; and

(iii) the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Leader of the Council, be authorised to finalise the combined BVPP Summary/Council Tax leaflet for 2004/05, on the basis of Recommendation (i) above.
164 2004/05 BUDGET
RESOLVED that:

(i) the responses to the issues raised by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee set out in Annex 1 of the circulated report be endorsed, and the following recommendations of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be adopted for the 2005/06 Budget process:

(a) the reintroduction of either a paper or electronic version of the Budget Book, subject to further discussions with Members over the content and method of publication;
(b) the revised Service Plan Template be incorporated where possible into the 2005/06 Budget process; and

(c) that the recommendations in relation to the following be further examined:
staff suggestion scheme;
improvements to BACS usage;
extending customer services operating times; and
improved monitoring of the planning service.

(ii) the Director of Resources be authorised to make any necessary adjustments to ensure compliance with the approved Borough Budget Requirement and Council Tax demand proposed to Council arising from Recommendation (i) to Council listed below, final budget refinements or from any final changes to government grant; and

(iii) the Statement by the Director of Resources at Annex 2 to the circulated report be noted.

RECOMMENDED that:

(i) items 1-8 detailed in Appendix B to these Minutes be accepted for incorporation into the Borough Budget and a Borough Budget Requirement of 14,237,300 equating to a Council Tax rise of 3.9%; and

(ii) the capital programme set out in Annex 3 to the previously circulated report, including the employment of an engineer to help with its delivery, be approved.

165 COUNCIL TAX 2004/05
PLEASE CONTACT DEMOCRATIC SERVICES FOR DETAILS OF THIS DECISION.
166 ANY OTHER URGENT BUSINESS
None.
167 EXEMPT BUSINESS
RESOLVED that members of the Press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 on the grounds that they involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 1 and 11 (Minutes 168 and 169), and 9 (Minute 170) of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.
Part II(Confidential)
168 LOCAL PAY AWARD 2004/05
  • Report of the Interim Head of Personnel Services
RESOLVED that a 2.25% salary increase, with effect from the 1st April, 2004 be agreed as the 2004/05 Pay Award.
169 HUMAN RESOURCE PLANS 2004/05
  • Human Resource Plans Contents
  • |
    HR Plans Schedule
The Human Resource Plans were considered as part of Minute 163 as detailed above.
170 2004/05 BUDGET - FORECAST CAPITAL RECEIPTS
  • Confidential Budget Annex
The Forecast Capital Receipts were considered as part of Minute 164 as detailed above.

A Member noted as a general point that where the Council received income from capital sales, it should invest that income in other appropriate capital investments wherever possible.
171 PRESS RELEASE
RESOLVED that no Press Release be issued in respect of the above exempt items.
The meeting closed at 8.39 p.m.

Minute

Min NoMinute
161The Executive considered a report which sought authority to determine the Council Tax Base for the 2004/05 financial year. The report set out details of the tax base, proposals, factors for consideration and policy framework implications. The Executive Member for Finance and Assets noted that due to Government issued Regulations, Local Authorities were only able to determine Council Tax bases between 21st December, 2003 and 31st January, 2004. As a result, Council on 11th December, 2003 had been unable to adopt the recommendation of the Executive of 20th November, 2003 on the Council Tax base. The matter was accordingly referred back by Council, and at the same meeting the Executive was authorised to set the Council Tax base for the next financial year.
162A report was considered by the Executive in relation to a proposal to support a bid via the Supporting People Administration Authority (Surrey County Council) for increased funding to the Anchor Staying Put scheme. The report set out the background, factors for consideration, options open to the Executive, resource and policy framework implications.
The Executive Member for Housing confirmed that should the proposed bid for additional funding submitted to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister not be successful, any funding agreed by the Executive as recommended in the circulated report would be returned to the Council's reserves in 2004/05. The Executive noted the work currently undertaken by the Agency, and it was agreed that a rigid audit of their funding needed to be in place. A Member commented that the Agency appeared to be requesting a disproportionately large increase in funding levels, however it was noted that Anchor had been meeting deficits on running costs, as detailed in the report, but that it could no longer continue to do so.
163The Executive considered a report which set out the Council's priorities for 2004/05, together with supporting Service Plans, Human Resource Plans and Training Plans. The report also sought to delegate approval of the content of the Summary Best Value Performance Plan and Council Tax Leaflet for 2004/05 to the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Leader of the Council.

Reference was made to the number of seminars that had taken place involving Members, following which the Council's key priorities had been formulated.
164The Executive had before it a report which provided an update of the Council's current financial position, details of the Local Government Finance Settlement, an outline of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee's considerations and the latest budget position. On the basis of this information, the report recommended the 2004/05 Revenue Budget and five year Capital Programme. Appended to the report was a schedule of the comments by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the 2004/05 budget and budget process, together with Officers responses, the statement of the Section 151 Officer on the 2004/05 budget and a summary of the Capital Programme for 2003/04 to 2007/08.

The Executive Member for Finance and Assets was of the view that it was the duty of Members to keep any increase in the Borough's element of Council Tax as low as possible. The Council was faced with two conflicting pressures - that of the difficulty many residents had in meeting Council Tax bills, and that of required improvements to the services the Council provided. The Executive Member noted that state pension increases had been set before the Chancellor increased petrol duty, that the utilities had signalled larger charges, that rail fares were being increased and that many employers had signalled their intention to keep their pay increases to the estimated rate of inflation. All of these factors contributed to increased pressure on the charge payer, and it was only right that the Council's proposed budget increases should be modest.

In terms of the budget proposed in the report before Members, the Executive Member noted that it was, in effect, some 60,000 less than last year, but it still equated to a Council Tax increase of 4.5%. This was due in essence to the fact that the Government Grant to the Council had reduced by more than the proposed reduction in the Council's budget. Consequently, and in order to ensure the Council did not encounter financial difficulties in the future, the Executive Member felt that an overall Council Tax increase of 4.5% should be recommended to Council as a maximum.

The Executive Member for Finance and Assets then informed the Executive that it may be possible to further reduce the level of Council Tax increase from the maximum 4.5% recommended in the circulated report, as there were a number of unquantified savings which could begin to accrue during 2004. These would result from the introduction of new procurement arrangements, closer attention to temporary and short term appointments and the matching of capital expenditure more closely with projected peaks in income receipts.

In response to a query from a Member, the Director of Resources confirmed that in relation to the implementation of the Licensing Act 2003, it was expected that a fee structure would be required to be in place, but that further information had not been forthcoming from the Government on this issue. In relation to the extension of the Green Waste Door to Door Service and the Extension of the Micro Recycling Centre provision, the Executive Member for Environment informed the Executive that the Council had been set mandatory targets by Government to increase recycling levels, which would mean an increase in costs. However, an increase in recycling levels was something that was supported by residents and Officers would be looking at ways of securing additional grant funding from other sources.

A Member referred to the receipts from the Large Scale Voluntary Transfer (LSVT) and queried where the estimated 2 Million of interest from those receipts appeared in the budget calculations. It was suggested by the Member that if there was an additional 2 Million yet to be taken into consideration, then there should be no reason to increase the Borough's element of Council Tax. In addition, the Member concerned queried a rise in the budget figures and an estimated rise in FTE Staffing levels by 30% over the last two years.

In response the Executive Member for Finance and Assets noted that the gross budget had indeed risen. Much of the receipts from LSVT had been invested and was earning interest for the Council. This interest had been applied to a number of areas, all aimed at improving the quality of life of the residents of the Borough. If the Council was not in a position to receive the estimated 2 Million in interest, then the result would have been a further increase in the budget by a similar amount, greatly increasing the requirement to raise the Borough's Council Tax levels.

The Chief Executive noted with regard to the interest earned from LSVT receipts and related application to budgets, that all reports containing growth elements were required to be considered and determined by the Executive. In relation to staffing levels, the Chief Executive referred to a number of areas where the Council's performance had not been meeting the required standards. A number of steps had been taken to address these issues, with investment in staffing taking place to reduce levels of overtime and increase efficiency. The Front Line Initiative Fund and Organisational Development Fund had been established, and resources had been employed to address critical backlogs and improve front-line services. These aspects had resulted in an enormous improvement in performance on a quarter on quarter basis, as recognised by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

The Leader of the Council referred to the improvements that had been made in the Customer Services area, particularly with the introduction of the Helpline service for residents and the recent establishment of a direct dial facility for Members, as well as the development of the Council's web services. The Leader also noted that a number of Members present had also been in attendance when these decisions and their associated costs had previously come before the Executive for decision.

A Member noted the amount of work that had been undertaken by the Overview and Scrutiny Budget and Service Planning Review Panel, and commended officers on the presentation of detailed figures, often at short notice, which had greatly enhanced their work.

In response to issues of comparability of budget figures and financial years detailed across departments raised by a Member, the Chief Executive noted that the Council was at different stages of implementation of capital projects, an example being the Town Centre improvement schemes. Commitments to look at a number projects had also been given, however at this point it was not possible to quantify exact details of how much would be spent and under what timescale.
At the conclusion of the discussion, the Leader of the Council proposed amendments to two recommendations set out in the circulated report, which after being duly seconded were agreed. It was then
165The Executive considered a report which detailed the approximate demands from precepting authorities, apprised Members of the likely overall Band D Council Tax for 2004/05, and proposed a series of technical recommendations for Council approval as required to set a legal budget.
The Executive Member for Finance and Assets noted that the exact figures for some of the Borough's preceptors was as yet unknown, and it would be necessary for the Director of Resources to make the necessary amendments to the Council Tax figures before Council on 19th February, 2004. In addition to this, the decision to reduce the budget as agreed in the last item would require alteration to the calculations set out in the circulated report.
168The Executive had before it a report of the Interim Head of Personnel and Support, which had been submitted to meetings of the Local Joint Forum (LJF) on the 7th, 14th and 26th January, 2004, on a proposed Pay Award for 2004/05. The Executive Member for Organisational Development proceeded to give an update on the results of formal negotiations undertaken at the LJF meetings. It was noted that this had been the first year of the operation of a fully locally negotiated settlement, and this had been undertaken in the context of the financial pressure the Council was under to keep costs low. Both the Employee and the Employer's sides recognised this, and had agreed that a salary increase across the board of 2.25% should be recommended by the LJF to the Executive for approval.

During the course of discussion, the Executive Member for Organisational Development suggested that Members should carefully consider any recommendations made to Council on 19th February, 2004 by the Independent Remuneration Panel concerning the level of Members Allowances, in the light of the Local Pay Award approved by the Executive. In her view, and in the view of Executive Members that she had consulted on the matter, it was important that elected Members were on a par with staff on any proposed level of increase in remuneration. On this point, the Leader of the Council expressed her full support, and congratulated the Executive Member for Organisational Development in securing the agreement of both sides on a recommended Pay Award for 2004/05.