Finance, Procurement & IT Cabinet Member – Minutes – 11 November 2011

On 23 February 2011 Council approved the revenue and capital budgets for the 2011/2012 financial year.  The report gave details of virements approved by the Director of Finance under delegated powers and those that required Cabinet Member approval. 

Resolved – (a) That the virements at paragraph 3.1 of the report, approved by the Director of Finance under delegated powers be noted, and (b) that the permanent virements outlined in paragraph 3.2 of the report be approved. 

12  (12)  BUSINESS RATE RELIEF 2011 – The Director of Finance submitted a report considering the level of Business Rate relief to be awarded to charitable, voluntary, not for profit and rural organisations in North Lincolnshire. 

The former Policy Committee agreed the legal position and administrative practices for dealing with rate relief on 22 January 1996. 

The Corporate Services Cabinet Member on 20 February 2005 (minute 128 refers) agreed to adopt a scoring system based on set criteria for the awarding of discretionary rate relief. On 7 February 2005 (minute 233 refers) he agreed to amend the criteria. On 21 December 2006 he also agreed to update the criteria and gave approval to the Director of Finance to authorise relief where the level of relief remained unchanged. 

There was no discretion about granting mandatory relief.

Resolved – That the level of rate relief be awarded to each applicant as set out in the schedule attached to the report. 

13  (13)  CONSULTANT USAGE – QUARTER 2 2011/12 – The Director of Finance submitted a report to advise on the consultancy usage for the second quarter of 2011/12, to highlight the consultancy usage to support major projects within North Lincolnshire and to advise on the overall effectiveness. 

Cabinet had introduced a new protocol for the use of consultants as part of a package of cost management measures. The protocol required services to report their use of consultants on a quarterly basis for 2010/11.  

The Director of Finance confirmed that following extensive consultation with all services, the report set out a summary of consultancy usage for quarter two 2011/2012, details of which were presented in Appendix A to the report. 

Resolved – That the findings set out in the report for quarter 2 2011/12 be noted. 

14  (14)  LOCAL TAXATION AND BENEFITS SECTION UPDATE – The Director of Finance submitted a report to advise of the current performance of the Local Taxation and Benefits service, the impacts of current changes to Benefits and provide an update on future developments. 

It was explained that since April 2008 the overall benefits caseload had continually increased, the difference was an increase of over 2600 claimants or 18.09 per cent. It had and continued to increase at a much faster rate for working age people than for pensioners. 

The cabinet member was advised that in 2010/11 the average time for processing new claims was 19.04 days, for changes in circumstance was 7.32 days, and for combined was 8.62 days. For 2011/12 these figures were expected to be 19 days, seven days and nine days respectively. These figures compared favourably with other unitary councils in the area. 

The performance levels showed that despite the increase in workload, performance in benefits had over the years remained consistent. Staff costs per claim were also consistent being £31.50 in 2008/9, £31.40 in 2009/10 and £31.80 in 2010/11 compared to the benchmarking average of £33.80. 

The Director of Finance outlined specific changes to the Benefits system, these included –

  • The impact of changes to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA)
  • The impact of the changes to the LHA in North Lincolnshire
  • Discretionary Housing Payments
  • Future Developments – Universal Credits, Localised Council Tax Benefit, changes to tackling fraud, Housing Benefits for supported housing and localising National Non-Domestic Rates (NNDR) retentions.

 

The council had a statutory duty to provide a benefits service and in order to meet that duty it needed to ensure that the service had adequate resources.   By ensuring that the right people got the right benefits as quickly as possible the council was ensuring that there was additional income in the local economy, thus helping with the general economic situation. 

Resolved – (a)  That the contents of the report be noted, and (b) that the Finance, Procurement & IT Cabinet Member endorses the continuing efforts being made in the Local Taxation and Benefits service to meet the increasing demands. 

The following item contains exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended). 

15  (15)  FINANCE SERVICE DEVELOPMENT TEAM – The Director of Finance submitted a report seeking approval to transfer two staff (1.5 fte) from the Finance Service Development Team to the corporate Improvement & Value for Money (VfM) Team within Finance. 

The Finance Service Development team (FSDT) was part of the Local Taxation & Benefits service within the Finance directorate.  The team consisted of five members of staff (4 fte) who undertook development work on behalf of Local Taxation & Benefits (LT&B) and also performance and development work on behalf of the wider finance service. 

It was recognised that once the two posts had been established within the corporate Improvement & VfM team, a wider review of the team’s structure would be required in the New Year to ensure that resources were aligned with new performance management, corporate commissioning and corporate procurement strategies. 

Resolved – That two posts (1.5 fte) within the FSDT be transferred to the corporate Improvement & Value for Money team with effect from 1 December 2011 in accordance with the council’s HR review protocol.

Where there is no report this is because it is exempt, as it contains information which is considered to be of a confidential nature, as detailed in the Local Government (Access to Information) Act.