Full Cabinet – 10 June 2009

PRESENT:  Councillor Kirk in the chair.Councillors Carlile, Grant, O’Sullivan, Regan and Swift.

Councillors Barker, Barkworth, B Briggs, J Briggs, Cawsey, Collinson, Eckhardt, Glover, Poole, Mrs Redfern, C Sherwood, N Sherwood and D Whiteley also attended the meeting.

Simon Driver, Richard Stiff, Mike Briggs, John Coates, John Galbraith, Barry Hutchinson, Denise Hyde, Neil Laminman, David Lea, Steve Mercer, Geoff Popple, Paul Savage, Jeff Tattersall, Dave Watson, Peter Williams, Sarah Williamson, Mike Wood, Peter Young and Mel Holmes also attended the meeting.

813  DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL OR PERSONAL AND PREJUDICIAL INTERESTS – There were no declarations of personal or personal and prejudicial interests from members of the cabinet.

814  MINUTESResolved – That the minutes of the meeting of cabinet held on 22 April 2009, having been printed and circulated amongst the members, be taken as read and correctly recorded and be signed by the chair.

815  (1)  OUTSTANDING ACTION FROM PREVIOUS MEETINGS OF CABINET – The Service Director Legal and Democratic submitted a report which contained a schedule of outstanding issues on which cabinet had requested reports to future meetings.

Resolved – That the report be noted.

816  (2)  WASTE CONTRACTS PROCUREMENT PROJECT – The Service Director Neighbourhood and Environment submitted a report on the Waste Contracts Procurement Project confirming the level of interest shown in the Contract Notice placed by the council.

The council’s current contracts let to deliver waste management services are scheduled to terminate by 31 March 2011.  The council had decided to procure one contract for its recycling services and another for the treatment and disposal of residual and organic waste.   It was also decided that the treatment and disposal contract would be advertised first.  At its meeting on 11 March 2009, cabinet had approved the procurement strategy and timetable for the project (minute 796     refers).  In accordance with that decision a Contract Notice in the prescribed format had been sent to the Official Journal of the European Union for 19 March 2009 and had also been advertised in the local media.  Interested parties had until 27 April 2009 to register and submit their completed pre-qualification (PQQ) submission.  By the deadline fifteen organisations had done so.  The Waste Contracts Project Board was satisfied that the council had received sufficient responses to continue with the process.

All the completed pre-qualifications submissions were evaluated against the published criteria that were made available to applicants.  Where there were any queries concerning insufficient or missing information these were followed up with the companies concerned.  Paragraph 3.2 contained details of the completion of the evaluation process in a table.  The council’s strategy agreed at cabinet in March was to invite all applicants who passed the pre-qualification stage to submit outline solutions.  Thirteen applicants would therefore be invited to the next stage.  Details of these were shown in appendix A to the report.

The Waste Contracts Project Board were satisfied that the process was being conducted in accordance with the governance arrangements agreed by cabinet in March and particularly that the number of applicants to be invited to submit outline solutions was healthy for a waste project.  The council’s external advisers were confident that the waste market sector would respond positively at the next stage.

The report contained further information in relation to this matter.

Resolved – That the report be noted.

817  (3)  SMALL BUSINESS GROWTH AND ENGAGEMENT – A report was submitted by the Chief Executive which considered the advantages for both the council and small businesses in North Lincolnshire committing to a “Small Business Engagement Accord”.

The council had demonstrated in recent cabinet reports its commitment to work closely with business and others to ensure that North Lincolnshire comes through the global economic downturn with the least possible damage to its manufacturing base, prosperity, future prospects and employment levels.  Recent cabinet reports had shown the resilience of the North Lincolnshire economy and the confidence there was in its future.  An example of this is the South Humber Bank.  This had the potential to create thousands of jobs and with an area of nearly 4 square miles was the largest employment site in the north of England.  It was enjoying significant investment, despite today’s challenging economic conditions.

Understandably, there was often an emphasis given to businesses employing many hundreds or thousands of employees when discussing the present economic downturn.  However, it was important to recognise the vital role played by small businesses, in terms of jobs, investment and the economic vitality of local economies – North Lincolnshire included.  The last annual business inquiry found that of the 5,942 employers in North Lincolnshire, over 96% employed less than 50 people.  This was a similar profile to the regional and national profiles.  With this in mind, the council and its partners in the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) had recognised the importance of small business in North Lincolnshire.  In the council’s Local Area Agreement, the number of small businesses in the area showing employment growth was identified as a priority.  Challenging improvement targets had been set over a three year period.  The council now had the opportunity to demonstrate it could do even more.  It could become the first council in the Yorkshire and Humber Region to commit itself to working closer and more productively with small businesses in North Lincolnshire by signing up to an “accord” with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Attached as an appendix to the report was a suggested small business engagement accord which set out 14 principles.  These require cabinet members and service directors to take responsibility for this task which was about a culture of openness and critical self examination.  The FSB had been formed in 1974 and had 215,000 members in 33 regions and 230 branches.  Over the last 18 months, the council had worked closely with the FSB on the Humber Bridge Tolls Campaign and had consulted with that organisation on a regular basis.  The council valued the role played by the FSB.

The FSB had now approached the council to commit itself to the accord.  To do so would formalise good practice and send out a powerful message of partnership working.  It would need to be kept under review and the FSB would need to be able to say, openly, that there were areas that needed action.  Appendix 2 to the report set out a proposed action plan to meet the conditions set out in the accord.

Michael Self, the Regional President of the FSB attended the meeting and spoke about the close working between the FSB and the council.  In addition, Councillor Neil Poole acting in his capacity as Chair of the FSB locally also commented on the proposed signing of the accord.  The Chief Executive and other members also commented.

Resolved – (a) That the cabinet commits to the signing of the FSB small business engagement accord and works to ensure, at all levels throughout the council and its services, that it is put into consistent practice through the actions set out in appendix 2 to the report; (b) that cabinet members and service directors work to ensure that the accord’s principles, as set out in appendix 1, are applied consistently by implementing the action plan at appendix 2; (c) that the accord be brought to the attention of the North Lincolnshire Strategic Partnership, and (d) that cabinet welcomes regular feedback from the FSB on the council’s progress and consistent application of the accord.

818  (4)  NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE – ECONOMIC SITUATION – With reference to minute 795, the Chief Executive submitted a report updating cabinet on the current economic situation in North Lincolnshire.  The report contained information about the situation both nationally and in North Lincolnshire and indicated that the council continue to support local businesses and ensure that support for individuals was in place and that recession led  increases in demand on services could be met.

Melanie Davies and Jean Rhind from the local branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) attended the meeting and outlined the work the CAB was doing to improve its services, demand for which was increasing during the economic downturn.

Resolved – (a) That the report be noted; (b) that the council continue to provide support for local businesses and individuals affected by the recession; (c) that further update reports be submitted to cabinet at future meetings, and (d) that Melanie Davies and Jean Rhind be thanked for their attendance and for their informative presentation.

819  (5)  OUTTURN 2008/2009 – The Service Director Finance submitted a report informing members of the revenue and capital outturn position for the council for 2008/2009.  The report also considered requests for carry forward to 2009/2010 and the prospects for public finances over the years ahead.

The report compared actual spending in 2008/2009 with the budget approved by council.  The figures within the report were provisional until the accounts were closed but gave an overview of financial performance.  The council managed its spending on services within a statutory framework and made sure this was within cash limited budgets.  The report showed –

General fund services were paid for from government grant, council tax and service charges – revenue spending.

Investment in long term assets such as roads and buildings were paid for from borrowing, external finance, capital receipts from the sale of council assets and revenue – capital expenditure.

In relation to revenue, general fund expenditure was shown by service at appendix 2, together with the impact on reserves.  The variances between actual spending and budget were explained at appendix 1.  Overall there was a service underspend of £0.466m.  This was a greater saving than previously forecast due to a fortuitous saving and additional income in children’s, adults and corporate services.  Two elements of general fund expenditure were managed as ring fenced budgets – the property trading account and the building control account.  Both funds had drawn on their earmarked reserves to cover cost pressures and income shortfalls due to the recession.  The report also considered the dedicated schools grant, pooled budgets, and the use of reserves, details of which were detailed in appendix 3 to the report.

Appendix 4 considered efficiencies and showed that against a target of £3.25m savings of £3.133m were expected.  However, this only delivered a 2.1% saving on budget, less than the government target of 3% per year for 2008/2011.  Council had resolved at its February meeting to take steps to address the gap.

In relation to capital, appendix 5 showed service by service the £34.885m invested during 2008/2009 in capital assets.  This equated to a net underspend of £3.035m or 8% against the latest approved budget.  It also included a £0.390m overspend on the sub regional housing project which North Lincolnshire managed on behalf of the four Humber Authorities.  Appendix 6 to the report showed spending scheme by scheme.

The revenue outturn position was creditable given that recessionary effects had impacted significantly on a range of income streams.  Cabinet in October 2008 had realigned revenue budgets to take account of these pressures, while keeping within the same overall cash limit.  A number of services had bid to carry forward a proportion of the service underspend.  The council’s policy on over and underspends was relevant here in that essentially consideration could be given to bids from services which underspend.  For services which overspent this was not appropriate.  The bids were shown at appendix 7 together with a purpose for each.  It was suggested that rather than evaluating the relative merits of each bid, a limit of £0.250m be applied to the total carry forward and then apportioned.  This would give the proposed shares in the final column of appendix 7.

The report suggested that before taking decisions on carry forwards the council take account of the impact on its finances from the current recession and in the long period of recovery which will be needed to put public finances on a sound footing again.  There were a number of options to consider therefore in addressing the 2008/2009 outturn position, details of which were contained in paragraph 4.6.

Resolved – (a) That the revenue and capital outturn position for 2008/2009 be received; (b) that it be noted that the provisional figures show a shortfall against the council’s own efficiency target for 2008/2009 and that there remained a shortfall against the implied government target; (c) that the use of reserves as detailed in appendix 3 to the report be approved and confirmed; (d) that the rephasing of capital expenditure at appendix 6 between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 be approved, and (e) that the proposed carry forward of revenue budgets for 2009/2010 at appendix 7 and within the report be approved.

820  (6)  BUILDINGS SCHOOLS FOR THE FUTURE (BSF) FINAL BUSINESS CASE – The Service Director Learning, Schools and Communities and the Service Director Finance submitted a joint report in connection with Building Schools for the Future (BSF) and in particular the final business case.  The report considered the financial implications of BSF that arise on the submission of the Final Business Case (FBC) to Partnerships for Schools (PfS).

BSF is a national programme to raise standards in secondary schools.  It is managed by PfS an agent appointed by government to lead procurement.  The government had allocated approximately £89.28m to the North Lincolnshire BSF Programme.  That amount had increased significantly from the original allocation, following detailed negotiations on a range of issues.  The investment was intended to transform learning and teaching in North Lincolnshire’s secondary schools with new and refurbished buildings providing adaptable spaces to support innovative approaches to education.  One tenth of the investment would be in ICT, to tailor individual programmes of learning for pupils and share resources across schools.  Construction would commence for two sample schemes in July 2009.  It was important to recognise the aim of BSF was far more than just to improve the environment in secondary schools.  The government had applied new expectations and responsibilities upon those benefiting from the investment and these would become requirements before funding was released.

Paragraph 2.2 set out an overview of the capital funding package for BSF within North Lincolnshire. In return for its investment in BSF the government expected that secondary education would be transformed.  Before releasing its capital grant to begin the building of BSF schools, PfS had to be satisfied that the council’s plans would achieve genuine transformation in educational approaches and standards.  This would involve the council’s overall vision for education and each school’s vision being reflected in the plans of the new schools.

The report then described how the PfS funding programme formula was being applied and, though government was aware that cost overruns could occur in major capital projects, these would have to be minimised and mitigated by strong controls during the procurement and contract management process.  In addition, a further issue related to the upkeep and maintenance of the assets created by BSF.  Again with a focus on the transformation agenda, the government’s view was that the assets had to be properly maintained and updated if they were to be effective.  This would require a higher level of asset maintenance than previously.  School governing bodies had therefore been given indicative costs for a 25 year programme of upkeep and reinvestment.  This required schools to review the budget management processes to ensure that they could meet their new contractual fixed cost.  The council would provide ongoing support to BSF schools to ensure that they could make necessary efficiencies and implement the transformational changes necessary to realign their budgets.  There was a review of the schools funding formula currently ongoing to ensure that the funding for all schools could meet the needs of ever changing demands.

There were however emerging potential risks regarding the total capital commitment that could pressure the contingency available to support the project.  These were summarised in paragraph 2.6 of the report.  Parallel to the requirement for the capital to be underwritten, the Department for Children and Schools (DCSF) required that revenue costs were also underwritten.  The schools forum had agreed to do so from the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG).  All of these matters had to be covered in a letter from the council’s Section 151 Officer (the Service Director Finance).  This letter was a highly significant document, as it would accompany the final business case and was a requirement for the scheme to progress.

The FBC summarised the project overview, objectives, outcome of competitive dialogue with the bidders and the financial indications of the agreed BSF offer.  It had been drafted in consultation with PfS and had to be approved to release the government funding.  A full draft copy was available for inspection in the political group offices.  The Project Board would shortly be asked to recommend approval to the cabinet member for children’s services to award the final contract to the preferred bid consortium based on the FBC.  The letting of the contracts was subject to PfS approval of the FBC.

A copy of the draft letter from the Service Director Finance was attached as an appendix to the report.

Resolved – (a) That the council confirms its underwriting of the capital building investment elements of BSF, as set out in the report, and accordingly approves its undertaking to be included in the letter drawn up by the Service Director Finance; (b) that the council notes the agreement of the schools forum to underwrite the revenue costs of ongoing asset maintenance and renewal and receives further reports on the outcome of any school funding review, and (c) that the cabinet member for children’s services consider and approve the final award of contract following a recommendation of the project board as per standing orders relevant to the BSF scheme.

821  (7)  NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE TOBACCO CONTROL STRATEGY – 2009/2011– The Service Director Neighbourhood and Environment submitted a report in connection with the North Lincolnshire Tobacco Control Strategy for 2009/2011.

The Tobacco Strategy had first been drawn up in 2007 and had been revised and updated in line with the latest central government advice and the recommendations of the Department of Health National Support Team.  The resulting document was the North Lincolnshire Tobacco Control Strategy and Action Plan 2009.  A corresponding report had also been produced by the Director of Public Health for consideration by the board of NHS North Lincolnshire.  The report set out a strategy and action planning process to reduce smoking prevalence, exposure to second hand smoke and tobacco sale and use in North Lincolnshire.  The document outlined a number of key priorities and actions that should be worked on prior to the release of the strategy currently being developed and this document would be reviewed on release of the national strategy and every three years.  The action plan would be the responsibility of the Smoke Free North Lincolnshire Alliance with reference to the North Lincolnshire Well Being and Health Improvement Partnership Group to monitor progress on actions and make recommendations and update policy in line with local needs.

A copy of the strategy and action plan was attached as an appendix to the report and cabinet was asked to endorse its contents.

Resolved – That the North Lincolnshire Tobacco Control Strategy and Action Plan be approved and adopted.