Full Cabinet -16 December 2009
PRESENT: Councillor Kirk in the chair.
Councillors Foster (vice chair), Carlile, Gosling, Grant, O’Sullivan, Regan and Swift.
Councillors Barker, B Briggs, J. Briggs, Bunyan, Collinson, England, Poole, Mrs Redfern, C Sherwood, Whiteley and Wilson also attended the meeting.
Simon Driver, Richard Stiff, Caroline Barkley, Will Bell, Mike Briggs, John Coates, Stacey Dickens, Peter Fjalkowski, Keith Ford, Denise Hyde, David Lea, Geoff Popple, Matt Prisk, Paul Savage, Chris Skinner, Mike Wedgewood, Mike Wood, Peter Young and Mel Holmes also attended the meeting.
841 DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL OR PERSONAL AND PREJUDICIAL INTERESTS – Councillor M Kirk declared a personal interest in agenda item 4 – North Lincolnshire Economic Situation as a member of Yorkshire Forward.
842 MINUTES – Resolved – That the minutes of the meeting of cabinet held on 14 October 2009, having been printed and circulated amongst the members, be taken as read and correctly recorded and be signed by the chair.
843 (23) OUTSTANDING ACTION FROM PREVIOUS MEETINGS – 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.
The council was continuing to work with Yorkshire Forward on a two year programme to support local ambition and aspiration in response to the situation and continued to support businesses including supporting existing businesses and individuals through the North Lincolnshire Employability Programme. The report also indicated that the council had been successful in securing funding from the Future Jobs Fund as part of a consortium bid with the other three local authorities in the sub region and a range of voluntary sector partners through the Federation of Local Development Agencies.
The council had also been working with UK Steel Enterprise, a subsidiary of Corus, which had now made £20,000 available for the provision of small grants to individuals moving into self employment and starting up new businesses in North Lincolnshire over the next 9 – 12 months. Currently, four applications had been made by local businesses for this scheme. The number was expected to increase once the scheme was advertised.
The report also referred to building works which had begun on the Pods development in October 2009, which would create 150 jobs, boosting the local economy. The newly appointed Recession Co-Ordinator was currently undertaking an intelligence gathering exercise to identify local services available to help residents during the current economic climate and to identify any gaps in service provision. This information would be used by the recession working group to identify possible partnerships and synergies, which could be facilitated or strengthened to avoid duplication of service provision by the council and local organisations. The membership of that group had also been reviewed and now included North Lincolnshire Homes and Voluntary/Community Sector (VANL) representatives.
Finally, free car parking in Scunthorpe Town Centre was being financed by the recession group to give a boost to local businesses during the current economic climate. Parking would be free for the 5 Sundays leading up to Christmas.
Resolved – (a) That cabinet notes the report; (b) that cabinet agrees that the council continue to provide support for local businesses and individuals affected by the recession, and (c) that further reports be submitted to cabinet at future meetings.
It was an established principle that the costs of running local authority services were met partly from local tax and partly from government grant. The components may change over time, as well as the balance between local and central funding. Currently the only tax is the council tax. Business rates are set nationally, collected locally and paid over to government and redistributed as grants. The total of government grant support is called Aggregate External Finance. It comes in 3 ways –
- Formula Grant
- Specific Grants
- Area Based Grant (ABG)
For the first time grant had been allocated for three years for 2008/2009, 2009/2010, and 2010/2011. This was to give local authorities the ability to plan for the medium term and greater certainty.
In relation to Formula Grant, the government had kept its commitment to provide stability of funding and the provisional settlement published for consultation on 26 November 2009 confirmed the Formula Grant for the 3rd year of the settlement 2010/2011 at the previously announced level. For North Lincolnshire the grant increase was 4.1% or £62.256m in total. This increase was above the average and reflected changes to the formula which favoured areas outside London, scaled down to ensure minimum or “floor” increases for councils losing grant. The comparison with neighbouring councils was shown in paragraph 3.2. The figures announced now were for one year only.
The report then commented on specific grants, the largest of which was the Dedicated Schools Grant and the provisional allocation of this for 2010/2011 was £98.322m, an increase of 3.8%, compared the national average of 4.1%.
Finally the report referred to the Area Based Grant where there were two significant changes. As planned, the Supporting People Grant would now form part of the Area Based Grant, elements of which were cash limited and some would actually reduce. Before the addition of Supporting People Grant the total for North Lincolnshire reduced from £9.309m to £8.878m after, the figure was £12.746m. In addition, there was a further additional element for the new commitment to provide free personal care at home for people with high personal needs. In a full year, the cost at national level was expected to be £670m and the grant would be £420m. Half this sum, £210m was provided through the ABG for 2010/2011 to reflect part year implementation. This would mean that councils were expected to fund the balance of 37% of the cost through efficiencies. There were three options for grant distribution which would give North Lincolnshire between £0.623m to £0.740m in 2010/2011. That implied a council contribution of around £0.25m in 2010/2011 or £0.5m in a full year.
These and any other changes yet to be announced on specific grants would be factored into financial plans and savings would be required to contain any funding shortfalls.
The Service Director updated cabinet orally on the government’s pre-budget report which set out its financial plans for 2011 to 2014.
Resolved – (a) Cabinet welcomes the decision taken by the Government to maintain the grant to North Lincolnshire Council at the level indicated in the three year settlement; (b) cabinet notes the direction set for public finances in the three years from 2011 to 2014 and the potential pressure it will place on the council’s resources and services, and (c) cabinet is clear in its intention to maintain the existing high standard of service to the public of North Lincolnshire wherever possible and will take all practical steps to do this.
- The Revenue Budget
- The Capital Programme, and
- Borrowing and Investment
It also updated cabinet on action taken to implement the decisions made at the last review in October. In particular –
- The steps taken to contain spending pressures
- The review of Capital Programme affordability
Finally, the report also considered the implications for future spending plans.
In relation to the Revenue Budget, cabinet on 14 October had agreed a series of actions to balance the 2009/2010 budget. These were detailed in paragraph 3.1 of the report. Appendix 1 to the report presented a balanced budget for the year. In relation to the Capital Programme cabinet had also considered the capital position and approved some re-phasing of expenditure on larger schemes. A further detailed review had now been undertaken and the report presented a Capital Programme for 2009/2013 with some additional changes. These were detailed in appendix 3 to the report. The 2009/2010 programme was for approval, the commitments in later years for noting. The schemes with changes which affect 2009/2010 were detailed in paragraph 3.4.
The most recent investment position for council cash balances was summarised in appendix 3 and these were for periods of up to 3 months with UK financial and government institutions. The council continued to follow the strategy of deferred borrowing which meant using cash balances to fund capital spending in the short term. This reduced the value of cash balances potentially at risk in financial markets and gave a short term financial benefit. The position on Icelandic Investments was as previously reported with the Local Government Association acting as co-ordinator for local authority interests. A further payment of 10p in the pound was due from the administrators of the UK registered Heritable Bank shortly and prospects remained that over 80% of the investment would be recovered. Landsbanki receivership was proceeding more slowly, but a return of over 80% was still projected.
The report then commented on future funding prospects and referred to the local government settlement for 2010/2011 which had been announced at the end of November 2009. The details had been reported separately but overall the provisional settlement for 2010/2011 on which current plans were based had been confirmed.
Resolved – (a) That the revised revenue budget for 2009/2010 be approved as set out in appendix 1 but services showing residual cost pressures against the previously approved budget consider how these costs can be eliminated; (b) that capital programme spending in 2009/2010 be approved and the forward commitments noted as detailed in appendices 2 and 3, and (c) that the investment position at appendix 4 be noted and the continued implementation of the treasury strategy be endorsed.
The report reminded cabinet that current contracts let to deliver waste management services for the council were 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 organic waste. The treatment and disposal contract had been advertised first.
On 11 March 2009, cabinet had approved the procurement strategy and a contract notice had been issued on 19 March 2009 to the European Union and the local media. The contract had been advertised in two lots – lot 1 for residual waste and lot 2 for organic waste. Interested parties had until 27 April 2009 to register and submit their completed pre-qualification submission. By the deadline fifteen organisations had applied. Thirteen had passed pre-qualification. Following pre-qualification, the council had begun a competitive dialogue process with potential bidders with the first stage being an invitation to submit outline solutions or ISOS. This allowed the council to meet with bidders to refine and improve their initial proposals. Bidders were able to question the council to better understand these requirements. Of the thirteen organisations, eight submitted ISOS proposals by the 2 October 2009 deadline.
Four organisations for each lot would now be invited to continue dialogue with the council to work up their proposals in greater detail. The next stage would be the invitation to submit detailed solutions or ISDS. It was anticipated that the council would be able to close the ISDS dialogue at the end of February 2010. The remaining bidders would be evaluated and two for each lot would be invited to submit final tenders. The project team had considered the needs of the competitive dialogue process for the ISDS and final tender stages. Future stages where the council would make key decisions had been reconsidered. All future decisions would be made by the cabinet member for Neighbourhood, Environmental and Communities and the final contract award by cabinet itself.
The report contained further detailed information in relation to this matter.
Resolved – That the contents of the report be noted.
The LSP had been co-ordinating the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA). It was at the heart of the new inspection regime and the focus of the CAA was how partner organisations came together to improve the outcomes for people in the area. The Audit Commission had been leading on the CAA and had been working with the LSP to develop the area assessment element of it. Since May discussions between the LSP partners, cabinet members and the Audit Commission had been taking place to produce the Area Assessment Report. This had been published on 9 December 2009 on the new Audit Commission “One Place” website.
The report also indicated that elected member representation now existed on the LSP at all levels. The Leader sits on the LSP Board and cabinet members now sit on all of the theme boards representing community interests. Recent developments in relation to member representation were detailed in paragraph 2.5. Reference was also made to the council’s scrutiny process having an observer role at theme boards, and the establishment of a cabinet member on each theme had begun increasing dialogue and relationship with elected members although there was much still to be done. The report contained further information about the work of the LSP.
Resolved – That cabinet notes the recent activities of the Local Strategic Partnership.
Resolved – (a) That the Service Director Legal and Democratic assess the impact of the main provisions of the Act on the council’s constitutional and legal arrangements; (b) that the Head of Regeneration, Housing and Development undertake an economic assessment; (c) that the Service Director Human Resources assess the impact of the changes to politically restricted posts in consultation with the Service Director Legal and Democratic; (d) that the Service Director Finance consider the detailed audit requirements of the Act, and (e) that the Service Directors Highways and Planning and Asset Management and Culture implement any changes required to comply with the new requirements for construction contracts.