Policy & Resources Cabinet Member – Minutes – 8 February 2013
35 (35) VIREMENTS 2012-13 –The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report seeking approval for changes to the revenue and capital budgets for 2012/13.
On 21 February 2012 Council approved the revenue and capital budgets for the 2012/2013 financial year. The report gave details of virements approved by the Director of Policy and Resources 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 Policy and Resources under delegated powers be noted, and (b) that the permanent virements outlined in paragraph 3.2 of the report be approved.
36 (36) WRITE-OFF OF UNCOLLECTABLE DEBT – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report to advise of debts written off under delegated powers and seeking approval to write of debts over £5000.
The key points outlined within the report identified the amount of write-off for uncollectable debt from the following sources;
· Council Tax write-offs
· National Non Domestic Rate (NNDR) write offs
· Housing Benefit overpayment write-offs, and
· Sundry Debts
· Car parking Penalty Charge Notices
It was highlighted that these debts would remain in the Council’s records and available for payment in the future should this be appropriate.
The full range of debt recovery processes had been undertaken in the pursuit of these debts proposed for write-off in accordance with Council policy.
In respect of Council Tax, National Non Domestic Rate (NNDR) and Housing Benefit Overpayments following all recovery action the debts for write-off were identified in sections 3.4, 3.5 and 3.6 of the report respectively as either irrecoverable or uneconomical to pursue. In respect of Sundry Debtors following all recovery action the debts for write-off were either irrecoverable or uneconomical to pursue and had been identified by Service in section 3.7 of the report.
For Car Parking Penalty Charge Notices, following all recovery action, the debts were either irrecoverable or uneconomical to pursue and had been identified in Section 3.7.
In respect of Creditors there are instances where suppliers owe the council. If further invoices of sufficient value were not received from the supplier to offset the credit note a refund was then requested. Following all possible action to obtain a refund the amounts owed by suppliers identified for write-off were either irrecoverable or uneconomical to pursue.
Resolved – (a) That debts written off under delegated powers be noted; (b) that the write off of debts over £5000, as set out in the report and accompanying appendices, be approved, and (c) that the debts remain in the council’s records and available for payment in the future should it be appropriate.
37 (37) LOCALISING SOCIAL FUND DELIVERY IN NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report to outline the Government’s proposals to localise elements of Social Fund delivery from 1 April 2013, the decisions which needed to be made on the use of the funding and sought approval to the proposed criteria for applying the funds and the proposed arrangements for service delivery.
The Social Fund was established under the Social Security Act 1986. It was later administered by The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) through Jobcentre Plus and provided interest-free loans, grants and payments through both a regulated scheme and a cash-limited discretionary scheme.
It was explained that from April 2013, two elements of the Social Fund would be administered and delivered locally by the Local Authority, these were;
– Crisis loans
– Community Care Grants
Crisis loans were interest-free loans available to anyone who could not meet their immediate short-term needs in an emergency and Community Care grants were for benefit recipients only and covered a range of expenses including household equipment.
The new scheme would be known as Local Welfare Provision. The DWP had concluded that the operation of a highly discretionary scheme through a national agency may not deliver the best use of a limited resource and it was considered that moving to a more responsive and less rigidly applied system would better focus resource on real need.
The cabinet member was advised that there were options available to the council in terms of how the scheme was administered, the criteria used to make decisions, and whether or not the fund should operate as a repayable loan or as a grant. These options were detailed within the report.
Resolved – (a) That Social Fund transfers be ring-fenced to Local Welfare Provision; (b) that a single point of access and administration in the Local Taxation and Benefits Service, covering Care Grant awards, Discretionary Housing Payments and Council Tax Support Fun be approved; (c) that awards be made in the form of non-repayable grants; (d) that the criteria for awarding grants as outlined in paragraphs 4.5 and 4.6 of the report be approved; (e) that further work be undertaken to establish the feasibility of using a voucher scheme for community care grants in 2013/14, tied to specific suppliers, as an alternative to monetary payments, and (f) that a further paper be submitted to establish administrative posts within the available funding in order to have a system in place by April 2013.
38 (38) CONSULTANT USAGE – QUARTER 3 2012/2013 – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report to advise on the consultancy usage for the third quarter of 2012/2013 to highlight the consultancy usage to support major projects within North Lincolnshire and to advise on the overall effectiveness.
The protocol for managing consultancy expenditure was introduced as part of a package of cost management measures in 2011. The protocol required directorates to report their use of consultants on a quarterly basis for 2012/2013. Following the introduction of the protocol, the council had benefited from a significant reduction in consultancy spend in the region of £1m during 2011/12.
The Director of Policy and Resources confirmed that following extensive consultation with all services, the report set out a summary of consultancy usage for quarter three 2012/2013, details of which were presented in Appendix A to the report.
Resolved – That the findings set out in the report for quarter three 2012/2013 be noted.
39 (39) BUSINESS RATE RELIEF – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report for consideration of the level of Business Rate relief to be awarded to ratepayers 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 2004 (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) and 21 December 2006 he agreed to amend the criteria. The latest amendment to the criteria was taken by the Policy and Resources Cabinet Member on 25 May 2012 (minute 2 refers).
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.
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