Policy & Resources Cabinet Member – Minutes – 15 May 2014

On 19 February 2013 and 25 February 2014 Council approved the revenue and capital budgets for the 2013/2014 and 2014/15 financial year respectively.  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.

125      (65)  NATIONAL NON-DOMESTIC RATE RETAIL, REOCCUPATION AND NEW BUILD EMPTY RELIEFS – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report which sought to establish schemes for retail, reoccupation and new premises reliefs under the provisions contained in Section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988, as amended by the Localism Act 2011.

This allowed the council to provide additional relief to retail premises with a rateable value of less than £50,000; retail premises reoccupied after 12 months vacancy; and new buildings unoccupied after 6 months. These discretionary reliefs applied for time-limited periods, following the Government policy announcement in the Autumn Statement (December 2013).

The new reliefs had been introduced in recognition of the challenges facing the retail sector, particularly in the face of internet shopping and new building developments. The government wished to support retailers as they adapted to changing customer preferences.

In order to be eligible for relief certain conditions had to be met.  These were outlined within the report.

The Cabinet Member was advised that provided awards were made in accordance with the government guidelines, the cost of the relief would be fully funded via a grant made under Section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003.

Resolved – That the implementation of schemes under Sections 43,45 and 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988, as amended by the Localism Act 2011:

·           For retail and reoccupation relief, for eligible retail premises which meet the    criteria at paragraph 2.4.1 and 2.4.2 of the report, and

·       For new build empty property reliefs which meet the criteria at paragraph 2.4.3

·        In each case the schemes to operate for the time periods specified in government  guidance, be approved.

126      (66)  SOCIETY OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT (SOCITM) BETTER CONNECTED OUTCOME AND DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report which provided an update on the recent SOCITM Better Connected national survey of local authority websites and outlined the proposed next steps.

The SOCITM Better Connected Survey was the only independent survey of all UK local authority websites. Each council was awarded a rating from one to four stars with four being the highest.

The “Enhancing the Web Channel” programme of improvements to the council’s website was informed by the outcomes of the 2012 SOCITM Better Connected survey and an understanding of customer needs. The aims of the programme were to improve customer access to services and information by using a “top task” approach combined with grouping services logically around customer use rather than by council structure and improved search functionality.

The new website was launched 31 October 2013 and was reviewed by SOCITM on 3 December 2013.  The SOCITM Better Connected 2014 survey results were published 3 March 2014 and the council was awarded three stars for 2014 (which had been previously 2 stars in 2012).

Consultation with SOCITM, other local authorities with four star rated websites and external bodies had highlighted that the 2014/15 web programme principles reflected established best practice for local authority websites.

A digital development plan for 2014/15 was appended to the report.

Resolved – (a) That the outcome of SOCITM’s 2014 Better Connected Survey be noted, and (b) that the 2014/15 Digital Development Plan attached at Appendix 1 to the report be approved.

Note: Reports are in Portable Document Format (PDF) and therefore require a suitable reader to view them. A reader can be downloaded free from the Adobe website (full instructions for downloading the reader are provided on the site).

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.