Venue: Princes Theatre - Town Hall, Station Road, Clacton-on-Sea, CO15 1SE. View directions
Contact: Ian Ford 01255 686584
Apologies for Absence
The Council is asked to note any apologies for absence received from Members.
Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillors King and Knowles.
The Council is asked to approve, as a correct record, the minutes of the Council Meeting held on 25 January 2022.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the ordinary meeting of the Council held on 25 January 2022 be approved as a correct record and be signed by the Chairman.
Declarations of Interest
Councillors are invited to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Personal Interest, and the nature of it, in relation to any item on the agenda.
In relation to Item A1 – the General Fund Budget and in particular any discussion on the provision of funding to the Joint Use Facilities in Harwich, Councillor I J Henderson declared a Personal Interest due to a family member working at the facility under paragraph 5.1(f) of the Members’ Code of Conduct. The Monitoring Officer had, following the principles set out in Section 33 of the Localism Act 2011, agreed to grant a dispensation to allow him to take part in the debate and vote on the item:-
· for the sole purposes of representing the residents living in the Harwich area as Ward Councillor relating to the loss of the facility to the community whilst adhering to the duties and responsibilities of the Members’ Code of Conduct.
Councillor J Henderson declared the same Personal Interest as Councillor I J Henderson in relation to Item A1 – the General Fund Budget and confirmed that the Monitoring Officer had agreed to grant a dispensation to allow her to take part in the debate and vote on the item for the sole purposes of representing the residents living in the Harwich area as Ward Councillor relating to the loss of the facility to the community.
The Monitoring Officer was aware that many Members of the Council were also members of Town/Parish Councils within the District and/or were County Councillors for electoral Divisions within the District. She reminded Members that they did not have to declare a Personal Interest solely for that reason on an agenda item unless they were intending to talk specifically about the parish for which they were an elected Parish/Town Councillor.
The Chairman of the Council also reminded Members that the Monitoring Officer and the Section 151 Officer had circulated their annual guidance and advice on a number of matters relating to interests and voting on the annual budget and setting of Council Tax and, especially, the requirements of section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992.
Announcements by the Chairman of the Council
The Council is asked to note any announcements made by the Chairman of the Council.
Pride of Tendring Awards
The Chairman thanked all those who had attended or who had been involved in the holding of the Pride of Tendring awards on Friday 11 February 2022. He felt that it had been a massively successful event. He was also pleased to announce that a significant amount of money had been raised on the night for local Armed Forces Veterans breakfast clubs.
Chairman’s Charity Raffle
The Chairman reminded Members that the Raffle prizes would be drawn on Friday 25 February 2022. He urged that anyone who wanted to purchase Raffle tickets but had not yet done so to ‘hurry up’ and contact Lizzie Ridout, Leadership Support Manager or a member of her Team.
Announcements by the Chief Executive
The Council is asked to note any announcements made by the Chief Executive.
There were no announcements by the Chief Executive on this occasion.
Statements by the Leader of the Council
The Council is asked to note any statements made by the Leader of the Council.
Councillors may then ask questions of the Leader on his statements.
There were no statements made by the Leader of the Council on this occasion.
Statements by Members of the Cabinet
The Council is asked to note any statements made by Members of the Cabinet (Portfolio Holders).
Councillors may then ask questions of the Portfolio Holders on their statements.
Action on Climate Change Update
The Environment and Public Space Portfolio Holder (Councillor Talbot) made the following statement:-
“This Council meeting is the Budget meeting and it is only three weeks since I last gave a full report so just a couple of headlines tonight:-
Lee Heley held the second of his ‘Climate Change Programme Board’ meetings on the 8th of February and I will report further on that at our next ordinary meeting on 29th March.
I will be contacting all our 27 Town and Parish Councils requesting that they inform me, via Lee Heley, of any changes or new initiatives they have undertaken, however small they may be, so that a list can be compiled of Climate Change activity District wide, that can then be circulated to all Towns and Parishes, so that Members in our own town or parish area can ‘Crib’ the best of what others are doing.
I have been reminded by colleagues that what I am doing ignores those unparished areas of our District completely, so for information purposes I will be copying the above letter and the replies I receive to the District Council Members representing our unparished wards, and since I know many of these wards have meetings where such matter could be discussed, perhaps local actions could be initiated for the long-term benefit of our residents.
I do hope colleagues that this does not appear to be teaching any Member in an unparished ward to ‘suck eggs’ as that is not my intention and I apologise to them in advance if that appears that way to them.”
To present to Council, the Executive’s General Fund budget proposals for 2022/23.
Further to Minute 118 of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 28 January 2022, the Council considered the Executive’s General Fund budget proposals for 2022/23.
Council was informed that there had been no changes required to the forecast or budgets, so Appendices A to C to item A.1 of the Report of the Cabinet remained the same as those that had been considered by Cabinet on 28 January 2022.
It was reported that the ‘technical’ Appendices D to J, which were required to be presented to Full Council in order to enable it to consider and agree the level of Council Tax and Budget for 2022/23 had been agreed by the Portfolio Holder for Corporate Finance and Governance, in accordance with the authority delegated to him by Cabinet on 28 January 2022.
Members were reminded that, as reported to Cabinet on 28 January 2022, there remained a budget deficit of £0.431m in 2022/23, which would be funded by drawing money down from the Forecast Risk Fund in-line with the long-term forecast approach.
Council was made aware that the total net General Fund revenue budget for 2022/23 was £9.398m along with a General Fund capital programme totalling £0.839m.
As recommended by Cabinet on 28 January 2022, the Executive’s budget proposals set out a Band D Council Tax of £182.64 in 2022/23, an increase of £5 (2.81%), with a Council Tax requirement of£9.112m.
Members were advised that the budget recommended by Cabinet included only the District and Parish elements of the Council Tax rather than those from the major precepting authorities. The formal approval of the ‘full’ Council Tax levy for the year, including the precepts from Essex County Council, Police and Fire, was delegated to the Human Resources and Council Tax Committee which was due to meet later on in February 2022.
The Leader of the Council (Councillor Stock OBE) made the following budget statement:-
“Mr Chairman, I suspect that probably everyone feels this to some extent, but due to the COVID 19 pandemic the last two years have sort of rolled into one with many of the activities that we so proudly discussed last year continuing throughout 2021/22. I spoke last year about how, almost instinctively, we all came together to ensure we were there for our residents and businesses, and this has been the case again over the past 12 months, and just like last year, we have continued to respond to COVID 19 issues but also seamlessly continued with the provision of our day-to-day services.
As the 48 members of this Council we all bring our individual perspectives and we have a wide range of backgrounds and experiences that form our opinions and views, so hence we often have different ideas on the best ways of delivering for our residents, which is the key marker of any robust democracy; it is not only OK that we don’t always agree, it is good and healthy, although I do like to think it goes without saying that any ... view the full minutes text for item 131.
To present to Council, the Executive’s Housing Revenue Account budget proposals for 2022/23.
Further to Minute 119 of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 28 January 2022, the Council considered the Executive’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget proposals for 2022/23.
Council was informed that there had been no further changes required to the forecast or budgets, so Appendices A to E to item A.2 of the Report of the Cabinet remained the same as those considered by Cabinet on 28 January 2022.
As reported to Cabinet on 28 January 2022, there was a budget surplus of £0.333m in 2022/23 that had been committed to investing in capital works, which included the delivery of new affordable housing but also the continued investment in the homes of our existing tenants. The surplus £0.333m therefore remained as a contribution to the HRA capital programme.
Members were informed that for 2022/23, the Executive’s budget proposals set out an increase in dwelling rents of 4.1% along with a total net HRA expenditure budget of £14.926m and a capital programme totalling £3.790m.
As previously reported to Cabinet, due to the relatively volatile CPI rates experienced since the start of the COVID 19 pandemic, if the proposed level of rent increase in 2022/23 was taken together with the relatively low figure of 1.5% last year, then the average annual increase would be 2.8% over the two years.
Council was made aware that the 4.1% increase in dwelling rents resulted in an average weekly rent of £87.55 in 2022/23 (£84.10 in 2021/22).
Members were advised that the proposed budget reflected the continued repayment of debt, with the total level of existing debt falling to £35.350m at the end of 2022/23.
Council was informed that the estimated HRA general balance at the end of 2022/23 totalled £4.325m.
The Leader of the Council (Councillor Stock OBE) made the following budget statement:-
“Our approach to financial stewardship, sustainability and governance, that I talked about when introducing the General Fund budget earlier, applies equally to the Housing Revenue Account. These may however require tweaks here and there to address not only some different accounting rules, but also because the HRA has a landlord focus that comes with looking after more than 3,000 homes across the District.
Last year we talked about revisiting the 30-year business plan in the light of various strands of work either completed, on-going or planned, but we can do this in the knowledge of being able to operate from a really strong base, both financially and reputationally.
The budget for 2022/23 that we are considering tonight has therefore been developed against a revised 30-year business plan. As discussed in the reports we have considered over the last few months as part of developing the budget, the 30-year plan has seen a reset in terms of the increased cost of looking after our existing tenants’ homes and delivering capacity to ensure we remain an excellent landlord, an accolade we are very proud of and always seek to maintain.
As with the general fund, the HRA also faces many challenges looking ... view the full minutes text for item 132.
To consider a recommendation from the Audit Committee that this Council opts in to the appointing person arrangements made by Public Sector Audit Appointments for the appointment of external auditors for a five year period commencing 2023/24.
Further to Minute 26 of the meeting of the Audit Committee held on 27 January 2022, the Council considered whether to opt in to the appointing person arrangements made by Public Sector Audit Appointments for the appointment of external auditors for a five year period commencing from 2023/24.
Council recalled that, following the closure of the Audit Commission in 2015, it had considered options for the appointment of its External Auditors in February 2017 and had agreed to opt-in to the appointing person arrangements made by Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) for the appointment of external auditors from 2018/19 for a period of five years up to, and including, the audit of the 2022/23 accounts.
It was reported that this arrangement would terminate on 31 March 2023 and that the Council was now being invited by the PSAA to consider continuing with the existing opt-in approach for the re-appointment of its External Auditors for a five year period from 2023/24.
Members were informed that the PSAA had published an associated prospectus as part of their invitation process with a summary of the advantages of a national opt-in scheme as follows:
· “the appointment of a suitably qualified audit firm to conduct audits for each of the five financial years commencing 1 April 2023;
· appointing the same auditor to other opted-in bodies that are involved in formal collaboration or joint working initiatives to the extent this is possible with other constraints;
· management of the procurement process to ensure both quality and price criteria are satisfied. PSAA has sought views from the sector to help inform its detailed procurement strategy;
· ensuring suitable independence of the auditors from the bodies they audit and managing any potential conflicts as they arise during the appointment period;
· minimising the scheme management costs and returning any surpluses to scheme members;
· consultation with authorities on auditor appointments, giving the Council the opportunity to influence which auditor is appointed;
· consultation with authorities on the scale of audit fees and ensuring these reflect scale, complexity, and audit risk; and
· ongoing contract and performance management of the contracts once these have been let.”
In terms of the associated procurement process, PSAA had confirmed that they would:-
· seek to encourage realistic fee levels and to benefit from the economies of scale associated with procuring on behalf of a significant number of bodies;
· continue to pool scheme costs and charge fees to opted-in bodies in accordance with the published fee scale as amended following consultations with scheme members and other interested parties (pooling means that everyone within the scheme will benefit from the prices secured via a competitive procurement process – a key benefit of the national collective scheme);
· continue to minimise its own costs, around 4% of scheme costs, and as a not-for-profit company will return any surplus funds to scheme members.
Council was made aware that, as an alternative approach to the opt-in arrangements above, it could choose to appoint its own external auditor. However, this would require the Council to:-
· establish ... view the full minutes text for item 133.
Urgent Matters for Debate
The Council will consider any urgent matters submitted in accordance with Council Procedure Rules 3(xv), 11.3(b) and/or 13(p).
There were no urgent matters for Council to debate on this occasion.