Venue: Conference Chamber, West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3YU
Contact: Christine Brain: Democratic Services Officer Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Please note a revised new Appendix E has been publish Report No: PAS/WS/22/023
Any member who is substituting for another member should so indicate, together with the name of the relevant absent member.
No substitutions were declared.
Apologies for absence
No apologies for absence were received.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 29 September 2022 (copy attached.)
The minutes of the meeting held on 29 September 2022 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
Declarations of interest
Members are reminded of their responsibility to declare any pecuniary or local non pecuniary interest which they have in any item of business on the agenda no later than when that item is reached and, when appropriate, to leave the meeting prior to discussion and voting on the item.
Members’ declarations of interest are recorded under the item to which the declaration relates.
Members of the public who live or work in the district are welcome to speak and may ask one question or make a statement of not more than three minutes duration relating to items to be discussed in Part 1 of the agenda only. If a question is asked and answered within three minutes, the person who asked the question may ask a supplementary question that arises from the reply.
In accordance with government guidance, the Council has developed general protocols on operating buildings safely in order to reduce the risk of the spread of coronavirus and will apply to members of the public registered to speak. We would therefore strongly urge anyone who wishes to register to speak to notify Democratic Services by 9am on the day of the meeting so that advice can be given on the arrangements in place.
There is an overall limit of 15 minutes for public speaking, which may be extended at the Chair’s discretion.
There were no members of the public in attendance on this occasion.
Internal Audit Mid-Year Progress Report (2022 to 2023) PDF 117 KB
Report number: PAS/WS/22/020
The Committee received Report number PAS/WS/22/020, which updated members on progress made against internal audit’s 2022 to 2023 work plan approved by this committee in May 2022 and provided a flavour of the work undertaken in the year to date.
Attached at Appendix A to the report was the Mid-year Internal Audit progress report 2022 to 2023.
Based on the work completed to date, all audit opinions issued within the period had been “good” or “reasonable” with no “limited” or “no assurance” opinions being issued. Therefore, there were no areas of concern to highlight within the report.
The Committee considered the report and asked questions, to which responses were provided. Discussions were held on owned residential properties; and fee earning work which was charged at a rate to ensure the cost of the audit work was at least fully covered but also took into account the internal audit partnership working arrangements with the other Anglia Revenues Partnership councils.
In particular members wished to congratulate the audit team in relation to the positive outcomes gained from the various grants work carried out.
There being no decision required, the Committee noted the progress made against the 2022 to 2023 Internal Audit Plan.
Delivering a Sustainable West Suffolk Council Budget (2023 to 2024) PDF 206 KB
Report number: PAS/WS/22/021
[Councillor Peter Thompson left the meeting at 5.25pm during the consideration of this item, and prior to the vote taking place].
At its meeting on 29 September 2022, report number PAS/WS/22/017 outlined the process and approach to setting the council’s 2023 to 2024 budget and the principles and challenges faced in achieving this.
The Committee on 17 November 2022, received report number PAS/WS/22/021, which updated members on key budget assumptions proposed in the development of the 2023 2024 budget and medium-term plans.
Proposals and key budget assumptions to date, were set out in Section 2 of the report. The net impact of the key assumption changes to date were included in Table 1 of the report. In addition to the savings requirements set out in paragraph 1.6 of the report, gave rise to a working budget deficit for 2023 to 2024 of £2.53m (this excluded any provision to replenish the general fund from the utilisation for the 2022 to 2023 deficit, currently estimated at an additional £1.1m)
Significant work would continue to take place to achieve a 2023 to 2024 balanced budget by February 2023. It was report that a number of areas were already in progress, including:
- Use of the latest data available to conclude the income and expenditure line by line review and the identification of saving initiatives and opportunities.
- Modelling and reflecting the impact of any changes to central government funding.
- The setting of the councils Council Tax Base for council tax setting purposes – (Council decision, December 2022)
- The monitoring of the councils in year Council Tax Collection.
The Committee at its January 2023 meeting would receive an update on the Capital Programme which was currently being revised and updated with known changes.
The Committee considered the report in detail and asked questions to which comprehensive responses were provided. Discussions were held on pensions and the tri-annual pension report; recruitment freeze; pay award; outsourcing; the ground maintenance service and whether charging commercial rates, for example for grass cutting and the announcement made today (17 November 2022) in the media about a possible Devolution Deal for Suffolk and whether this would have an impact on the council’s budget.
In response to a question raised regarding the £1.16m budget gap for 2023 to 2024, officers advised Cabinet had tasked officers at looking at balancing the budget for the next three years, but the main focus was for a balanced budget for 2023 to 2024.
In response to a question raised regarding car park revenue, officers advised that parking data was being reviewed to see if there had been any behavioural changes in parking at the Cattlemarket and multi-storey car parks in Bury St Edmunds.
In response to a question raised relating to the impact of the capital programme on the budget, officers advised that work was currently being carried out and reference would be included in the report at the committee’s January 2023 meeting.
Detailed discussions were also held on street lighting. Councillors Andy ... view the full minutes text for item 151.
Treasury Management Report (September 2022) PDF 338 KB
Report number: FRS/WS/22/005 was considered by the Financial Resilience Sub-Committee on 7 November 2022.
The Service Manager (Finance and Procurement) will update the Committee verbally on any issues or recommendations arising from the consideration of this report.
[Councillor Andy Neal left the meeting at 6.25pm during the consideration of this item, and prior to the vote taking place].
The Committee received Report No: FRS/WS/22/005, which had been considered by the Financial Resilience Sub-Committee on 7 November 2022. The Service Manager (Finance and Performance) provided a verbal update on the Sub-Committee’s consideration of the report, which provided a summary of investment activity for the first half of the 2022-2023 financial year.
The 2022 to 2023 Annual Treasury Management and Investment Strategy sets out the Council’s projections for the current financial year. The budget for investment income for 2022 to 2023 was £45,000, which was based on a 0.25% target average interest rate of return on investments.
At the end of September 2022, interest earned during the first half of the financial year amounted to £317,734 against a profiled budget for the period of £22,500, a budget surplus of £295,234.
External borrowing as at 30 September 2022 remained at £13,875,000, a reduction of £125,000 from April 2022, with the council’s level of internal borrowing increasing slightly to £41,699,661 as at 30 September 2022. Overall borrowing, weighted towards internal borrowing was expected to increase over the full financial year.
The report also included a summary of the borrowing activity during the period; borrowing strategy and sources of borrowing; borrowing and capital costs – affordability; borrowing and income – proportionality; borrowing and asset yields and market information.
Attached at Appendix 1 to the report was Arlingclose economic and interest rate forecast – September 2022.
The Sub-Committee has scrutinised the report on 7 November 2022, and asked questions to which responses were provided. In particular discussions were held on the current interest rate rises; what happened to the additional interest received on cash balances; the solar farm yield for 2021 to 2022 and the Barclays £4m loan.
The Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee scrutinised the report in detail and asked questions to which responses were provided. In particular discussions were held on guilt yields and capital projects and investment levels.
In response to a question raised on what the council’s policy was on lend to local authorities and whether this would continue, officers explained that the decision to lend to local authorities was embedded in the council’s Treasury Management Strategy which was approved each year by Cabinet and Council. Lending to local authorities was considered low risk, but in future the council would carry out extra research in addition to the advice received from its external advisors, Arlingclose.
In response to a question raised on the £4m Barclays loan and whether the council has considered paying off early, officers advised that the council was looking at options and was in discussions with its advisors regarding this matter.
It was then proposed by Councillor Victor Lukaniuk, seconded by Councillor Robert Nobbs, and with the vote being unanimous, it was:
That subject to the approval of Council, the Treasury Management Report (September 2022), as contained in Report number: FRS/WS/22/005, be approved.
Work programme update PDF 118 KB
Report number: PAS/WS/22/022
The Committee received report number: PAS/WS/22/022, which updated members on the current status of its rolling work programme of items for scrutiny during 2020-2021 (Appendix 1).
There being no decision required, the Committee noted the update and the additional meeting which had been rescheduled from 14 December 2022 to 8 March 2023.
2022 to 2023 Performance Report (Quarter 2) PDF 351 KB
Report number: PAS/WS/22/023
[Councillor Andy Neal left the meeting at 6.28pm during the consideration of this item.
Councillors John Augustine and Cliff Waterman left the meeting at 7.05pm during the consideration of this item].
The Committee received Report number PAS/WS/22/023, which set out income recovery, Quarter 2 performance and the forecast 2022 to 2023 revenue and capital positions.
The Covid-19 outbreak had had a significant impact on the council’s financial position. Whilst the council was now in the process of recovering from the pandemic, the effects were likely to be felt for years to come. In addition, the cost-of-living crisis, which the Ukraine War had exacerbated, was not only impacting on communities and businesses, but also adversely putting pressure on the council’s budgets.
All of these elements, as well as national public behavioural changes in travel, shopping and working created by these issues, had had an adverse impact on businesses, retail and public services nationally.
Income generation for public services across the UK had been severely impacted by a combination of all these challenges as well as recent issues, such as national and local lockdowns. West Suffolk Council was not alone in continuing to face these issues although there were good signs of recovery by services and areas – some stronger than others. This included income from leisure and cultural events; trade waste and the garden waste service. In addition, other services were recovering, such as car parks and markets. However, the challenges outlined effected services and localities in different ways.
For 2022 to 2023 the central government funding which had helped to partly mitigate the effects of the pandemic, such as the Sales, Fees and Charges Compensation and the Covid-19 Support Grant were no longer available, meaning the council had to make provision to fully cover any reduced income and increased costs from within its own budgets.
As part of the 2022 to 2023 budget setting process the made had made provision for the sum of around £0.5m in its budgets for the ongoing impacts of Covid-19. This provision was to be funded by a contribution from the council’s general fund (a reserve fund that the council traditionally kept at around £5m to meet emergency issues such as this) and had been factored into the year-end forecasts in the report.
Attached to the Quarter 2 performance and forecast year-end financial position for 2022 to 2023 were a number of appendices as follows:
- Appendix A: Key Performance Indicator Dashboards
- Appendix B: Income and expenditure report
- Appendix C: Capital programme
- Appendix D: Earmarked reserves
- Appendix E: Strategic risk register (A revised risk register was circulated at the meeting and available on the council’s website)
- Exempt Appendix F: Aged debt over 90 days
The Committee was advised that the above appendices for this report were completed before news of the agreed pay award was announced. On 1 November 2022, a pay rise of £1,925 per annum was agreed for all pay scales and was effective from 1 April 2022. ... view the full minutes text for item 154.
Exclusion of press and public
To consider whether the press and public should be excluded during the consideration of the following item because it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the public were present during this item, there would be disclosure to them of exempt categories or information as prescribed in Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, and indicated against each item and, in all circumstance of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
With the vote being unanimous, it was
That, under Section 100(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as prescribed in Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, and indicated against each item and, in all circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
2022 to 2023 Performance Report (Quarter 2): Exempt Appendix F: Aged Debt Over 90 Days Monitoring (paragraphs 1 and 2)
Exempt Appendix F to Report number: PAS/WS/22/023
(This exempt appendix is to be considered in private under paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, as it contains information relating to an individual and information which is likely to reveal the identity of an individual).
The meeting moved into private session to allow for the Committee to pose specific questions on the information which related to the aged debt over 90 days, as set out in this exempt Appendix.
Once the discussion was concluded, the Committee then moved back into the open session of the meeting.
Re-admittance of press and public
The press and public were re-admitted to the meeting.