Venue: Conference Chamber, West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3YU
Contact: Christine Brain: Democratic Services Officer Email: email@example.com
Any member who is substituting for another member should so indicate, together with the name of the relevant absent member.
The following substitution was declared:
Councillor Pat Hanlon substituting for Councillor Janne Jarvis.
Apologies for absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Janne Jarvis.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 28 September 2023 (copy attached.)
The minutes of the meeting held on 28 September 2023 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
Declarations of interest
Members are reminded of their responsibility to declare any disclosable pecuniary interest, other registerable or non-registrable 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.
The Constitution allows that a person who wishes to speak must register at least 15 minutes before the time the meeting is scheduled to start.
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.
Report number: PAS/WS/23/023
The Cabinet Member for Resources presented report number PAS/WS/23/023, which informed the Committee at this stage on the approach and timescales for the 2024 to 2025 budget setting process and the medium-term financial strategy. The report set out the context to the 2024 to 2025 budget process; key budget assumptions; the 2024 to 2028 budget plans and proposed approach and timescales.
In the February 2023 Council meeting, the Budget and Council Tax Setting: 2023 to 2024 and Medium-Term Financial Strategy 2023 to 2027 report number (COU/WS/23/003) set out the indicative financial plan to 2027. This indicative plan set a balanced budget for 2023 to 2024 and 2024 to 2025 but included the following initiative budget gaps (which will be reviewed as part of this 2024 to 2025 budget process) in the subsequent years:
The Government’s Autumn Statement was announced on 22 November 2023. Assumptions contained in the report continued to reflect a working assumption regarding what the settlement for next year would be. As more detail becomes available from central government in late December 2023 these assumptions would be updated. Further reports to support the 2024 to 2028 Strategic Direction and Priorities and anticipated savings and initiatives needed to deliver a sustainable and balanced budget for 2024 to 2025 would be presented to the Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee at its January 2024 meeting.
The Committee considered the report, the approach and timescales for the 2024 to 2025 budget setting process and the medium-term plans. Specifically, discussions were held on when the committee would receive the detailed budget numbers and proposals to support the development of the 2024 to 2025 budget setting process. In response the Cabinet Member for Resources stated that at this stage the report, which was not dissimilar to previous years reporting, was only setting out the process and the approach being taken. The detail was currently being worked through, for example new initiatives; fee structures, government settlement etc. All the supporting evidence and information would be available for the Committee to fully scrutinise in detail at its meeting in January 2024.
The Committee also questioned what the Council’s lobbying plan was for multi-year fairer funding settlements in relation to who was doing the lobbying; when; how and outcomes.
There being no decision required at this stage of the budget process, the
Committee noted the contents of the report.
Report number: PAS/WS/23/024
The Cabinet Member for Resources presented report number PAS/WS/23/024, which set out the quarter two performance and the
forecast 2023 to 2024 revenue and capital position for the period April 2023 to September 2023.
Attached to the report 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
- Exempt Appendix F: Aged debt over 90 days
The report included updates under the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on the cost of living; strategic housing; water consumption; fuel usage; waste and footfall monitoring.
The Cabinet Member for Resources then presented the financial element of the report and explained from a financial perspective the forecast year-end outturn as at quarter two showed a small overall deficit position of £37,000. This deficit included the release of the planned general fund budget of £0.8m. The general fund remained at the £5m policy level and officers were continuing to review the position as the year progresses in order to maintain the general fund at the stated policy level.
There were a number of variances to the budget, many of which had been reported to the Committee at its July 2023 meeting, including the impact of the agreed pay award; improved business rate income expectations; ongoing inflationary pressures, such as utility costs and an improving forecast for car parking and trade waste income.
The Committee considered the report in detail and asked a number of questions to which responses were provided. In particular discussions were held on external borrowing; the Council’s General Fund balance; the number of KPI’s being reported and whether these should be reduced to more manageable levels; and a future presentation to all councillors on the significant changes being made to recycling/waste in light of the Government’s “Simpler Recycling” initiative.
Detailed discussions were also held on why footfall was monitored in Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds and not ... view the full minutes text for item 221.
Report number: PAS/WS/23/025
The Cabinet Member for Resources presented report number: PAS/WS/23/025, which set out the work carried out by the internal audit team in the first half of 2023 to 2024 and concluded that sufficient progress was being made against the annual internal audit plan to give confidence that a robust internal audit opinion would be provided in the Internal Audit Annual Report in May 2024.
The report confirmed that in general, internal controls continued to work well, although there would always be areas where further improvements could and should be made.
One area which the Cabinet Member brought to the Committee’s attention was that the Council had unfortunately been a victim of a supplier bank mandate fraud, details of which were set out in paragraph 5.14 to 5.19 of the report. She stressed that officers had confirmed that existing controls had subsequently been reinforced in this area and additional controls had also been introduced to significantly reduce the risk of it happening again.
The report also included information on the professional internal audit standards which the internal audit team must comply with and were likely to change significantly early next year and the effects of the changes would be reported to the Committee in May 2024.
The Committee considered the report and asked questions, to which responses were provided. Specifically, discussions were held on fraud and questioned what the total fraud figure was to the Council to which the Cabinet Member for Resources advised was just under £52,000.
There being no decision required, the Committee noted the contents of the report.
Report number: FRS/WS/23/005 was considered by the Financial Resilience Sub-Committee on 13 November 2023.
The Cabinet Member for Resources presented report number: FRS/WS/23/005, which had been scrutinised by the Financial Resilience Sub-Committee on 13 November 2023.
The report set out the position as at 30 September 2023. At this point the Council held £54.5m of investments and borrowing of £9.6m. Interest receivable in the first half of the financial year was driving a budget surplus of £914,425 due to rising interest rates and high levels of cash invested.
The surplus was being held in the Capital Projects Financing Reserve in order to mitigate the risk of future borrowing in the current interest rate environment. The Council’s liability benchmark and cashflow forecast showed the Council would not need to borrow externally within the short to medium-term this financial year.
The Committee scrutinised the report and asked questions to which responses were provided. In particular discussions were held on the Council’s external treasury advisors and questioned the advice they provided to the Council; specifically, around what the cost was to the Council; the length of the contract and whether a procurement exercise was carried out to appoint external advisors. In response the Cabinet Member for Resources agreed to provide a written response on the length of the contract and the cost to the Council.
Discussions were also held on the pressure the Committee had put on the previous administration to borrow externally which in turn had enabled the forecast for the Council to balance the budget due to interest earnt and felt the Council should have borrowed more at the time.
It was then recommended by Councillor Phil Wittam, duly seconded by Councillor Pat Hanlon, and with the vote being unanimous,
That subject to the approval of Cabinet and Council, the Treasury Management Report (September 2023), being report number FRS/WS/23/005, be approved.
Report number: PAS/WS/23/026
The Committee received report number: PAS/WS/23/026, which updated members on the current status of its rolling work programme of items for scrutiny during 2024 (Appendix 1).
The Committee considered its rolling work programme and did not raise any issues.
There being no decision required, the Committee noted the update.
Exclusion of the 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 the 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 circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
See minute number 226 below.
2023 to 2024 Performance Report Quarter 2 - EXEMPT Appendix F
Exempt Appendix F to Report number: PAS/WS/23/024
(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 Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee made no reference to Exempt Appendix F under report number PAS/WS/23/024, therefore, this item was not held in private session.