Agenda and minutes

Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring)
Monday, 26th July, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Virtually via Microsoft Teams - if you would like to attend this meeting live via Microsoft Teams please contact committee.services@blaenau-gwent.gov.uk

Contact: Democratic Services  7788

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Simultaneous Translation

You are welcome to use Welsh at the meeting, a minimum notice period of 3 working days is required should you wish to do so.  A simultaneous translation will be provided if requested.

Minutes:

It was noted that no requests had been received for the simultaneous translation service.

 

2.

Apologies

To receive.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were reported for Councillors S. Healy, J.C. Morgan, D. Wilkshire and T. Sharrem.

 

3.

Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

To receive.

Minutes:

The following declarations of interest were reported:-

 

Councillor B. Summers – Item No. 7 - Revenue Budget Monitoring 2020/2021 Provisional Outturn (Silent Valley)

 

Councillor M. Cook - Item No. 7 - Revenue Budget Monitoring 2020/2021 Provisional Outturn (Silent Valley)

 

Councillor P. Edwards - Item No. 7 - Revenue Budget Monitoring 2020/2021 Provisional Outturn (Markets)

 

4.

Time of Future Meetings

To consider.

Minutes:

The Committee AGREED that future meetings of the Scrutiny Committee continue to be held at 10.00 a.m.

 

5.

Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring) pdf icon PDF 255 KB

To receive the minutes of the Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring) held on 15th March, 2021.

 

(Please note the minutes are submitted for points of accuracy only).

Minutes:

The minutes of the Joint Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 15th March, 2021 was submitted.

 

The Committee AGREED that the Minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.

 

6.

Action Sheet - 15th March 2021 pdf icon PDF 547 KB

To receive the Action Sheet.

Minutes:

The action sheet arising from the Joint Scrutiny (Budget Monitoring) Committee held on 15th March, 2021.

 

Festival Park

 

A Member referred to page 12 of the minutes of the previous meeting where the Corporate Director ‘advised that the monies paid were part of a reverse lease arrangement’.  The Member asked whether this arrangement was still ongoing.

 

The Head of Community Services undertook to investigate and report back to the next meeting.

 

Civil Parking Enforcement

 

A Member expressed concern regarding the level of income being generated from fixed penalty notices.

 

In response the Head of Community Services confirmed that the outcomes for the service in the first year followed the business case put forward in 2019 and the model adopted by the Council.  However, a review of the past 12 months would be undertaken and reported to the relevant Scrutiny Committee towards the end of the year.

 

The Committee AGREED, subject to the foregoing, the Action Sheet be noted.

 

7.

Revenue Budget Monitoring - 2020/2021 Provisional Outturn pdf icon PDF 712 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to report of the Chief Officer Resources.

 

The Chief Officer Resources presented the report which provided details on the:

 

·        Provisional outturn position at the end of 2020/2021

·        Details of significant adverse variances

·        Provisional outturn for Fees & Charges

·        Progress on the achievement of the Bridging the Gap Projects for 2020/2021

 

The report formed part of the financial reporting framework to Members.

 

The Officer went through the report in detail and highlighted the key points contained therein. The overall financial position across all portfolios at 31st March 2021 was a favourable variance of £2.639m (1.7%), against a total revenue budget of £152m.However, the figures

were provisional and subject to external audit.  The outturn was a significant improvement on the forecast financial position at the end of December 2020, at which time the forecast was a favourable variance of £0.6m.

 

The Table 1 at section 5.1.3 of the report highlighted the provisional outturn across all Portfolios.

 

The Chief Officer reported that following a review of the year end position, and in support of the Council’s financial resilience, a further transfer to earmarked reserves of £1.2m had been made with the balance of £1.4m transferring to General reserves.

 

A Member said this was the most favourable financial position he had seen since becoming an elected Member, and thanked his colleagues at Welsh Government for their support during the Covid pandemic.  He said every facet of the budget had been put in place with the support of WG Hardship Funding.  However, he pointed out the support received had highlighted the volatility of the Council, and without that financial support, he said the Council would be in a serious position.

 

He also questioned the political decisions taken within the Environment Portfolio which showed a significant adverse variance in light of the positive financial position of the Council. 

 

The Member also questioned the need for a second HWRC, particularly in light of the shortfall in income expected in relation to the sale of recyclate materials.  He said in his opinion, the concerns and pressures within the service should have formed the basis of the decision to open a second HWRC facility.

 

Another Member referred to the one-off financial support provided by Welsh Government highlighted at section 5.1.8 of the report, and asked whether any unspent monies in relation to social distancing signage would have to be returned to WG.

 

The Chief Officer Resources said she was unaware of the terms and conditions of the funding relating to social distancing signage.  However, she explained that if the funding was hypothecated, any unspent monies would have to be returned, but if the funding was un-hypothecated it could be retained by the Council and spent elsewhere. 

 

In response to a question raised by a Member regarding the £500 payment to care workers, the Chief Officer Resources said this payment would also be made to care workers within the private sector operating within Blaenau Gwent.

 

The Member then referred to section 5.1.30 and questioned the adverse  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Capital Budget Monitoring, Provisional Outturn For 2020/2021 Financial Year (As At 31 March 2021) pdf icon PDF 513 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to report of the Chief Officer Resources.

 

The Chief Officer Resources presented the report which provided details on the provisional outturn financial position to 31st March 2021 across all portfolios, and details of any significant adverse and/or favourable variances.  The report formed part of the quarterly financial reporting framework to Members.

 

The Officer went through the report and highlighted points contained therein.  The overall provisional financial position as at 31st March 2021 indicated a £161k

underspend against a total in year capital budget of £17.78m.  The overall position across all Portfolios was shown in the table at section 5.1.1 of the report.

 

A Member asked whether any capital schemes had been significantly delayed due to the Covid pandemic.

 

The Chief Officer Resources said she was not aware of any capital schemes that had been significantly delayed.  The pandemic had impacted on costs, but not on implementation of projects.

 

The Head of Community Services said the fact we were able to continue major contracts during the pandemic was credit to the Contractors and staff.  He reported that moving forward into quarter 1 some of the overspends were less than envisaged and he anticipated a more favourable report during quarters 1 and 2.

 

Members thanked staff within the Community Services section for their hard work throughout the pandemic.

 

A Member requested an update on the final account for the Roseheyworth HWRC construction, and the Chief Officer Resources confirmed that this would be reported to a future meeting of the Committee.

 

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted, and:

 

     i.        Provided appropriate challenge to the financial outcomes in the report;

    ii.        Continue to support appropriate financial control procedures as agreed by Council; and

  iii.        Noted the budgetary control and monitoring procedures in place within the Capital Team, to safeguard Authority funding be noted.

 

9.

Use of General and Earmarked Reserves 2020/2021 pdf icon PDF 438 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to report of the Chief Officer Resources.

 

The Chief Officer Resources presented the report which outlined the draft outturn reserves position for 2020/2021 as at 31st March, 2021, subject to audit.

 

The Officer went through the report and highlighted points contained therein.  The level of the Council’s general reserve disclosed in the statutory accounts for the financial year ended 31st March, 2020 was £6.399m which equated to 4.73% of net revenue expenditure (as reported in the 2019/2020 Revenue Outturn forms). The current 4% target level of general reserves was £5.414m.

 

Appendix 1 provided details of the total earmarked reserves held at the start of the 2020/2021 financial year (£8.272m) with actual reserve movements to the end of quarter 4 (31st March 2021).  The level of earmarked reserves was determined in accordance with the agreed reserves protocol. The level of earmarked reserves available to the Authority increased by £12.509m in 2020/2021.

 

The Officer confirmed that for those reserves utilised to fund actual expenditure to 31st March, 2021 (£1.022m), details of the expenditure funded was provided in Appendix 2, and details of additional amounts transferred to earmarked reserves (£13.687m) are provided at Appendix 3.

 

A Member asked whether the Council would be audited in the future on how we spent the Welsh Government Hardship Funding, and potentially criticised for putting money into reserves.

 

In response the Chief Officer said Audit Wales would look at our level of reserves as part of their review of the end of year accounts.  She was confident that the funding received from Welsh Government was spent appropriately, and that the Council continued to respond and incur expenditure in relation to the Covid pandemic.  However, she pointed out that was not the reason for determining the level of reserves.

 

A brief discussion ensued when a Member referred to Appendix 2 and asked why the Sports Council of Wales expenditure of £29,700k for refurbishment of the changing rooms at Abertillery Sports Centre had come out of reserves.

 

In response the Corporate Director for Education explained that this was a bid submitted by Aneurin Leisure Trust, and under the terms of the commissioning arrangement the funding came to the Council and was held by us.  However, he confirmed that the project had been taken forward and the works were completed.

 

In response to a further question in relation to the expenditure for specialist commercial advice on Silent Valley, the Chief Officer Resources said it was felt prudent to establish a reserve whilst undertaking a review of Silent Valley and set aside some money for external independent advice whilst undertaking due diligence. 

 

A Member referred Appendix 2, page 82 and questioned the definition around Section 106 Agreements.

 

The Head of Community Services explained Section 106 Agreements could be used to support any additional or upgrading of the existing highway infrastructure required as part of a new school development.

 

The Corporate Director of Education also pointed out that Section 106 Agreements could also be used to support  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Bridging The Gap (BTG) Programme 2021/2022 pdf icon PDF 542 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to report of the Chief Officer Resources.

 

The Chief Officer Resources presented the report which provided an update on the Strategic Business Reviews, including the provisional out-turn for 2020/2021 and latest assessment of the financial achievement for 2021/22 onwards.

 

The Officer then went through the report and highlighted points contained therein.

 

A Member referred to the railway improvement loan and asked whether the Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) would apply.

 

In response the Chief Officer said if the railway investment and loan was agreed, it would impact on the MRP going forward.  However, the income we expect to receive from Transport for Wales to fund the loan would mitigate the MRP increase going forward.

 

A Member expressed concern regarding the financial implications should the expected level of income not be generated.

 

The Chief Officer said she understood that in the event of insufficient fare income, part of Welsh Government responsibilities was to provide sufficient funding via TFW to enable them to fund the asset development fee to the full amount.

 

The Member asked whether this would include MRP, and the Officer confirmed that the impact on MRP would be same.

 

In response to a further question the Chief Officer confirmed all Bridging the Gap proposals would be subject to an impact assessment.

 

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and provided appropriate challenge to the Bridging the Gap programme.