Agenda and minutes

Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring)
Monday, 27th September, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Hybrid Meeting: Via MS Teams/Abraham Derby Room at the General Offices, Ebbw Vale - if you would like to attend 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. Thomas, K. Hayden, C. Meredith, D. Wilkshire and Mr. T. Baxter.

 

3.

Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

To receive.

Minutes:

The following declarations of interest were reported:-

 

Item No. 6 - Revenue Budget Monitoring - 2021/2022, Forecast Outturn to 31 March 2022 (As at 30th June 2021)

 

Councillors B. Summers and M. Cook (Silent Valley Waste

Services)

 

4.

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

To receive the minutes of the Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring) held on 26th July, 2021.

 

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

Minutes:

The minutes of the Joint Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 26th July, 2021 was submitted.

 

It was reported that Councillor W. Hodgins’ attendance had been omitted from the front page of the minutes.

 

The Committee AGREED, subject to the foregoing, that the Minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.

 

5.

Action Sheet - 26th July 2021 pdf icon PDF 188 KB

To receive the Action Sheet.

Minutes:

The action sheet arising from the Joint Scrutiny (Budget Monitoring) Committee held on 26th July, 2021 was submitted whereupon:-

 

Festival Park

 

A Member asked whether the Council’s SLA with the new company could potentially impact on the Council’s budget in terms of future increase in the management fee.

 

In response the Corporate Director Regeneration & Community Services explained that the lease arrangement with the new owners was the same as the previous arrangement.  The management fee was built into the current long term lease, which protected both parties, and could not be negotiated.  He said discussions with the new company had been positive and hopefully the site would be improved in the future.

 

Update on the Truck Shop, Tredegar

 

The Corporate Director confirmed that a submission had been made to CADW to undertake works, and a positive outcome was anticipated.  The Corporate Director undertook to provide a briefing note to Members.

 

A brief discussion ensued when a Member requested that Officer responses to issues raised by Members at Committee be reported back to the Committee.

 

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

 

6.

Revenue Budget Monitoring - 2021/2022, Forecast Outturn to 31 March 2022 (As at 30th June 2021) pdf icon PDF 858 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 the forecast financial position across all portfolios for the current financial year.  The overall forecast outturn at June 2021 was a favourable variance of £2.494m, after the application of Welsh Government Hardship Funding.

 

The table at 5.1.2 of the report highlighted the variances across each portfolio and indicated additional expenditure incurred in relation to the Covid pandemic response and recovery.  The forecast included actual and estimated funding from the WG Hardship Fund to be £1.354.  Paragraphs 5.16 and 5.17 detailed the budget virements actioned to realign budgets during the year.   There were a number of adverse variances across the portfolios, and the most significant were detailed in table 2 at section 5.1.12.

 

The Chief Officer confirmed that Action Plans to address cost pressures had been included in the report at Appendix 3, and paragraph 5.1.14 to 5.1.39 provided a narrative for the main variances across each portfolio.  Paragraph 5.1.41 provided a summary position with fees and charges for the year, and Appendix 2 provided an analysis of income received for the financial year against individual budgets.

 

Table 3 of the report summarised the expected year end position for the Council’s General Reserves, and based on the current favourable position this was forecast to increase to £10m by the end of this financial year.  The Officer said Members would recall that during the July Joint (Budget) Scrutiny the 2021 draft outturn position on earmarked reserves was £20.7m which included school balances.  Significant elements of those earmarked reserves related to grant funding held in respect of specific projects or services, and was expected to be utilised in delivering the relevant service outcomes during the current and next financial years.

 

A Member asked what work was being done to mitigate the significant adverse variance within the Environment portfolio to bring it to a balanced position.

 

The Chief Officer Resources reported that the adverse variance was due to recycling collection, disposal of waste costs and disposal of recycling.

 

The Corporate Director Regeneration & Community Services explained that over the last 18 months during the Covid pandemic the Council had collected more residual waste resulting in increased disposal costs.  However, he confirmed that the Warden Service, which had been suspended during the Covid pandemic, had now been reintroduced to ensure we get back to pre-pandemic residual waste levels. 

 

He also reported that the level of recycling collected had increased, particularly cardboard, however, the market price for cardboard had dropped significantly which resulted in less income being received.  He confirmed that a review of the Council’s contracts for disposal of recyclate materials was being undertaken, looking at shorter term contracts to enable the Council to respond to market prices.  He also confirmed that all opportunities to fund the ongoing demand and purchase of recycling receptacles was being explored.

 

The Corporate Director said there was no budget surplus within the Portfolio, but assured that all aspects were being considered.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Bridging The Gap (BTG) Programme 2021/2022 – Progress Update April to June 2021 pdf icon PDF 535 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 progress of the Strategic Business Reviews during the period April to June 2021, and the latest assessment of the financial achievement for the current financial year.

 

The table at section 2.1 detailed the current identified budget gaps for 2022/23 to 2025/26 as per the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy.  Table 2 at section 2.4 and provided the latest estimated achievement of Bridging the Gap over the 5 years to be £4.29m. 

 

Table 3 at section 2.5 of the report provided details of the remaining budget gaps that we are currently assessing for future years.  In 2021/22 we are anticipating a surplus budget, and budget gaps in the following years.

 

The Chief Officer confirmed that the Council’s CLT were continuing to identify and develop BtG proposals to close those future years’ budget gaps, and was currently reviewing the Council’s assumptions in the MTFS to ensure they are appropriate moving forward.  Any changes to those assumptions would be reported to Members later in the year along with the MTFS.

 

The Officer concluded that section 5 of the report provided information on the provisional outturn for 2021/22 and the overall forecast achievement was expected to exceed the original estimated achievement of £0.75k by £0.1m for the current financial year. 

 

In response to a question raised the Officer explained that in relation to fees and charges for those financial years, we have estimated receiving approximately £40k from the WG Hardship Fund.  There was very little allocated from the Hardship Fund to the BtG proposals for this year.

 

A Member referred to table 4 at section 5.3, namely assets and property and asked if this was in line with the disposal of property policy, and also whether this could be achieved given the limited resources within the Legal Department.

 

The Chief Officer Resources explained that any disposal of assets would result in capital receipts and be included within the Capital Budget report.  In terms of resources, she said this should not have a significant impact, and the estimated achievement of £127k was anticipated.

 

In response to a further question, the Corporate Director Regeneration & Community Services confirmed that the Silent Valley performance report would be submitted to the next meeting of the Community Services Scrutiny Committee.

 

A Member expressed concern regarding the Council’s disposal of assets which meant that the services were operating from rented properties.  He felt that the Council would be too reliant on rented properties moving forward and the risks associated with rising costs etc.  He requested information on the costs associated with Anvil Court and the percentage of properties leased by the Council.

 

The Corporate Director Regeneration & Community Services reported that the lease on Anvil Court was up until 2025 and options for negotiations would be considered over the next few years.  He understood the Member’s comments but assured that Officers worked to minimise the amount of money spent  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Capital Budget Monitoring, Forecast for 2021/2022 Financial Year (As at 30 June 2021) pdf icon PDF 512 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 overview of each Portfolio’s actual and forecast capital expenditure against funding approvals for the 2021/2022 financial year, as at 30th June 2021.  The Overall financial position indicated an adverse variance of just over £287,017k against a total in-year capital budget of £15.3m. 

 

The report identified significant overspends on two projects which have been reported previously, namely the HWRC (£42,725) related to an increase in costs due to the Covid pandemic and future proofing of the site; and Lime Avenue business park (£234,710k) due to the loss and expenses claim for items in relation to unforeseen issues caused by the Covid pandemic.  The Officer confirmed that the Council was currently in discussions with the funding bodies for both schemes, and whilst discussions were positive, the final outcome was not known at this point in time.  However, if additional was not forthcoming, the schemes would need to be built into the capital contingency fund unless alternative funding could be identified.

 

Members raised questions on the following budgets:

 

328340 LTF Metro Plus £220k

 

The Corporate Director Regeneration & Community Services reported that this money was drawn down to undertake work on the Abertillery Railway Station and related to land acquisition and consultancy costs.

 

The Member asked whether the costs for land acquisition were incurred prior to the report received by Members on the loan for the Ebbw Valley Railway.

 

In response the Corporate Director said the intent to acquire land for the railway had been worked on for a number of years.  He understood that completion of the land acquisition was undertaken during the last financial year, but said he would check to see if this was correct.

 

The Member sought clarification that decision to acquire land was undertaken under delegated powers and not part of Council agreement.

 

The Corporate Director confirmed that the land acquisition was not reported to Council, and the Member asked that details of the land acquisition be forwarded to all Members.

 

Another Member questioned the figures for the budget, and the Chief Officer Resources said it was likely that income of £186,209 had been received which had increased to the budget to £406,209, and we are forecasting to spend £220k in the year.  The Officer undertook to provide details to Members.

 

The Member then requested a breakdown of spend on the following budgets:

 

·        332368 Play Area Schemes Boroughwide

·        327061 CATs

·        327103 Civic Centre Decommissioning

·        327140 Democratic Hub (GO)

 

 327090 Fly Tipping CCTV

 

In response to a question raised, the Service Manager Neighbourhood Services confirmed that £14k grant funding was secured through Keep Wales Tidy for the purchase of equipment to be used as part of the new Joint Enforcement Service, and Members would see a more proactive approach to fly tipping moving forward.

 

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

 

·        Provided appropriate challenge to the financial outcomes in the report.

·        Continued to support appropriate  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.