Venue: Committee Room 2 Town Hall
Contact: Democratic Services 01527 64252 (Ext 3072)
There were no apologies for absence.
Declarations of Interest
To invite Councillors to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests and / or Other Disclosable Interests they may have in items on the agenda, and to confirm the nature of those interests.
There were no declarations of interest.
The Leader advised that at the latest meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 7th September 2023, Members considered and endorsed recommendations arising from a recent meeting of the Budget Scrutiny Working Group. These recommendations focused on the Financial Outturn Report and the Finance and Performance Quarter 1 Monitoring Report, both of which were due to be considered at the Executive Committee meeting. In addition, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had pre-scrutinised the Town Hall Hub - Final Report, which was also due to be debated by the Executive Committee. All of these recommendations had been published in a supplementary pack for the Executive Committee meeting and needed to be considered in relation to the relevant items on the agenda.
Reference was made to a request that had been made at the previous meeting for further information about a £5 million loan to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and Officers were asked to provide clarification on this point prior to the Council meeting.
the minutes of the meeting of the Executive Committee held on Tuesday 25th July 2023 be approved as a true and correct record and signed by the Chair.
The Environmental Services Manager presented a report on the subject of the future of the brick arched former railway bridge at Green Lane, Studley. The bridge had been the subject of a number of previous reports considered by the Executive Committee. Warwickshire County Council had since completed a survey of the site and had suggested that there needed to be further, regular inspections in future. Based on the proposed way forward, which would involve retaining the structure for the future, the capital funding required to manage the bridge had reduced in amount and the Council could update the capital programme accordingly. The remaining funding for the bridge would be used to fund any works proposed during future inspections that would be undertaken by Warwickshire County Council.
Following the presentation of the report, the Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services commented that the Council had owned the bridge since 1985. The bridge had recently been offered for sale to a number of local authorities but there had been no interest in the purchase. Consideration had also been given to applying for planning permission to remove the bridge, but ultimately this option had not been pursued. The bridge was located on National Cycle Route 5 and would remain available for the public to use. Whilst the Council would remain financially liable for the upkeep of the bridge, the proposed way forward would result in some savings for the authority.
1) the 2023/24 Capital Programme be reduced by £113,000 to provide a total budget of £80,000, for undertaking remedial works to the bridge structure as highlighted by the Principal Inspection; and
2) A budget of £5,000 for Warwickshire County Council to undertake Principal Inspections on a six-year cycle commencing 2029/30, and a General Inspection on a two-year cycle, commencing 2025/26, be included in the Medium-Term Financial Plan for future years, as shown below.
The Interim Director of Finance and Resources presented the Financial Outturn 2022/23 report, detailing the provisional revenue and capital outturn for that financial year, for Members’ consideration. Whilst the Council had been on a finance recovery programme since April 2022, Members were informed that it was important to note that the authority had not yet closed the 2020/21 and 2021/22 accounts and these could impact upon the final 2022/23 position.
From a revenue perspective, the Council had a £10.520 million full year revenue budget which was approved by Council in February 2022. The 2022/23 budget had included a £595,000 cross-cutting efficiency target, which was allocated to services based upon forecast underspends at Quarter 1 predominantly linked to vacancies.
The Finance Team had undertaken a detailed review of the 2022/23 accounts since the end of March 2023, and there were a number of assumptions and manual adjustments that had been made to arrive at the provisional outturn position detailed in the report. They included:
· Anticipated accruals and prepayments,
· Recharges to/from the HRA,
· Grants were applied to known expenditure and remaining balances were carried forward,
· Reserves were applied to expenditure,
· Shared service recharges between Redditch Borough Council and Bromsgrove District Council were manually reflected, and
· Transfers between the Collection Fund and the General Fund.
There was still work to be done to clear the backlog of entries in suspense and any miscoding. Therefore, the provisional position detailed in the report was subject to change and a further update would be provided in due course.
Overall, it was anticipated that the provisional revenue overspend position would be a £685,000 overspend against the £10.520 million budget. This was a £65,000 reduction over the forecast at Quarter 3 which was a £750,000 overspend position.
The 2022/23 pay award - £1,925 pay award across all pay scales – had created a variance against the budget for a number of service areas. In addition to this, income pending reallocation had resulted in unfavourable variances for Community Transport, Shopmobility and Bereavement Services. Overspends were also anticipated within Environmental Services due to a reallocation of stores stock pending in the Depot, increased fuel and fleet maintenance costs in Waste Management and the Place Teams as well as insurance claims in Tree Management.
From a Treasury Management perspective, the Council had no short-term borrowing at the 31st March 2023 and long-term borrowing had not changed from the £103.9 million taken out some time ago. The Council also held £10.6 million in short-term investments.
An updated capital programme totalling £5.431 million was approved in the budget for 2022/23 in March 2023. Of this, £2 million was funded from Council resources whilst £3.4 million was externally funded. The provisional capital outturn expenditure was expected to be £2.137 million against the overall £5.431 million budget. The £3.292 million budget underspend would be rolled forward from 2022/23 to the 2023/24 financial year.
Information had been provided regarding anticipated reserves over the medium term to the 31st March 2026. At the 31st ... view the full minutes text for item 30.
The Leader confirmed that there were no outstanding recommendations from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 20th July 2023 requiring consideration.
the minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on Thursday 20th July 2023 be noted.
Minutes / Referrals - Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Executive Panels etc.
To receive and consider any outstanding minutes or referrals from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Executive Panels etc. since the last meeting of the Executive Committee, other than as detailed in the items above.
Members noted that there were no referrals from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee or the Executive Advisory Panels on this occasion.
Exclusion of the press and public
“That, under S.100 (A) (4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following matter(s) on the grounds that it/they involve(s) the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the relevant paragraphs (to be specified) of Part 1 of Schedule 12 (A) of the said Act”.
These paragraphs are as follows:
Subject to the “public interest” test, information relating to:
· Para 3 – financial or business affairs;
· Para 4 – labour relations matters;
and may need to be considered as ‘exempt’.
Under S100 A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended by the Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following matters on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 3, and 4 of Part 1 of Schedule 12 of the said act, as amended.
Minute Item No. 34 – Disposal of a Long Lease Interest at 18 – 19 Woodfield Close, Abbeydale, Redditch
Minute Item No. 35 – Housing Development Proposal – Loxley Close, Church Hill
Minute Item No. 36 – The Town Hall Refurbishment - Final Decision
Minute Item No. 37 – Finance and Performance Monitoring Report – Quarter 1 2023/24
The Property Manager presented a report focusing on the proposed disposal of a long leasehold interest in 18 – 19 Woodfield Close, Abbeydale Redditch.
Members were advised that the existing tenant, which had a lease with the Council that was due to expire in the 2020s, had requested a long-term lease on the unit. Officers were proposing that the long lease should be set to expire at a point coterminous with a separate lease for the flat located above the unit.
Following the presentation of the report, Members discussed a number of points relating to this subject:
· The potential value to the community arising from disposing of Council assets and the need to assess each potential asset on a case by case basis.
· The market value of the unit.
· The fact that this was the only retail unit located on the close, which was otherwise surrounded by residential housing.
· The potential benefits to the local built environment arising from the proposed disposal and responsibility for repair and maintenance of the unit under the leasehold arrangements.
· The need for all Council assets to achieve an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of at least a grade C by the mid-2020s.
1) the Council dispose of the retail unit at 18/19 Woodfield Close, Abbeydale on a long leasehold basis to the current tenant; and
2) the Council’s budget is augmented by the capital receipt and reduced by the income as described in Appendix 3.
(During consideration of this item, Members discussed matters that necessitated the disclosure of exempt information. It was therefore agreed to move to exclude the press and public prior to any debate on the grounds that information would be revealed relating to the financial and business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information)).
The Strategic Housing Services Manager presented a report focusing on the development of new Council houses at Loxley Close, Church Hill.
The Council was aiming to develop a number of two-bedroom properties at the site. This would mean the loss of land used by current residents for parking and action had been taken to mitigate against this issue through the provision of visitor parking spaces. The properties would help to meet significant demand in the Borough for two-bedroom properties; Members were advised that on the date of the meeting, there were 365 people on the Council’s waiting list for this type of property.
The properties would have a number of features designed to enhance the energy efficiency of the buildings, including air source heat pumps, subject to planning permission. The aim was to ensure that these properties all received an EPC A rating.
In order to fund the works, receipts would be used from Council house sales made under right to buy. Tenants would be charged affordable rents and it was anticipated that the Council would be able to cover the costs of the project from this rental income in just over 30 years’ time.
Members subsequently discussed the report in detail and in doing so commented on the following:
· The lessons that had been learned form the Council’s work developing new Council houses at Edgeworth Close.
· The potential for more Council houses to be developed by the authority in future years.
· The possibility that the Council could request support from the WMCA’s Housing and Land Delivery Board for the development of Council houses in the Borough.
· The location of the new houses in Loxley Close near to a flood plain and the implications of this for residents’ house insurance. Officers explained that the houses would be built outside the flood plain.
· The financial costs involved for tenants in operating air source heat pumps using electricity. Officers explained that research indicated that annual costs of heating associated with using air source heat pumps was between £670 and £720 per year per household compared to in excess of £1,000 per year per household using conventional heating methods.
· The reason why tenants would be charged an affordable rent for leasing these properties rather than a standard social rent. Officers explained that this was a legal requirement, arising from the Council’s use of receipts from the sales of Council houses under the right to buy process.
· The differences between social rents, affordable rents and market rents. The Committee was informed that social rents were approximately between 45 and 50 per cent of market rents whilst affordable rents were around 60 per cent of the rate of market rents.
· The attempts that had been made to develop Loxley Close in previous years and the difficulties that had been caused in relation to concerns about potential flooding at the site.
· The design features that had been incorporated into the properties to help mitigate against the risk of flooding.
During consideration of this item, an amendment ... view the full minutes text for item 35.
The Interim Director of Finance and Resources presented the Town Hall Hub Refurbishment – Final Decision Report for the Committee’s consideration.
Members were advised that the report updated the Executive Committee on progress on the movement of the Town Hall to a Community Hub since the previous report on this subject was considered on 11th October 2022. The report requested approval for spending to increase by £1 million to reflect the final design, with this to be financed through the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) and funded from savings over and above the £400,000 requirement in the Medium Term Financial Plan for the 2025/26 financial year.
The report detailed:
· Progress on the NHS Space,
· Final design RIBA Stage 3 drawings,
· Updated costs based on these RIBA Stage 3 designs, and
· That moving the Town Hall to a “Community Hub” was in line with Government guidance to “collect” public services in one place.
The NHS had been working on site since the start of 2023. They were now running through their final snagging process and services were expected to start operating from the site towards the end of October 2023. The NHS had invested significant sums for the delivery of Mental Health services from the hub. Handover was expected to take place on the 25th September 2023.
For the remainder of the space in the basement, ground and first floors, the Council had been in negotiations with Worcestershire County Council. This had been in parallel with the Library consultation that the County Council had undertaken. Worcestershire County Council had approved the move at their Cabinet meeting held in July 2023.
Significant work had been undertaken with Worcestershire County Council and their subtenants to ensure the design delivered to their existing requirements and at RIBA Stage 3 all partners had signed off that the design met their requirements. There was no reduction of space or facilities for the Library or the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), with ongoing revenue costs being no higher than existing 2022/23 revenue costs for running the existing library site. Any requirements over and above the core existing services were chargeable. An example of this was a separate lobby for the DWP which was up for negotiation.
There was significant additional documentation in the appendices, with the greatest change for the Council being the movement of the Civic Suite from the Ground Floor to the Second floor. Planning permission for the changes was agreed on the 27th July 2023. A remaining key change that would be needed would be an improvement to access to the building from the disabled parking bays in the Town Hall car park.
Costs of the detailed design had increased from the estimated £5.2 million, as reported to the Executive Committee in October 2022, to £6.2 million.
Redditch Borough Council and Worcestershire County Council had signed:
· Reciprocating Heads of Terms
· Reciprocating 125 year leases
Work was proceeding on assessing locations and the scale of interim arrangements for Council and Committee ... view the full minutes text for item 36.
The Interim Director of Finance and Resources presented the Finance and Performance Monitoring Report – Quarter 1 2023/24.
Members were advised that the report detailed the following Council positions in the first quarter of the 2023/24 financial year:
· the Council’s forecast outturn revenue position for the year,
· an update on the Council’s capital programme for the year,
· the procurement pipeline, and
· the organisation’s performance measures against its strategic priorities.
From a revenue perspective, the Council had a £10.7 million budget for 2023/24 which was approved by Council in February 2023. Overall, the Council was currently forecasting a revenue overspend against the first quarter budget totalling £139,000. This was due to the anticipated 2023/24 pay award, which was yet to be ratified. If this was extrapolated upwards for the full year, it was anticipated that the Council would overspend in the region of £557,000.
It was estimated that utilities increases were running at 70 per cent but in the 2023/24 budget a 100 per cent increase in budget was assumed and a reserve was set up for the same amount. Given the forecast overspend linked to the anticipated 2023/24 pay award and that the Council had not experienced the increases in utility costs anticipated, it was proposed that £557,000 of the utilities reserve for 2023/4 should be released to offset the overspend position. This pay issue would need to be addressed in the 2024/5 budget which would leave the utilities reserve for 2024/5 and 2025/6 untouched.
There was a small underspend of £4,114 against the £100,000 grants to voluntary bodies budget. The report requested approval to allocate the underspend to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) Redditch branch to gain a physical presence back in Redditch and enable residents to access face to face appointments.
From a capital perspective, the Council had a capital programme of £12.6 million which was approved in the budget in February 2023. Of this, £10.6 million was externally funded whilst £2.0 million was Council funded. As noted from the Financial Outturn 2022/23 report, there was £3.292 million budget slippage from 2022/23 which would be added to this budget. At Quarter 1, the actual spend against the original 2023/24 capital budget was £583,000.
There were a number of capital programme changes detailed in the report including:
· reprofiling of Ipsley Church Lane cemetery budget from 2023/24 to 2024/25,
· increased fleet replacement costs totalling £611,000,
· the leisure changing places budget totalling £21,750 to provide a state of the art toilet facility for visitors to Redditch town centre.
As approved by Executive in July 2023, a list of procurements estimated at a value of over £200,000, and which were delegated for approval to the Executive Committee or to Officers over the following year, were detailed in Appendix D. Whilst Appendix E detailed all procurement estimated at a value of between £50,000-£200,000. Appendix F of the report detailed procurement that impacted on Redditch but which was procured by Bromsgrove district Council due to the shared nature of some of the Councils’ services. ... view the full minutes text for item 37.