Top

Top

CORPORATE PERFORMANCE AND RESOURCES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 20th July, 2017.

 

Present:  Councillor G.D.D. Carroll (Chairman); Councillor V.P. Driscoll (Vice-Chairman), Councillors R. Crowley, O. Griffiths, S.J. Griffiths, Dr. I.J. Johnson, P.G. King, N. Moore, L.O. Rowlands and E. Williams.

 

 

174     MINUTES –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 20th June, 2017 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

175     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

176     END OF YEAR (2016-17) PERFORMANCE REPORT: CORPORATE HEALTH (MD) –

 

The Head of Performance and Development, in referring to the report, drew the Committee’s attention to the previous review of the Council’s Performance Management Framework undertaken in 2016 including the approval of the new Corporate Plan (2016-20) which reflected the requirement of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and identified four Well-being Outcomes and eight Objectives for the Council.  Additionally, he referred to the significant work that had been undertaken by the relevant Sponsoring Director responsible for each Well-being Outcome and a Member Working Group which had been established to review the Corporate Performance Measures Framework.  Following the changes to the Council’s Performance Management Framework over the past year, since May 2016 the Council’s Scrutiny Committees have received performance information linked with the Council’s Well-being Outcomes, with which the Scrutiny Committees were aligned.

 

The report itself outlined the Council’s performance for the period 2016/17 as aligned with the Corporate Plan, Well-being Outcomes and the Council’s Corporate Health priorities which were set out in Appendix A with details of how the performance report was structured being detailed in paragraph 7 to the report.  Committee noted that Appendix 1 contained detailed information relating to the Service Plan actions which had contributed to the Corporate Plan actions.  Separately, Appendix 2 provided detailed information of performance indictors relating to the Corporate Health aspects which covered people, finance, assets, customer and ICT.  The Committee also noted that the new annual and quarterly reported performance indicators had been introduced as part of the Council’s revised performance Management Framework and for a number of these, data would not be available as the current year would be used to establish baseline performance. 

 

In referring to progress made to date, the Head of Performance and Development indicated that good progress had been made this year towards delivering the key outcomes as outlined in the Corporate Plan 2016-20, giving an overall RAG status of Green.  Two out of the four Corporate Plan Well-being Outcomes were attributed an overall RAG status of Green with the remaining two report an Amber status.  The table of information set out in paragraph 9 of the report provided an overview of progress for each of the Corporate Plan Well-being Outcomes at the year end.

 

An overall Green status had been attributed to Corporate Health reflecting the positive progress made to date in interrogating the Council’s business planning practices and in promoting a “one Council” approach, to maximising limited resources to deliver the Council’s Well-being Outcomes. 

 

In addition, a Green performance status had been attributed to reflect progress with delivery of the planned activities relating to the 11 Corporate Plan actions aligned to the Council’s Corporate Health priorities.  Planned activities relating to ten out of the 11 Corporate Plan actions had been completed and positive progress had been made in relation to the remaining Corporate Plan action (CP10), implementation of a Procurement Strategy, development of a Contracts Register and progressing digital procurement and invoicing across the Council would continue to form part of ongoing work in line with the Council’s Reshaping Services programme, consequently this work would be carried forward into 2017/18. 

 

An overall RAG status of Green had been attributed to the performance measures relating to Corporate Health.  Five out of the seven measures reported against Corporate Health had met or exceeded target.  One measure was attributed an Amber status with the remaining measure missing target by more than 10%.  This related to the percentage of staff leaving the employment of the Council on a voluntary basis (CPM/210).  It was indicated that the increase in staff turnover reported was anticipated as the Council continued to review how it delivered services in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness. 

 

A Member, referring to the element contained in paragraph 11 of the report particularly in relation to ICT procurement arrangements and the turnover of staff, enquired of the progress being made to address the delivery of the planned activities.  In response, the Head of Finance in referring to ICT procurement, indicated that a significant amount of work had been undertaken during 2016/17 to ensure that the Council’s contract documents were appropriate and linked with the Council’s Financial Procedure Rules and Contract Standing Orders.  Separately, a significant training programme of managers had been undertaken during the previous 12 months to ensure they had appropriate knowledge and understanding of the Council’s procurement arrangements.  In regard to digital procurement, she indicated that progress was being made with a test contract register developed to ensure accuracy.  It was anticipated that a new digital procurement arrangement would be implemented in April 2018.  Her attention then turned to the Council’s existing ICT systems and indicated that a number of reviews had been undertaken of the Council’s existing ICT systems and cited as an example the trialling of Google Chrome.  Following a business review of the trial, the Council had decided not to pursue the procurement of Google Chrome software and she further indicated that the Council was looking at the feasibility of trialling other software systems.  Separately, the Council had evaluated the possible move to using “Cloud” based software, however, due to operational requirements and the ability of existing Oracle systems interfacing with each other, a decision had been made not to pursue “Cloud” based technology as it only could be partly implemented.  Lastly, she indicated that the ICT service had recently undergone a restructuring and this had been completed.

 

The Head of Human Resources, in referring to voluntary staff turnover, indicated that the year on year comparison percentage figure had slightly increased from 7% to 7.49% and was better than the Welsh average.  That said, he indicated that he was disappointed and referred to specific “hot spots” where recruitment was challenging e.g. Children’s Services, engineers, planning and auditors.  In addition and as an attempt to address these issues, the Council had been proactive in terms of its staff engagement processes, succession planning and developing management skills and cited the Council’s award winning Leadership Café.  Separately, the Council was also focusing on its 16-24 year old agenda and seeking to increase the number of exit questionnaires returned to the Authority.  Lastly, he reminded Members that service reconfiguration was also a contributory factor in the overall turnover rate.

 

A Member, in referring to the report overall, considered it to be a good position to be at and commended staff for their efforts.  He further referred to joint scrutiny arrangements of the collaborative Shared Regulatory Service and enquired of progress in establishing such.  In response, the Operational Manager for Democratic Services acknowledged that the action had slipped and alluded to the current impasse between the three Authorities in terms of providing resources to support joint scrutiny arrangements.  He also indicated that he would be raising the matter shortly with the Director of Environment and Housing who was the Lead Director on this matter. 

 

The Chairman, in referring to earlier comments regarding the use of “Cloud” technology, expressed some concern that the Council was not seeking to utilise this potential.  He enquired of the Head of Finance of the options being pursued by the Council in the event of the Council deciding not to use this technology.  In response, the Head of Finance indicated that currently the Shared Regulatory Service utilised a “Cloud” based solution.  However, there were concerns regarding the financial implications of utilising “Cloud” based technology (revenue and capital) and presently the business case did not support a move to such technology.  She gave an assurance that current computing systems were reviewed system by system and in a timely manner.  Staff were provided with the appropriate equipment to enable them to work in an agile way.  The Chairman, in response to these comments, requested that the business case for all ICT options including related financial costs when considering ICT infrastructure options in the future including “Cloud” based options be made available to the Scrutiny Committee.  In response, the Head of Finance indicated that this information could be shared and this would be based on a financial / service basis. 

 

Having regard to the report and the above discussions, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the End of Year (2016-17) Performance Report in relation to Corporate Health and the progress towards achieving key outcomes in line with the Council’s Corporate Plan Well-being Outcomes and Corporate Health, be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure that the Council was effectively assessing the performance in line with the requirement to secure continuous improvement outlined in the Local Government Measure (Wales) 2009 and reflecting the requirement of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act that it maximises its contribution to achieving the well-being goals for Wales.

 

 

177     REVENUE MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST MAY 2017 (MD) –

 

The Scrutiny Committee was updated by the Head of Finance of progress relating to revenue expenditure for the above period.  Progress in respect of specific budgets was set out below.

 

Learning and Skills

 

The Directorate was projecting a balanced budget with an anticipated use of resources.  However, the Head of Finance indicated that there would still be pressure on the service in the coming year.

 

Schools – The delegated budget relating to schools was expected to balance as any under / over spend was carried forward by schools.

 

Achievement for All – This service was anticipated to outturn at budget after drawing down £200,000 from the School Placement reserve.  The recoupment income budget continued to be under significant pressure and would be monitored carefully over the coming months.

 

Other Services – At this early stage in the financial year, all other services were anticipated to outturn within budget.

 

The Directorate had requested to vire budget between service headings.  A virement of £520,000 was required from the Achievement for All budget to the overall Schools budget in respect of the transfer of the out of county income budget for enhanced placements at Ysgol Y Deri.

 

Due to the senior management restructure and the allocation of savings, there were a number of virements required within the Directorate.  These are summarised as follows:  

 

 

Virement

£’000

School Improvement

-1

Strategy and Regulation

-8

Strategy, Community   Learning and Resources

-62

Achievement for All

+71

TOTAL

0

 

The Committee noted that the virements in respect of certain services anticipating drawing down funding from reserves was set out in the table of information at paragraph 3 in the report. 

 

Provision had also been made within the budget to make unsupported borrowing debt repayments in relation to the Schools Investment Strategy of £598,000 per annum and any favourable variance on debt repayments would be directed into the Schools Investment Strategy.

 

Social Services

 

As it was very early in the financial year, the forecast for Social Services was shown as a balanced budget.  However, there would be great pressure on the service in the coming year and this position may not be achieved.

 

Children and Young People Services – The major issue concerning this service for the coming year would be the pressure on the children’s placements budget given the complexities of the children currently being supported.  Work continued to ensure that children were placed in the most appropriate and cost effective placements.  However, it should be noted that due to the potential high cost of each placement, the outturn position could fluctuate with a change in the number of Looked After Children and / or the complexity of need.  This budget would be closely monitored during the year.

 

Adult Services – The major issue concerning this service for the coming year would continue to be the pressure on the Community Care Packages budget.  This budget was extremely volatile and was influenced by legislative changes such as the National Living Wage.  At this early stage of the year, the outturn position was difficult to predict.  Final negotiations regarding fee levels had yet to be concluded with service providers.  The service also continued to be affected by the pressures of continued demographic growth and the Community Care Packages budget would have to achieve further savings this year.  The service would strive to manage growing demand and would develop savings initiatives which may be funded via regional grants.  Welsh Government had continued to provide Intermediate Care Fund (ICF) grant to Cardiff and Vale University Health Board to allow collaborative working between Health and Cardiff and the Vale Councils, however the level of grant funding was not guaranteed on an ongoing basis.  Additional funding had been announced by Welsh Government recently.  The Social Care Workforce Grant which totalled £10m across Wales had provided additional funding of £371,000 to the Council.  A further £20m had also been announced by Welsh Government, however details as to the exact use and allocation to the Council had yet to be received.

 

Environment and Housing

 

It was early in the financial year, however, it was currently projected that this service would outturn within target at year end with an anticipated use of reserves.

 

Highways and Engineering – There was currently a £61,000 favourable variance against the profiled budget.  The main reason was due to vacant posts currently within the department, however, key posts had recently been filled by Agency staff therefore it was currently projected that the budget would outturn on target.

 

Waste Management – There was currently an adverse variance of £16,000 to the profiled budget.  The variance to date was due to overspends on staffing and transportation costs.  The Waste Management budget had been reduced in 2017/18 for further vehicle savings however the department was unlikely to be able to achieve these in the short term due to the increased distance that had to be travelled as all waste disposal points were now situated in Cardiff.  Due to this, £200,000 was set aside in the Visible Services Reserve at the end of 2016/17 to offset these pressures in 2017/18.  It was currently anticipated that the budget would outturn on target.

 

Leisure – There was currently an adverse variance of £15,000 to the profiled budget. The main reason was due to the high costs for vehicles during the start of the Grounds Maintenance season.  It was anticipated that this would reduce over the winter months and therefore it was currently projected that the overall budget would outturn on target.

 

Transportation – There was currently a favourable variance of £11,000 against the profiled budget.  Staffing costs within the division were lower than budgeted to date. There was also a slight underspend within the supported buses budget which was assisting the current favourable position.  As it was early in the year, it was currently anticipated that this service would outturn on budget for 2017/18.

 

Visible Services Reshaping Services Savings Target – In 2017/18 there was a savings target of £525,000 allocated to Visible Services from the current Reshaping Services programme.  The proposed means of achieving this saving had been approved by Cabinet on 24th April, 2017 and was through the introduction of a new target operating model for the service.  This savings target had yet to be allocated to specific services and was being held centrally within the Visible Services budget pending the implementation of the new service model which was anticipated to commence from September 2017 onwards. 

 

Regulatory Services – The allocation of £2.1666m represented the Vale of Glamorgan's budget for its share of the Shared Regulatory Service (SRS).  A separate set of accounts was maintained for the SRS and periodically reported to the Shared Regulatory Service Joint Committee.  At this stage in the year it was anticipated that the SRS would outturn on target.

 

Council Fund Housing – At this early stage of the year, it was anticipated that this budget would outturn on target.

 

Public Sector Housing (HRA) – The HRA was expected to outturn on target and any underspends in year would be offset by additional contributions to Capital Expenditure thus reducing the reliance on Unsupported Borrowing.

 

Managing Director and Resources

 

It was early in the financial year, however, it was currently projected that this service would outturn within target at year end.

 

Resources – It was anticipated that this service would outturn within budget.

 

Regeneration – This budget covered the Countryside, Economic Development and Tourism and Events functions.  There was currently a favourable variance of £21,000 against the profiled budget due in the main to staff vacancy savings whilst awaiting for re-appointments to be made.  At this stage it was anticipated that this service would outturn on target.

 

Development Management – There was currently a £27,000 favourable variance against the profiled budget for May, mostly due to staff vacancies and higher than anticipated Building Regulation fees to date.  As it was early in the financial year it was anticipated that this service would outturn on target.

 

Private Housing – As it was very early in the financial year there was currently no variance to the profiled budget.

 

General Policy – It was anticipated that this service would outturn within budget.

 

2017/18 Savings Targets

 

As part of the Final Revenue Budget Proposals for 2017/18, a savings target of £4.017m was set for the Authority.  Attached at Appendix 1 to the report was a statement detailing all savings targets for 2017/18.  Some services were in the process of finalising options prior to full implementation.  Updates on progress would be provided to Members during the year.

 

It was anticipated that the £244,000 Transport Review savings for Visible Services would not be achieved in full this year.  As detailed earlier in this report, funding had been ringfenced in the Visible Service Fund to cover the projected shortfall for the service, of which £144,000 related to this savings target.

 

A Member, in referring to various factors of the report and in particular to Appendix A and savings proposals, expressed disquiet at the ongoing reduction of staff and queried the implications for services.  Separately, he was also concerned at the reduction of corporate grants available to various organisations and the resulting impact on those organisations to undertake their various work aspects.  In response and referring to savings in particular in Adult Services, she indicated that a Budget Board had been established to have oversight of the various saving requirements to be made by the service and discussions were currently ongoing regarding how these savings could be achieved and she anticipated that a further report would be available in time for the next meeting of the Scrutiny Committee.  In regard to the Corporate Budget and in relation to the Corporate Centre savings in the sum of £1.4m were required to be found, she was confident that £800,000 of this amount would be achieved in the current financial year with a further £600,000 to be found in the next financial year.  In relation to staff reductions, these related to service establishments’ vacant posts and these would now be used to offset the savings required to be found in the current and next financial year.

 

In regard to grant support to third sector organisations, she referred to a recent report submitted to the Council’s Community Liaison Committee with Town and Community Councils and the Voluntary Sector Joint Liaison Committee following the approval by the Cabinet earlier in the year of new arrangements for grant funding built around drawing together existing funding streams including Section 106 funding and would now be called the “Stronger Communities Grant Fund”. 

 

Another Member referred to the proposed arrangements set out in paragraphs 5 and 8 of the report and acknowledged the issues facing the Achievement for All budget and questioned the virement of £520,000 from the Achievement for All budget to the overall Schools Budget and considered it to be more appropriate to put this virement sum into a reserve whereby schools could draw down additional funding but under the expectation of providing a business case to do so.  The Head of Finance indicated that the proposals to vire this amount to the Schools Budget would be closely managed, however once the virement had been made, it would be difficult to claw back the funding at a later date.  The Member also referred to paragraph 14 of the report and made reference to the Community Care Budget and requested that an update report be provided on the position in regard to residential fees as soon as practicable.  The Member also touched on the savings target required to be made by Visible Services and sought clarification regarding the amount of savings to be achieved relating to the Transport Review savings.  The Head of Finance, in responding to this point, clarified the position indicating that Visible Services would be required to find £244,000. 

 

The Chairman, in referring to the Out of County income budget for enhanced placements at Ysgol y Deri, expressed the view that officers should monitor the situation very closely and concurred with the suggestion of the Member regarding the placement of the proposed virement of £520,000 from the Achievement for All budget to the overall Schools Budget would be better managed by creating a reserve fund where schools could draw down additional funding but with the expectation of providing an appropriate business case to receive funding. 

 

Having regard to the contents of the report and the above discussions, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the Authority’s 2017/18 Revenue Budget be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T Cabinet be requested to give consideration to creating a reserve for schools to draw down from for additional funding in regard to the proposed virement of £520,000 from the Achievement for All budget.

 

(3)       T H A T the virement of £71,000 to the Achievement for All budget with a reduction of £1,000 from the School Improvement budget, £8,000 reduction from the Strategy and Regulation budget and £62,000 from the Strategy, Culture and Community Learning and Resources budget be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Members of the projected revenue outturn for 2017/18.

 

(2)       To request Cabinet to put appropriate arrangements in place regarding the establishment of a reserve to ensure that schools made a business case when drawing down additional funding and to allow the budget spend to be appropriately monitored.

 

(3)       To align the budget with organisational changes.

 

 

178     CAPITAL MONITORING REPORT FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST MAY 2017 (MD) –

 

The Head of Finance provided the Scrutiny Committee with an update on the 2017/18 Capital Programme for the above period. 

 

Appendix 1 detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st May, 2017.  She indicated that the monitoring report showed actual expenditure for the month of May 2017 and was matched by a similar figure in the profile to date column, thereby showing no variances.  Profiled expenditure had been requested from Project Managers and would be updated in the next report to the Committee.

 

The following matters were noted:

 

Social Services

 

Flying Start Family Centre – An emergency power was approved on 3rd May, 2017 to include a new budget of £30,000 in the 2017/18 Capital Programme, to be funded from a Welsh Government Grant.  This funding would be used to carry out rewiring works at the Family Centre.

 

Social Services Asset Renewal – A delegated authority had been approved to allocate the £100,000 Asset Renewal budget as follows:

 

Scheme

Budget

£'000

91 Salisbury Road, boiler renewal

45

Cartref Porthceri, external repairs

10

Residential Homes, internal refurbishment

10

Fire Precaution Works

20

Southway EPH, asbestos removal

15

Total

100

 

 

Environment and Housing

 

Additional Resurfacing – £500,000 had been included in both the 2017/18 and 2018/19 Capital Programmes for additional resurfacing works.  To prevent roads deteriorating further and to prevent further costs as a result of this, it had been requested that £500,000 be brought forward from 2018/19 into the 2017/18 Capital Programme.  This was to be funded from the Visible Services Reserve.

 

Dinas Powys to Cardiff Corridor Bus Priority Measures – It had been requested that £22,000 be included in the Capital Programme for a new Visim model at the Merrie Harrier Junction.  This was to be funded from Section 106 monies.

 

Visible and Transport Services Asset Renewal – A delegated authority had been approved to allocate the £450,000 Asset Renewal budget as follows:

 

Scheme

Budget

£'000

Asset Renewal Traffic Management Measures

150

Asset Renewal Improvements to traffic signal equipment at various locations

25

Public Convenience Provision

25

Coastal Infrastructure Provision

50

Leisure and Parks Asset Renewal

170

Community Centres

30

Total

450

 

Romilly Mess Room – This scheme was estimated to cost £16,000 more than anticipated due to additional drainage work requirements (linking into mains drainage).  A virement of £16,000 had been requested from Parks and Grounds Maintenance Asset Renewal to Romilly Mess Room. 

 

Managing Director and Resources

 

Five Mile Lane – This scheme had been delayed due to the tendering process and the archaeological investigation.  As a result, Capita had been asked to reprofile the scheme spend.  It was anticipated that £9.3m would be spent in 2017/18 and it had therefore been requested to carry forward £8.279m into 2018/19 Capital Programme.

 

Harbour Road Car Park Cycleway Scheme (Phase 5) – Managing Director’s Emergency Powers were approved on 28th  March, 2017 to carry forward the match funding of £70,000 into 2017/18 Capital Programme for Harbour Road Car Park Cycleway Scheme Phase 5

 

Harbour Road Car Park Cycleway Scheme (Phase 5) – It had been requested that this scheme be increased by £70,000 for continued footway improvement works as per the Active Travel Plan.  This was to be funded from Section 106 monies.

 

Tackling Poverty – Managing Director’s Emergency Powers were approved on 24th April, 2017 to carry forward £121,000 relating to the Holton Road Grant Programme into the 2017/18 Capital Programme.  The slippage was requested to comply with the match funding requirements of the Welsh Government’s Vibrant and Viable Places funding award, to honour an existing funding commitment in respect of grant awarded for works to Holton Road and to match forecast demand in the project pipeline.

 

Dochdwy Road Public Open Space – It had been requested that a new capital scheme for £40,000 be included in the 2017/18 Capital Programme to improve the park.  This was to be funded from Section 106 monies.

 

Sustainable Transport Improvements Penarth Heights – It had been requested that the scheme be increased by £35,000 to implement raised speed bumps on Plassey Street.  This was to be funded from Section 106 monies.  

 

Castleland Renewal Area – Delegated Authority had been approved to increase the Capital Programme by £85,000 to continue upgrading the Gladstone Gardens by upgrading
the footways; improving the access points into the park; installing new site furniture; improving the pond; and the planting of trees, shrubs and bulbs.  This was to be funded from Section 106 monies.

 

Alps Garage Heating Upgrade – The heating of the Alps Garage required urgent replacement due to the failure of the existing system.  This scheme would cost £52,000; £25,000 was to be funded from the Facilities Management Revenue Budget and £27,000 from the Carbon Management fund which was already included in the Capital Programme.  It had therefore been requested to increase the 2017/18 Capital Programme by £25,000 to be funded from a revenue contribution from the Facilities Management Revenue budget and to vire £27,000 from the Carbon Management Fund scheme.

 

Carbon Management Fund – Managing Director’s Emergency Powers were approved on 8th June, 2017 to request the inclusion of £180,000 for this budget in the 2017/18 Capital Programme, to be funded from the Energy Management Fund. 

 

A Member referred to the Coldbrook Flood Management Alleviation Scheme and enquired of the completion date of this project and separately referred to the various compliance works that would be undertaken in schools and enquired if this work would be completed within the Summer holiday break or whether some of the works would be slipped later in the year dependant on progress.  The Head of Finance indicated that a report would be submitted to the next Cabinet meeting on the Flood Alleviation Scheme and understood that the Scheme was anticipated to be completed by the end of August 2017.  In regard to compliance works being undertaken in schools, she referred to a programme of works that would be undertaken and in the event of any works not being completed within the Summer holiday break, these would be slipped into a later programme to be completed as soon as practicable within the current financial year.  She also indicated that she would be in a better position to report on any related slippages and completions later in the year. 

 

Another Member referred to the Alps Garage Heating Scheme and enquired if an appropriate energy efficiency scheme had been considered.  In response, the Head of Finance indicated that the Council’s Energy Manager had been consulted and provided advice on the most effective solution which was developed and was proposed to be undertaken.

 

The Chairman referred to the upgrade of Five Mile Lane, acknowledging also Welsh Government funding for this scheme.  He sought an assurance from the Head of Finance that there would be no financial implications for the Council as a consequence of any slippage in the scheme’s programme.  In response, the Head of Finance indicated that the Council was managing the scheme on behalf of the Welsh Government and any changes to the programme in terms of slippage would be discussed as soon as possible and there was no risk financially to the Council regarding slippage issues.

 

Having regard to the contents of the report and the above discussions, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the progress made on the 2017/18 Capital Programme be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the use of Delegated Authority to undertake the following matters be noted: 

  • Allocate the Social Services Asset Renewal budget to individual schemes
  • Allocate the Visible and Transport Services Asset Renewal budget
  • Increase the 2017/18 Capital Programme by £85,000 for Castleland Renewal Area to be funded from Section 106 monies.

(3)       T H A T the use of the Managing Director’s Emergency Powers to undertake the following matters be noted: 

  • Approve the inclusion of a £30,000 Welsh Government grant for the Flying Start Family Centre
  • Carry forward £70,000 into 2017/18 Capital Programme for Harbour Road Car Park Cycleway Scheme (Phase 5)
  • Carry forward £121,000 into 2017/18 Capital Programme for Tackling Poverty Scheme Holton Road Grant Programme element.

(4)       T H A T the following changes to the 2017/18 and 2018/19 Capital Programme as indicated below be noted: 

  • Additional Resurfacing – To bring forward £500,000 from 2018/19 Capital Programme into 2017/18 Capital Programme.  This to be funded from the Visible Services Reserve
  • Five Mile Lane – To carry forward £8.279m into 2018/19 Capital Programme.

(5)       T H A T the following changes to the 2017/18 Capital Programme be noted as follows:

  • Dinas Powys to Cardiff Corridor Bus Priority Measures – To include £22,000 to be funded from Section 106 monies
  • Harbour Road Car Park Cycleway Scheme (Phase 5) – To increase this scheme by £70,000 to be funded from Section 106 monies
  • Dochdwy Road Public Open Space – To include a new scheme for £40,000 funded from Section 106 monies
  • Sustainable Transport Improvements Penarth Heights – To increase this scheme by £35,000 to be funded from Section 106 monies
  • Romilly Mess Room – To vire £16,000 from Parks and Grounds Maintenance Asset Renewal to Romilly Mess Room 
  • Alps Garage Heating Upgrade – To include a new scheme for £25,000 to be funded from Facilities Management Revenue Budget and to vire £27,000 from the Carbon Management Fund scheme.

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Members of progress and amendments to the Capital Programme for 2017/18.

 

(2)       In acknowledgement of the use of officers’ Delegated Authority.

 

(3)       In acknowledgement of the use of the Managing Director’s Emergency Powers.

 

(4)       To allow the schemes to proceed in the current and future financial years.

 

(5)       To allow schemes to proceed in the current financial year.

 

 

179     CLOSURE OF ACCOUNTS 2016/17 (MD) –

 

Council, on 2nd March, 2016 (Minute No. 885), agreed the Authority’s budget requirements for 2016/17.  This represented budgeted net expenditure for the Authority of £213.288m with the total expenditure to be financed by Revenue Support Grant (£112.506m), National Non-Domestic Rates contribution (£37.942m) and Council Taxpayers (£62.84m).  The Standards Spending Assessment for the year was £213.878m. 

 

The Revenue Budgets had been amended and approved by Cabinet during the financial year, however, they were at the same overall net level as the original budget of £213.288m, which was after the planned use of £1.5m from the Council Fund.  Appendix 1 to the report amended the revised budget to take account of the following adjustments and there was no overall effect on the Authority i.e. IAS 19 Retirement Benefits, Asset Rents, Leave Accrual Adjustment and Carbon Reduction Commitment Scheme. 

 

Set out below is a table comparing the amended budget and the actual expenditure, including transfers to and from reserves for the Authority.  It was noted that the final column showed the net transfers to reserves for each Directorate which had been included within the actual expenditure figures:

 

Service

 

Year - 2016/17

Original Revenue Budget

Amended Revenue Budget

Total Provisional Actual

Variance +Favourable  ()   Adverse

Net Transfer to/(From) Reserve

 

       £000

       £000

       £000

       £000

 

Learning and Skills

 

 

 

 

 

Schools

-

81,008

81,008

0

 

Strategy, Culture, Community Learning & Resources

-

13,919

13,859

+60

 

Strategy and Regulation

-

250

207

+43

 

Achievement for All

-

3,574

3,769

(195)

 

School Improvement

-

1,241

1,149

+92

 

Prior to Reorganisation

99,359

 

 

 

 

Total

99,359

99,992

99,992

0

(478)

Social Services

 

 

 

 

 

Children and Young People

14,858

14,959

14,949

+10

 

Adult Services

39,906

40,264

40,253

+11

 

Resource Mgt & Safeguarding

295

317

304

+13

 

Youth Offending Service

696

707

704

+3

 

Total

55,755

56,247

56,210

+37

+794

Environment and   Housing

 

 

 

 

 

Visible Services

20,068

20,522

20,652

(130)

 

Transportation

4,834

4,844

4,708

+136

 

Building Services

0

14

14

0

 

Regulatory Services

2,056

2,221

2,221

0

 

Council Fund Housing

744

1,011

1,011

0

 

Total

27,702

28,612

28,606

+6

+864

Managing Director   and Resources

 

 

 

 

 

Resources

920

281

(148)

+429

 

Regeneration

2,172

2,164

2,023

+141

 

Development Management

958

996

1,180

(184)

 

Private Housing

11,262

11,033

10,979

+54

 

Total

15,312

14,474

14,034

+440

+636

General Policy

16,660

15,463

18,244

(2,781)

+2,941

Total Net Budget

214,788

214,788

217,086

(2,298)

 

Council Tax Surplus

0

0

(2,335)

2,335

+2,335

Use of Reserves

(1,500)

(1,500)

(1,463)

(37)

(1,463)

TOTAL

213,288

213,288

213,288

0

+5,629

 

The main reasons for the variances were set out in paragraphs 8 to 93 of the report and in outline related to the following matters:

 

Learning and Skills –

  • Schools – breakeven (schools had made a net withdrawal of £624,000 from school balances in order to outturn at the 2016/17 budget).
  • Strategy, Culture, Community Learning and Resources – a favourable variance of £60,000.
  • Strategy and Regulation – a favourable variance of £43,000.
  • Achievement for All – an adverse variance of £195,000.
  • School Improvement – a favourable variance of £92,000.

Social Services –

  • Children and Young People Services – a favourable variance of £10,000 (there had been a number of favourable variances during the year totalling £720,000 which had allowed for a transfer of £710,000 into Social Services Reserves).
  • Adult Services – a favourable variance of £11,000 (there had been a number of favourable variances during the year totalling £1.097m which had allowed a transfer of £890,000 into Social Services reserves).

-       A transfer of £99,000 had been made into the Telecare Reserve.

  • Resource Management and Safeguarding – a favourable variance of £13,000.
  • Youth Offending Service – a favourable variance of £3,000.

Environment and Housing –

  • Visible Services and Transportation – a favourable variance of £6,000 (there had been a number of favourable variances totalling £381,000 which had been offset by a transfer to the Visible Services reserve of £375,000).

-       Waste Management and Cleansing  a favourable variance of £1,000

-       Highways and Engineers – a favourable variance of £273,000 (there was a planned use of £976,000 from the Visible Services Reserve to fund resurfacing works)

-       Civil Protection Unit – breakeven

-       Leisure – an adverse variance of £39,000

-       Transportation – favourable variance of £146,000

-       Building Services – breakeven

-       Regulatory Services – breakeven

-       Council Fund Housing – breakeven.

 

Managing Director and Resources –

  • Resources – a favourable variance of £429,000
  • Finance and ICT – a favourable variance of £439,000
  • Property and Office Accommodation – an adverse variance of £58,000
  • Human Resources – breakeven
  • Performance and Development – an adverse variance of £1,000
  • Management / Legal Services / Elections – an adverse variance of £36,000 (there had been a transfer of £48,000 to the legal Services Reserve)
  • Democratic Services – a favourable variance of £85,000 (there had been a transfer of £48,000 to the Democratic and Freedom of Information Reserve to fund future equipment)
  • Regeneration – a favourable variance of £141,000 (there had been a transfer of £87,000 to the Regeneration and Planning Reserve)
  • Development Management – an adverse variance of £184,000 (there was a net transfer of £16,000 from the Building Control Reserve for the year relating to the Trading Account)
  • Private Sector Housing – a favourable variance of £47,000
  • Rent Allowances / Council Tax Benefits – a favourable variance of £7,000 (there was a transfer of £900,000 with £500,000 allocated to the Council Buildings Fund and £400,000 to the Visible Services Reserve for Big Fill
  • General Policy – an adverse variance of £2.781m (there had been a number of favourable variances during the year totalling £4.142m which now allowed for the allocation of a further £1.15m to reserves with £1.1m being transferred into a City Deal Reserve and £50,000 for Legal Challenges.  There had also been a revenue contribution to capital of £1.647m to support the Capital Programme)
  • Council Tax – a favourable variance of £2.335m.

Council, on 2nd March, 2016 (Minute No. 883) agreed the Authority’s 2016/17 Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget.  The 2016/17 HRA budget resulted in a deficit of £510,000 compared to the amended budget deficit of £768,000.  A breakdown of this was set out in Appendix 2 to the report.  The HRA reserve opened at £1.468m and closed at £958,000.

 

The net favourable HRA revenue budget variance of £258,000 was identified over the following areas: 

  • Supervision and Management – a favourable variance of £441,000
  • Supervision and Management Special Services – a favourable variance of £239,000
  • Housing Repairs – a favourable variance of £78,000
  • Capital Financing Costs – a favourable variance of £213,000
  • Rents, Rates, Taxes and Other Charges – a favourable variance of £15,000
  • Increase in the Provision for Bad and Doubtful Debts – a favourable variance of £5,000
  • Capital Expenditure from Revenue Account – an adverse variance of £798,000
  • Rent Collected on Dwellings – a favourable variance of £41,000
  • Non Dwelling Rents – breakeven
  • Interest Received – breakeven
  • Charges for Services and Facilities – a favourable variance of £24,000.

The total Insurance Fund comprised of both a provision and a reserve.  The provision represented potential liabilities on known claims and the reserve related to claims not yet made.  An assessment was made as to the level of known claims and it was considered that the level of provision should be reduced and therefore £122,000 was transferred into the reserve to fund unknown potential claims in the future.  A breakdown in respect of this is set out in the below table of information:

 

 

Provision

Reserve

Total

 

£000

£000

£000

Opening Balance

2,877

1,743

4,620

Surplus on Insurance Transactions

0

680

680

Transfers In/(Out)

(241)

122

(119)

Closing Balance

2,636

2,545

5,181

 

The Trading Organisations referred were made up of the Building Maintenance, Caretaking and Security and Building Cleaning services. 

 

The provisional figures for the Trading Services showed an overall gross surplus of £65,000, details of which are set out:

 

 

Building Mtce

Building Cleaning

Caretaking

and Security

Total

 

£,000 

£,000

£,000

£,000

(Surplus)/ Deficit

(8)

100

(83)

9

 

                           

 

Less: Building   Maintenance

(49)

 

 

 

SURPLUS

(40)

 

Council, on 2nd March, 2016 (Minute No. 884) agreed the Authority’s Capital Budget for 2016/17.  The overall position for the revised 2016/17 Capital Programme was a variance of £9.438m against a total Capital Budget of £59.472m.  Set out at Appendix 3 to the report was a statement detailing the outturn by scheme and related to the following:

 

Learning and Skills –

 

The overall outturn for the above Directorate was a variance of £1.831m against a Capital Budget of £17.141m with the major variances relating to the below matters:

  • Llantwit Major Learning Community – slippage of £355,000
  • Barry Comprehensive School Internal and External Refurbishment Works – slippage of £508,000
  • St. Bride’s Expansion – slippage of £118,000
  • School Loans Scheme – a favourable variance of £200,000
  • Penarth Learning Community – slippage of £123,000.

Social Services –

 

The overall outturn for the above Directorate was a variance of £87,000 against a Capital Budget of £699,000.  Slippage of £104,000 had been requested.

 

Environment and Housing –

 

The overall outturn for the above Directorate was a variance of £5.42m against a Capital Budget of £31.431m.  This comprised of £2.561m for Housing Services and £2.859m for Visible Services.  Late grant approvals for Flood Risk Management of £45,000, Coast Protection and Land Drainage of £26,000 and £9,000 for Active Travel were received from Welsh Government and had been included in the respective budgets set out in Appendix 3 to the report and the major variances related to the following matters: 

  • WHQS External Works – expenditure brought forward of £488,000
  • Jenner Road – slippage of £215,000
  • St. Luke’s – a favourable variance of £204,000
  • Williams Crescent – a favourable variance of £777,000
  • Emergency Works – a favourable variance of £409,000
  • Aids and Adaptations – a favourable variance of £210,000
  • Regeneration – slippage £196,000
  • Common Parts – slippage of £234,000
  • Environmental Works – slippage of £245,000
  • New Build – a variance of £280,000
  • ICF Longmeadow Court – slippage of £141,000
  • Asset Renewal – slippage of £374,000
  • Coldbrook Flood Risk Management – slippage of £847,000
  • Dimming of Street Lighting / Fitting of LED Lanterns – slippage of £544,000
  • Boverton Flooding – slippage of £266,000
  • Leisure Centre Refurbishment – slippage of £229,000
  • Cemetery Approach – slippage of £214,000. 

Managing Director and Resources –

 

The overall outturn in respect of the above Directorate was a variance of £2.1m against a capital budget of £10.201m.  A late grant approval of £46,000 for Renewal Areas had been received from Welsh Government and had been included in the Capital Budget as set out in Appendix 3 to the report.  Major variances were set out below and related to the following matters: 

  • Barry Regeneration Partnership – slippage of £259,000
  • Five Mile Lane – slippage of £305,000
  • High Street / Broad Street Traffic Management – slippage of £108,000
  • Castleland Renewal Area – slippage of £171,000
  • Penarth Renewal Area – slippage of £161,000
  • Space Project – expenditure brought forward of £114,000
  • Carbon Management Fund – a favourable variance of £192,000
  • DDA Adaptations to Council Buildings – slippage of £125,000.

As part of the 2017/18 Revenue Budget setting process, each specific reserve had been reviewed and considered in light of the Council’s priorities with it being highlighted that there were considerable commitments which would require funding from reserves in the coming years e.g. Band B 21st Century Schools Investment Programme. 

 

Set out in Appendix 4 was a schedule showing the Council’s reserves as at 31st March, 2017.  The following table showed the net movement in reserves for 2016/17 relating to the Council Fund and for specific reserves.  This table excluded the HRA reserve as detailed in Appendix 2 and the Insurance Fund where the movement had been detailed elsewhere in the report.  The value of transfers out of reserves used to fund capital expenditure was £8.322m with a net transfer into reserves from revenue of £5.629m.  Transfers into reserves could be used to fund future revenue or capital expenditure.

 

Net Movement on Reserves Excluding   HRA & Insurance

Balance as at 31st  March 2016

£000

Balance as at 31st  March  017

£000

Net Movement

 

£000

Council Fund

10,072

9,309

(763)

Specific Reserves

65,164

64,664

(500)

School Balances

2,950

2,322

(628)

Reverse out Insurance Fund

(1,743)

(2,545)

(802)

Total Movement

76,443

73,750

(2,693)

 

 

 

 

Of which:

 

£000

Reduction in reserves for Capital expenditure

(8,322)

Transfers into reserves from Revenue

+5,629

Net Movement

 

(2,693)

 

The Cardiff Capital Region City Deal, brought together ten Local Authorities and financial support from Welsh and UK Governments to generate significant economic growth and to improve transport and other infrastructure within the Cardiff Capital Region over the next 20 years.  The contribution to be made by the Council could be substantial over the coming years, however the specific values and the timing of these contributions were yet to be determined and would depend on the final terms of any “deal”.  It was anticipated that the Council would need to carry out unsupported borrowing which would require revenue funding to be identified to support these loans.  It was considered prudent that at this time an amount of funding was set aside to support potential financial commitments and therefore a City Deal fund had been set up with an allocation of £1.25m.

 

The Council had currently committed funding for the Big Fill initiative until 31st March, 2018.  There were still further works to be carried out across the Vale and therefore £500,000 had been transferred into the Visible Services reserve to allow the initiative to continue into 2018/19 and would be part of the revenue budget.

 

It was also proposed that £500,000 would be placed in the Council Building Fund to contribute towards financing capital schemes.  £100,000 would be allocated to the Visible Service Fund to carry out works to the shelters at Barry Island costing £75,000 and to Penarth Pier with a contribution of £25,000. 

 

Funds no longer required as reserves may be transferred to the Council Fund to be used for other purposes.

 

There had been transfers into reserves for reimbursements from services for works where the initial cost was funded from that specific reserve e.g. Computer Renewal Fund, Project Fund, Vehicle Repairs and Renewals, Schools Rationalisation Fund and the Energy Management Fund.

 

The reserves had been reviewed and were currently considered adequate for reported uses, subject to the adjustments detailed in the report.  The transfers detailed above have been included in the Appendix.  There were large commitments against these reserves in future years, in the main to fund the approved Capital Programme.

 

Under the Resource Implications (Financial and Employment) to the report, details of revenue matters (including savings targets) were set out in paragraphs 104 to 109, similarly matters relating to the Capital Budget were set out in paragraphs 110 to 115 of the report. 

 

A Member referred to the level of reserves set out in the report and referred to information regarding the level of reserves when presented to Council when it was considering setting the Council Tax.  He referred to the £15m difference in reserves set out in the report and to that information provided to Council at the time as alluded to above.  He was also pleased to see the Social Services favourable variance, but expressed some disquiet at the favourable variances in regard to Discretionary Housing benefit payments and the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and sought an assurance from the Head of Finance that the Council was making every effort to advertise the availability of funding to support those most vulnerable in society.  In response, the Head of Finance indicated that the favourable variance regarding Social Services related to unfilled posts, however, this was likely to reduce as efforts were currently being made to fill vacancies.  Also, the favourable variance related to more than anticipated deferred payments in respect of Community Care Packages.  In regard to Council Tax, the Head of Finance indicated that there had been an over-collection of Council Tax and that there had also been an increase in the Council Tax base due to the number of new house buildings taking place in the Vale of Glamorgan.  She then touched upon Discretionary Housing Payments and indicated that the Welsh Government Grant would be fully spent including £30,000, part of the Council’s funding allocation to support those most in need.  The Council Tax Reduction Scheme budget would remain the same as in the previous year. 

 

The Chairman, in referring to the historical Council Tax rises in the Vale of Glamorgan suggested that to the average Council Tax payer in the Vale of Glamorgan, when taking account of reserves held by the Council would see further Council Tax rises difficult to justify.  He enquired of the Head of Finance if it was possible to be more accurate when setting Council Tax rates in the future.  The Head of Finance indicated that it was difficult to be precise given the number of unknown factors and referred to the number of new homes being built in the Vale of Glamorgan each year and future Council Tax collection rates and enforcement levels.  She indicated that the Council Tax base would be reviewed again in September 2017 and reminded the Committee that Council Tax collection rates and enforcement performance could not be guaranteed in the future.  Officers, in consultation with the Members, had been prudent when considering such issues and it was likely that any surpluses in future years would be reduced.  A Member echoed the comments of the Head of Finance and reminded the Committee also that it had only two sources of income, these being Council Tax and National Non-Domestic Rates.  Assumptions had to be made relating to certain matters and referred to the impact of the Welfare Reform Bill and potential increases in debt and assumed Council Tax collection rates.  He also indicated that the Council had been historically prudent with any surpluses allowing the Council to undertake non-planned work and provided the Council with a financial buffer.

 

Having regard the contents of the report and to the above issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the financial measures taken and proposed as detailed in the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of the provisional financial position and actions that have been taken.

 

 

180     WELFARE REFORM – PROGRESS REPORT (MD) –

Universal Credit (UC) was implemented in the County on 22nd February, 2016.  The pace of the implementation remained slow and  therefore had had a minimal impact on Housing Benefit caseload with only 65 Housing Benefit claims having stopped  due to an award of UC.  The UC roll out to full service in the Vale of Glamorgan would begin in June 2018 and so numbers were expected to remain low until this point.  Customers remained entitled to Council Tax Reduction while on Universal Credit even if their Housing Benefit award was stopped.  The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions had stated that the managed migration of existing Housing Benefit claims to UC claims was intended to commence in July 2019 and be completed by March 2022.

 

During the period February 2016 to the end of April 2017, the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) had advised that 672 UC cases had commenced in in the Vale.

 

UC claims were administered by the local Job Centre Plus and had been claims from new single claimants who would otherwise be eligible for Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) including those with existing Housing Benefit and Tax Credit claims. Representatives from the DWP had engaged with officers of the Council on the implementation and liaison for delivery of UC in the Vale based on a proven track record of close liaison for the benefit of the local community.  The DWP roll-out of UC was to be supplemented by the locally delivered “Universal Support” to provide advice and support to UC claimants.

 

The slow pace of UC had meant that the Council needed to continue to support those on JSA until they were eventually transferred to UC.

 

The DWP anticipated that vulnerable and complex customers would require the Universal Support Delivered Locally Framework to assist them, which would be a partnership approach between the Council and the Job Centre Plus.  Universal Support – Delivered Locally (USDL) was the arrangement introduced by the DWP in partnership with Local Authorities to provide local support for UC claimants.  USDL had been introduced in February 2016 in the Vale of Glamorgan and was confirmed in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed by Cabinet in January 2016 with available funding from the DWP.  The MOU gave the Council a stake in the introduction of UC to provide advice and support to UC claimants, to support vulnerable customers and to deal with more complex enquiries.

 

The adoption of the MOU supported local citizens during the Government’s Welfare Reforms as the knowledge and skills of the officers within the Council’s Benefit Section was appropriate to deal with the requirements of the Council's commitment within the MOU.

 

The USDL required the Council to: 

  • Provide support to UC Service Centre Staff – advising on housing cost issues using the Local Authority’s skills in dealing with Housing Benefit Claims.
  • Provide Personal Budgeting Support (PBS) – for claimants with complex needs and in particular those who required personal budgeting advice support
  • Provide Digital Support for claimants to get online and stay online by identifying public Internet sites and locations where trained staff could provide supported access
  • Work with UC programme in preparing landlords for the implementation of UC
  • Manually processing the Local Council Tax Reduction scheme where UC had been awarded.

To May 2017 in the Vale of Glamorgan there had been 33 Personal Budgeting Support referrals of which only 15 customers had attended the appointments.

 

In respect of Personal Budgeting Support, the DWP had given an overview of how support would operate for UC.  On the provision of Personal Budgeting Support, the DWP identifies two main elements to such support:

  • money advice to help claimants cope with managing their money on a monthly basis and paying their bills on time; and
  • alternative payment arrangements (APA) for some claimants who genuinely could not manage the standard monthly payment and where there was a risk of financial harm to the claimant or their family.   This might include rent paid directly to the landlord, a more frequent than monthly payment or a split payment between partners.

A further significant change to the Benefit Cap threshold had been introduced to the Vale of Glamorgan in November 2016.  The DWP advised that the overall household benefit cap applying to Tax Credits, Universal Credit and Housing Benefit would be reduced from £26,000 to £20,000 in Wales.  To May 2017 there have been 114 households affected in the Vale of Glamorgan.  This ranged from a reduction in Housing Benefit of £5.59 per week up to £132.19 per week.

 

All those affected have been offered help via Discretionary Housing Payments to allow them time to look at their personal budgets and to negotiate debt repayments. The effect was to increase the use of Discretionary Housing Payments fund by assisting those affected until they modified their personal finances.

 

The DWP have stated that it was intended that applications for UC would be made using a Digital Service by default and it was intended to roll out this service in Wales.  The digital service was expected to begin in the Vale of Glamorgan in June 2018. 

 

Currently the Welsh version of the online system remained unavailable and therefore if a customer wished to enter the UC process in the medium of Welsh, they would be referred to make a telephone claim.  The DWP were hoping the Welsh online claim service would be available early 2018.  Until the digital system was ready it would mean that a further roll-out of cases across Wales would be limited.

 

The Housing Services Income Team had continued to monitor income levels and to support individuals who had experienced difficulties in paying their rent.  The data below highlights the statistics relating to recovery action for the period April 2016 to March 2017.

 

 

No   of tenants subject to formal recovery actions 2015/16

No   of tenants subject to formal recovery actions 2016/17

Introductory Tenancies – Notice of Possession   Proceeding Served

121

117

Secure Tenancies – Notice of Seeking Possession

677

869

Rent Possession Proceedings

86

64

Evictions

11

13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The annual rent arrears figure in relation to all stock, as at 31st March, 2016, was £165,770 which equated to 0.84% of rental income.  This was an improvement in performance compared to the figure reported last year and compared favourably with almost all other Registered Social Landlords and Councils in Wales.

 

A number of internal improvements helped improve performance including a review of the IT system used for monitoring rents.  A period of stability within the Income team had also helped reduce arrears. 

 

The underlying economic climate and changing welfare benefits continued to impact on individuals and families and the Income team regularly find themselves working with households who were in a precarious financial situation.  Basic assistance and advice was provided by Income Officers, however the Money Advice team provided invaluable assistance in more complex situations, helping tenants in a variety of ways including: 

  • Maximising the income of clients
  • Providing budgeting advice
  • Warm House Discount Scheme applications
  • Providing debt advice
  • Application to relevant charity trusts and relief fund
  • Discretionary Assistance Fund application
  • Personal Independence Plan and Disability Living Allowance applications
  • Young Carers referrals
  • Employment Support Allowance applications
  • Attending Tribunals with the customers
  • Supporting / arranging UC claims with the customers.

The Income team’s preparations for UC started in February 2016.  This work involved raising tenants’ awareness of the benefit changes, producing leaflets, staff training and establishing contacts and working practises with staff in other teams as well as at the DWP who administer UC.

 

 

Tenants in receipt of UC

All tenants

Total arrears (£)

£3,899.66

£165,770

No of tenants

16

3,857

Average arrears level per tenant (£)

£243.73

£42.98

 

To date there were only 16 tenants in receipt of UC, however the average level of arrears for claimants was significantly higher than other tenants (who were not in receipt of UC).  This reflected some initial difficulties with notifications, particularly identifying tenants who had been put onto UC and complications around direct payments, as well as the fact claimants were paid in arrears.

 

The concern was that if this trend was extrapolated for all claimants, it would have a significant effect on the Council’s rental income stream.  In order to mitigate this, the preparation work identified above, along with continued communications with DWP would improve the process and result in fewer issues.  Additionally, targeted interventions and general awareness raising would help tenants understand their responsibilities to pay the rent in a timely way.

 

Some clients undergoing review from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) have had their awards reduced when they were on Middle Rate DLA Care and High Mobility, and when transferred and assessed for PIP they had lost the mobility element and were receiving the high daily living element of PIP.  Several cases had been identified and officers were required to explain the potential impact if they pursued a PIP review.  It had been identified that further training on this matter was required for staff to enable them to advise clients or signpost them to advice.

 

Due to the implementation of the Social Services and Well Being Act (2014) (SSWBA) the Council now took into account the whole of the daily living element of PIP.  This meant the assessed charge was higher (i.e. approximately £50.00 per week to £70.00 per week) than those still on DLA high rate care.  Changes have meant that clients had lost the mobility element that the Council would previously have disregarded.

 

This change affected working age people, their ability to accept this increase and the ability to pay as there had been no change to Attendance Allowance.

 

A Member, in referring to the report, indicated that he was upset and saddened by the introduction of the Welfare Reform Agenda and made reference to the 80 families adversely affected.  He was also concerned regarding the potential increase in homelessness as a result of the reforms.  He expressed his gratitude as did other Members to staff for their efforts in supporting tenants and residents.  He enquired of the Head of Finance why there had been a year on year increase in the number of notices seeking possession.  He also asked how well the Council compared in terms of support offered to tenants in instances of rent arrears when compared to Registered Social Landlords.

 

The Head of Finance indicated that the Council had and would continue to work with the DWP and Registered Social Landlords to mitigate the impact of the reforms on tenants and residents.  She was unable to provide comparison figures as requested by the Member and gave an assurance that she would look into the matter and provide the information to the Member.

 

To conclude, she indicated that staff resources were appropriate following a question from a Member on current staffing levels.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the contents of the report be noted and that a further update / progress report be provided annually unless there were significant developments as a result of the reforms which would necessitate the submission of an earlier report.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of the work undertaken by the Council and to ensure the Committee is updated on the progress of the implementation of the reforms and impact.

 

 

 

Share on facebook Like us on Facebook