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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 15th July, 2015.

 

Present:  Councillor C.J. Williams (Chairman); Councillor J. Drysdale (Vice-Chairman); Councillors A.G. Bennett, J.C. Bird, Mrs. C.L. Curtis,  Ms. R.F. Probert, R.P. Thomas, Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson and E. Williams.

 

Also present:  Mr. S. Doyle (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

252      APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillor Mrs. V.M. Hartrey.

 

 

253      MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 17th June, 2015 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

254      DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

255      CLOSURE OF ACCOUNTS 2014/15 (DVSH) –

 

Committee was informed of the provisional financial position for the Directorate for the 2014/15 financial year.

 

Appendix 1 to the report amended the revised budgets to take account of the following adjustments:

 

-         Retirement benefits

-         Asset rents

-         Recharges

-         Carbon reduction commitment scheme.

 

The amended budget and the actual expenditure for the Authority were as follows:

 

Service

 

Year - 2014/15

Amended Revenue Budget

Total Provisional Actual

Variance +Favourable  () Adverse

 

       £’000

          £’000

             £’000

YOS

672

669

+3

General Fund Housing

1,446

1,436

+10

Public Protection

2,525

2,531

(6)

Private Housing

11,106

11,089

+17

TOTAL

15,749

15,725

+24

 

 

The main reasons for the variances were as follows:

 

Youth Offending Service – Favourable variance of £3k

 

There were favourable variances of £34k on staff due to temporarily vacant posts and £22k on other grants and income.  There were other adverse variances of £8k.   A transfer of £45k had been made to the Grant Exit Strategy reserve to support redundancy costs should grant funding cease.

 

General Fund Housing – Favourable variance of £10k

 

There was an adverse variance of £7k due to a shortfall in income recovery on Cadoxton House.

 

There were favourable variances of £39k on staffing pending reorganisation, £18k on the Community Safety core budget, £3k on supplies and services within the Homelessness, Supporting People and Housing Strategy teams and £433k on temporary accommodation for the homeless.  As highlighted during the year, it was unknown when the Universal Credit rollout would be introduced in the Vale and what impact it would have on the level of homelessness during 2014/15.  It was now anticipated that Universal Credit would have a phased introduction, in the Vale, from February 2016.

 

There had been transfers to reserves of £72k for a Prison Leaver Support Worker, £72k for a Pre-tenancy Advisor, £72k for an Accommodation Solutions Co-ordinator all would be for a 2 year period, £100k towards support and interpretation services for asylum seekers and £160k towards the Reshaping Services Programme.

 

Public Protection – Adverse variance of £6k

 

There was an adverse variance on Agency staffing of £46k in the Pollution Team and £22k in the Trading Standards Team, who were required in order to maintain levels of core service delivery in these areas in the run up to collaboration.  Three pest control vehicles had been purchased outright at the end of their lease term at a cost of £20k, as it was decided not to commit to a further lease pending operational decisions on the future of the Shared Regulatory Service.  Taxi Licensing income was £24k lower than estimated due to the reduction in the numbers of taxi drivers, private hire and hackney carriage vehicles in the Vale.  This position was offset by a transfer of £50k from the Regulatory Improvements reserve.

 

There were favourable variances on customer receipts within the Division, totalling £22k, the majority of which were due to increased pest control income due in part to a 37% increase in chargeable flea treatments.  Some £7k was saved in Trading Standards by reducing their subscription costs and finding alternative methods for research information.  In addition there was a favourable variance of £7k on the cost of sample analysis due to the ongoing work with external service providers. There were various other small variances amounting to a net £20k favourable variance.

 

Private Sector Housing – Favourable variance of £14k

 

There was an adverse variance of £41k on Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) staffing costs that were required in order to achieve the increased throughput and reduce average completion times on DFGs.  There was also an adverse variance of £13k on Renewal Area grant agency fee income for administering the Renewal Area face-lifting project within Barry’s Castleland ward.  In addition, payments to external Quantity Surveyors for the face-lifting works were higher than budgeted by £32k.  This was because these were upfront costs and coupled with an initial lower than expected take-up of the commercial assistance available, this resulted in less than anticipated fees. 

 

There were favourable variances of £91k on agency fee charges on DFGs as, once again, the number of grant applications processed has increased over previous years – 158 in 2014/15, compared to 134 in 2013/14 and 93 in 2012/13.  There were other small variances amounting to a net £9k favourable variance.

 

There was also a planned budgeted transfer from reserves of £46k to fund an additional Occupational Therapist post assisting in the DFG Section.

 

The 2014/15 Housing Revenue Account (HRA) resulted in a deficit of £4.530m compared to the revised estimate deficit of £3.514m.  The working balance opened at £6.406.m and closed at £1.876m. 

 

Supervision and Management General – Favourable Variance £707k

 

There were favourable variances in Support and Central Management Costs of £465k, staffing through vacancies of £128k, software/hardware and other non-staffing costs related to Housing Teams of £41k, Tenant Participation of £40k, Homes 4U advertising and other running costs of £25k and staff travel costs of £8k.

 

Supervision and Management Special Services – Favourable Variance £8k

 

This budget was split into three areas, Ty Iolo Homeless Hostel, Vale temporary accommodation and Vale Special Services.  The term 'Special Services' relates to communal costs for all housing areas throughout the Vale of Glamorgan, including sheltered accommodation, such as grass cutting, rubbish removal, communal lighting, security, warden salaries and environmental improvements.  The favourable variance of £8k was a combination of the following: A favourable variance of £52k at Ty Iolo which reflected the reduction in the use of agency staff and a reduction in other revenue expenditure such as security cover and furniture and fittings; £19k adverse variance on Temporary Accommodation mainly due to additional repair costs and an adverse variance of £25k on Special Services which was made up of adverse variances of £46k on ad hoc cleansing and ground maintenance works on the estates, this had been offset by a saving on Sewage Treatment Works of £21k.

 

Housing Repairs – Favourable Variance £372k

 

The favourable variance on this budget heading was largely due to a favourable variance of £162k on Fire Risk Assessment Works and £50k on repair call-outs, mainly as a consequence of the housing stock being brought up to Welsh Housing Quality Standard.  In addition, expenditure on gas servicing, asbestos and fencing had all reduced, compared to previous years.

 

Capital Financing Costs – Favourable Variance £18k

 

Interest charges were lower than anticipated.

 

Rents, Rates, Taxes and Other Charges – Favourable Variance £126k

 

This was largely due to a favourable Council Tax variance of £67k for void properties.  Both the number of voids and the turnaround time had reduced during the year as a consequence the impact of Council Tax on those empty properties has fallen.

 

HRA Subsidy Payable – Favourable Variance £73k

 

The HRA negative subsidy payment for 2014/15 was slightly less than budgeted.

 

Increase in the Provision for Bad and Doubtful Debts – Favourable Variance £116k

 

It was anticipated that the bad debt provision would need to be increased by £116k.  However, during the year £340k of former tenant arrears were written off, as these debts were previously provided for there had been a net decrease in the bad debt provision.  This was explained in the relevant paragraph below.

 

Capital Expenditure from Revenue Account – Adverse Variance £2.313m

 

A higher contribution was required than budgeted towards the Housing Improvement Plan due to more work than originally forecast being completed.

 

Rent Collected on Dwellings – Adverse variance £287k

 

This adverse variance was largely due to the level of write-offs undertaken during the year of £340k.

 

Non Dwelling Rents – Adverse Variance £32k

 

Rents collected on garages were 10% less than budgeted.

 

Reduction in Provision for Bad and Doubtful Debts – Favourable Variance £240k

 

The write-off in bad debts described in the paragraph above of £340k had the effect of reducing the bad debt provision, however, there was a need to increase the provision further by £100k due to the in-year increase in former tenant arrears.  The net impact on the Bad Debt Provision was a reduction of £240k.

 

Interest Received – Adverse Variance £1k

 

The average London Interbank Bid Rate (LIBID) for the year was lower than anticipated.

 

Charges for Services and Facilities – Adverse Variance £43k

 

The level of income received for services and facilities was less than anticipated by 7%.

 

The overall Capital outturn for the Committee was a variance of £670k and the statement at Appendix 3 to the report detailed the outturn by scheme. 

 

Housing Improvement Programme – Expenditure brought forward of £809k

 

Works to deliver Welsh Housing Quality Standards were progressing well.  Creditors of £766k were included in the 2014/15 accounts while the invoices were paid in April 2015.  There was no overall effect on the scheme funding and the 2015/16 scheme would need to be re-profiled to take into account this transfer of expenditure between years.

 

Attached at Appendix 4 to the report was a schedule showing the Committee’s reserves as at 31st March, 2015.

 

A Member enquired as to the number of applicants who had applied and been granted Discretionary Housing Payments.  This information was not available and Members were advised that they would be informed of this information by e-mail. 

 

Following discussions on the contents of the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the content of the report and the financial measures taken and proposed be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To approve the report and the financial measures taken and proposed.

 

 

256      REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST MAY, 2015 (DVSH) –

 

Committee was advised of the position in respect of revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April to 31st May, 2015 regarding those revenue and capital budgets which formed this Committee’s remit.

 

The current forecast was for a balanced budget.

 

Public Sector Housing (HRA) – Whilst vacancies in the new structure still existed, there would be some savings on salary costs.  In addition, there were also underspends in the Premises budget, particularly at Ty Iolo Hostel and within the Sheltered Housing Units.  Any underspends this year would be offset by additional contributions to Capital expenditure which would reduce the reliance on Unsupported Borrowing.  The HRA was therefore expected to outturn on target.

 

General Fund Housing – There were some savings against profile on Supplies and Services and the Temporary Accommodation budget.  However, the introduction of Universal Credit during this financial year was anticipated to increase the level of expenditure on Temporary Accommodation.  The budget was projected to outturn on target.

 

Private Housing – There was currently a favourable variance of £20k to profiled budget.  The fee income of the Renewal Areas continues to be below budget as the Upper Holton Road scheme had less scope for management fees than the previously Castleland face-lifting scheme.  However, this was more than offset by a higher than anticipated level of fees on Disabled Facility Grants.  As it was early in the financial year, it was anticipated that this service would outturn on target.

 

Public Protection – There was currently a nil variance on this service.  Work was ongoing to allocate costs of the Shared Regulatory Service, so at this stage it was anticipated that the service would outturn on target. 

 

Other services were anticipated to outturn on target by year end.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st May 2015. 

 

The monitoring report showed actual expenditure for the month of May 2015 and was matched by a similar figure in the profile to date column, thereby showing no variances. 

 

Appendix 2 to the report included requests for unspent committed expenditure that had been slipped from 2014/15 into 2015/16.  This request had been approved under Emergency Powers. 

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2015/16 Revenue and Capital budgets be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

That Scrutiny Committee note the position with regard to the 2015/16 Revenue and Capital Monitoring.

 

 

257      SCRUTINY COMMITTEES’ DRAFT ANNUAL REPORT – MAY 2014 TO APRIL 2015 (MD) –

 

Committee considered the draft 2014/15 Annual Report for the municipal year 2014/15. 

 

In accordance with Section 6.03d of Article 6 of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Constitution, Scrutiny Committees must report annually to Full Council on their workings and make recommendations for future work programmes and amended working methods as appropriate.

 

The Scrutiny Committees’ draft Annual Report included details of the work of all five of the Council’s Scrutiny Committees for 2014/15.  For example, the contents of the Forward Work programme would include:

 

·         Performance monitoring

·         Revenue and capital expenditure monitoring

·         Improvement Plan

·         Budget proposals annual reporting

·         Service planning annual reporting

·         Decision tracking of the Committees’ recommendations

·         Receiving progress reports on various issues

·         Work of appointed Task and Finish Groups

·         Any other matters that the Committee considers appropriate, including "call-in" requests and Requests for Consideration of a Matter.

 

The report represented an overview of work of the Scrutiny Committees during 2014/15. 

 

The Annual Report would be available on the Council’s website.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the content of the draft Annual Report for the period May 2014 to April 2015 be approved.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To approve the draft Scrutiny Committees’ Annual Report to allow it to be submitted to Full Council in September 2015.

 

 

 

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