Venue: Online Meeting - view the meeting at www.mybostonuk.com/youtubeR
Contact: Janette Collier, Senior Democratic Services Officer Tel. no: 01205 314227 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To sign the confidential minutes of the meeting held on 21st January 2021, attached as appropriate.
The exempt minutes of the meeting held on 21st January 2021 were agreed as a correct record to be signed by the Chairman.
To receive apologies for absence and notification of substitutes (if any).
Apologies were received from Councillors Martin Howard and Alan Bell; Councillor Paul Goodale attended the meeting as a Substitute for Councillor Bell.
DECLARATION OF INTERESTS
To receive declarations of interests in respect of any item on the agenda.
To answer any written questions received from members of the public no later than 5 p.m. two clear working days prior to the meeting – for this meeting the deadline is 5 p.m. on Monday, 15th February 2021.
(A report by Sarah Baker, Climate Change & Environment Manager)
Portfolio Holder: Councillor Paul Skinner, Leader
The Climate Change & Environment Manager presented a report, which detailed the progress made by the Council against the nine recommendations agreed by Full Council in January 2020 (Appendix A), attached a draft Environmental Policy for Members’ consideration (Appendix B) and set out the next steps to be taken.
The Strategic Alliance with East Lindsey District Council (ELDC) gave a renewed opportunity to pick up this work and to share knowledge and experience to help both authorities take action on the climate change agenda.
The Council’s new Corporate Strategy for 2020-24 included a priority around environmental awareness and accountability. This contained several commitments including developing a Carbon Reduction Plan and ensuring that every service and policy delivered on the Council’s climate change commitments.
The Council was in the process of commissioning the Carbon Trust to produce a new Carbon Reduction Plan, which would also provide an updated baseline of the current carbon footprint. Work would begin on this in early 2021. The Carbon Trust had recently completed a similar exercise for ELDC and it was hoped there would be opportunities to align both plans and identify savings through joint projects.
The nine recommendations demonstrated a clear intention to embed a culture of environmental consideration and carbon reduction across all areas of the Council. To ensure this happened, the Environment Policy would set the framework under which relevant plans and strategies, such as the Carbon Reduction Plan, would sit. It was a simple mandate for climate change and environment action with four main themes that would ensure every service area was working to an agreed set of objectives consistent with the new corporate priority.
It was also important that all Council staff had an awareness of the far-reaching implications of climate change, the multiple benefits that taking action could achieve and an understanding of where changes could be made. A Carbon Literacy training programme was in development to be rolled out to all staff and Members in 2021.
During debate, Members comments included:
· The report only contained aspirations, not definite plans.
· Little progress seemed apparent since Full Council approved the recommendations and Full Council should consider the adoption of the Environment Policy, not Cabinet.
· Had there been any lobbying in order to secure the resources to implement the recommendations?
· The ... view the full minutes text for item 72.
(A report by Adrian Sibley, Section 151 Officer)
Portfolio Holder: Councillor Jonathan Noble, Financial and Commercial
The Section 151 Officer presented the draft Budget Setting Report and Medium-Term Financial Strategy for 2021/22 to 2025/26 for consideration during its period of consultation.
On 27th January 2021, Cabinet would receive the draft report for approval for consultation. The Cabinet report and its appendices were attached at Appendix A.
The report included the recommended level of Council Tax increase for 2021/22 of £4.95. This represented a 2.57% increase to make the Council’s share of the precept £197.91.
The proposed revenue budget for 2021/22 currently showed a surplus position of £98,000. However, in the following years there was a savings requirement of approximately £700,000 per year. The Section 151 Officer added that the Fair Funding Review would result in more Government funding being directed to county and unitary authorities in future in order to cover increasing costs in Adult Social Care.
Members were invited to consider the report and make comments, which would be fed back to Cabinet as part of the consultation prior to the budget’s approval at Full Council in March.
Members raised a range of issues and questions concerning:
· The continuing effect of the borough’s major sector, agriculture, being zero rated for business rates;
· Lobbying Government on the financial burden placed on the Council by having the responsibility of collecting Internal Drainage Board (IDB) levies;
· The cost of collecting bulky waste being more than the charge for the service;
· The suggestion of suspending these charges and providing skips as a pilot scheme to monitor the effects on fly-tipping;
· The need for housing and the idea that the Council should build homes again by using reserves, grants and interest free loans; house building could be scoped in the same way as East Lindsey District Council was doing and would be a commendable way to invest council tax;
· The decrease in property fund values and whether the estimate returns were realistic;
· The proposed council tax increase was high and they should consider reducing it.
· Consideration should be given to spending reserves due to the urgent situation caused by the pandemic.
The Section 151 Officer responded to these and other questions as follows.
The Council had a list of all businesses that were zero rated for business rates and explained that the Government was currently compensating authorities by covering 100% of business rates, which was in the Council’s favour, as it only retained part of business rates when they were collected.
Authorities would lobby Government more effectively with respect to IDB levies if they joined forces. The Local Government Association (LGA) was working on this but progress was slow.
The recommendation from the Boston Town Area Committee (BTAC) that the increase in the BTAC precept be 0% had been taken into account in the budget report, though the effect was modest.
The figures in the report showing income from leisure etc. remained the same as estimated even though the Council did not achieve that income due to the pandemic. The reason for this was that Government paid authorities compensation ... view the full minutes text for item 73.
(For Members to note/discuss the Committee’s current work programme)
The Assistant Director - Assets advised the Committee that, through the Senior Leadership Team, a COVID-19 Recovery Plan was being produced across the Strategic Alliance. This was a critical document and in order for it to be submitted for scrutiny before its submission to Cabinet, and to avoid delaying the adoption of the recovery plan, it was suggested that the date of the Committee’s next meeting be brought forward to 25th March.
Reference was made to a previous request for a COVID-19 update to be presented to a standalone meeting jointly between the Council and ELDC. The Senior Leadership Team had contacted the Chairmen of both Scrutiny Committees in order to explain that, due to the high workload caused by the continuing pandemic, it was not recommended that a formal report be brought forward at this time. It would be a substantial report and could be added to the work programme for the new Municipal Year. It was only a matter of delaying the report; it had not been anticipated that the pandemic would have continued for so long. Updates were being provided through Member Briefings by the Assistant Director - Housing and Wellbeing.
Also in the new Municipal Year, consideration would be given to the Council’s new Corporate Plan and changes to the Constitution for the Scrutiny function in the light of the four new corporate priorities.