Venue: Guildhall, South Street, Boston PE21 6HT
Contact: Janette Collier, Senior Democratic Services Officer Tel. no: 01205 314227 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To receive apologies for absence and notification of substitutes (if any).
There were apologies for absence from Councillors Alan Bell and Viven Edge.
Notice was received that Councillor Paul Goodale was attending as a substitute for Councillor Bell.
DECLARATION OF INTERESTS
To receive declarations of interests in respect of any item on the agenda.
Councillors Paul Goodale, Judy Welbourn and Stephen Woodliffe declared their Membership of the Joint Scrutiny Panel (Minute 27 refers) and Councillor Goodale added that he was a Member of the Town Board. Councillor Tom Ashton declared his Membership of East Lindsey District Council’s Executive and, as such, would not take participate in the debate on this item.
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, 1st November 2021.
JOINT BBC-ELDC SCRUTINY OF THE STRATEGIC ALLIANCE PDF 553 KB
(A report presented by Councillor Judith Skinner, Chairman of the Joint Scrutiny Panel)
The Overview and Scrutiny Committees of Boston and East Lindsey commissioned a Joint Scrutiny Panel to undertake a review of the Strategic Alliance and merged workforce.
The Chairman of the Panel presented its report on the review to the Committee, asking Members to recommend it for consideration at the next full Council meeting.
The Panel met 3 times, interviewed 6 witnesses and conducted a survey of Boston Borough and East Lindsey District Councillors to canvass their views. The scope of the Panel’s work, the questions put to witnesses, the results of the survey and the notes of the Panel’s meetings were appended to the report.
The Panel Chairman explained that managing scrutiny across the two authorities was not easy in terms of aligning Councillors’ diaries to attend joint meetings. The Panel appreciated the support, guidance and expertise from the Scrutiny, Safeguarding & Executive Support Officer and the Assistant Director – Corporate and were grateful to the witnesses who participated in the process.
Witnesses gave a wholly positive picture of the progress of the alliance, illustrated by examples of how teams across the two Councils had come together. The Panel sought, and received, assurance that the projected savings outlined in the original agreement were being achieved. The Panel asked for examples of how collaborative working had furthered opportunities for both Councils and further suggested ways in which the alliance could effectively use combined power to achieve successful outputs. Members had asked about how the merging cultures of two and, now, three Councils could be successfully managed and had highlighted ways of doing this in its recommendations to create a common identity for this large area of Lincolnshire.
The Panel sent out a questionnaire to all Councillors to gauge their views on how the alliance was progressing. Several common themes emerged from the 15 responses received, which formed the basis of some of the Panel’s recommendations. These included clear lines of communications, cementing relationships, alignment of policies and joint meetings.
The Panel Chairman added that not all Councillors were positive about the alliance and many had not responded to the questionnaire.
The Vice-Chairman then addressed the Committee and explained that
The Panel agreed the following recommendations.
1. That staff ‘snapshot’ surveys are reported to Overview / Scrutiny on a 6-monthly basis along with staff turnover figures, in order to monitor any significant changes;
2. Review the ICT roadmap priorities and ensure that shared email addresses for officers is given the highest priority;
3. To develop a shared strategy to ensure that staff are valued and given opportunities to progress, with a view to enhancing recruitment and retention;
4. To better communicate to staff, councillors, and residents any relevant updates or priorities, and to celebrate the successes across the alliance;
5. To provide opportunities for more collaborative working for all councillors, such as scrutiny panels, project groups, and other shared opportunities across the alliance / partnership, especially where there is commonality, e.g., licensing and planning policy;
6. To provide an opportunity for councillors to ... view the full minutes text for item 27.
LOCAL COUNCIL TAX SUPPORT SCHEME 2022/23 PDF 632 KB
(A report by Sharon Hammond, Head of Revenues and Benefits)
Portfolio Holder: Councillor Jonathan Noble
The Head of Revenues and Benefits presented a report on the review of the Council Tax Support (CTS) scheme with proposals for the next financial year 2022/23.
The Committee was asked to review the scheme to date and the proposals for the 2022/23 scheme as part of the ongoing consultation and make recommendations on the proposals for Cabinet consideration on 8th December. The proposed 2022/23 scheme would be submitted to Full Council for formal approval by Full Council in January 2022.
The report contained details of the operation of the previous Council Tax Benefit scheme for comparison purposes. It also contained the projected costs of the scheme. However, it was pointed out that the level of CTS always fluctuated throughout the year and the exact expenditure would only be known at the end of the financial year. The costs of the CTS scheme were borne by the major precepting authorities, 11% of which was borne by the Council.
Members were reminded that the CTS scheme related purely to working age people, as the scheme for pensioners continued to be prescribed by Government and they received 100%. The Council had taken the local decision to protect war pensioners and this had continued since the scheme’s introduction. The scheme continued to be means-tested in the same way as the previous benefit scheme. Entitlement for working age claimants was capped at 75%; therefore, they had to pay at least 25% of their council tax.
CTS was linked to claims for Universal Credit (UC) and the decision had been taken to uprate CTS in line with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Previously, CTS claims had to be reassessed every time there was a change to UC. However, in 2021/22 a decision had been taken to make a change to the scheme so that any UC changes would only be reassessed every three months, though this could be overridden if necessary. This provided stability in terms of CTS awards and was working well.
The DWP had not published its plans yet for completing the full migration to UC for working age claimants and the timescale therefore remained uncertain, but it was now apparent that it would not be complete until 2025. The numbers claiming UC had significantly increased, particularly since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In considering the options for the 2022/23 CTS scheme, given the ongoing uncertainties due to the pandemic and the migration to UC, there was no overriding reason for fundamental change at this time. Reductions in the level of support could have a significant impact claimants’ ability to pay and the Council’s ability to collect money; it would be counter-productive to try to make savings.
Through the consultation, views for 2022/23 were being sought on whether the Council should retain its current scheme for the next financial year, to provide continuity. Each year the Government reviewed and, generally, increased the amount people needed to live on for the calculation of welfare benefit. By applying the same changes ... view the full minutes text for item 28.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION (LGA) PEER REVIEW - PROGRESS UPDATE PDF 546 KB
(A report by James Gilbert, Assistant Director – Organisation and Corporate Services)
Portfolio Holder: Councillor Paul Skinner
The Assistant Director – Corporate presented a report on the delivery of recommendations put forward by the Local Government Association following their Corporate Peer Review of the Council in 2019 and a subsequent Health Check of the Communications Service.
The table at Appendix A provided the status of each recommendation, which had been rated according to red, amber and green. The Committee was asked to note the significant progress made to deliver the recommendations. Of course, some recommendations had been superseded because the Strategic Alliance and the South East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership had taken place since the peer review was carried out and these would be reviewed again in that context.
The Leader described the review as positive, with many aspects rated as ‘green’, and stressed the importance of promoting the borough and the Council. The document still contained important matters that remained relevant that would be taken forward.
Members agreed, noting the significant number of recommendations that had been implemented, though there was a note of caution that some matters rated green that were still onging, such as waste management, economic growth and the response to the pandemic. It was agreed that the matters rated red needed attention, but that they should promote the borough and what the Council had achieved.
ANNUAL REVIEW OF THE CORPORATE STRATEGY PDF 593 KB
(A report by Suzanne Rolfe, Insights & Transformation Manager)
Portfolio Holder: Councillor Nigel Welton
The Deputy Leader presented a report by the Assistant Director – Corporate on the annual review of the Council’s Corporate Strategy.
Full Council adopted the Corporate Strategy in November 2020 following consultation with stakeholders, including the Committee. At that time, a commitment was made to review its priorities annually to ensure they remained relevant. The report before the Committee was part of this review process and provided an opportunity for Committee Members to recommend any changes to the strategy they felt it required.
The main priority focused on people and the others focused on achieving prosperity, environmental awareness and high quality services for the people.
As discussed at its adoption, some of the strategy’s priorities aimed at a long-term vision and only the key building blocks for these would be in place within by 2024, but these would move the Council towards that vision.
Members’ comments included:
· Concern in achieving the priority relating to the environment because of the problems of fly tipping;
· Acceptance that the delivery of affordable housing was currently co-funded, whereas the strategy could reflect a vision of where the Council provided its own housing at some stage in the future;
· The reference to PE21 was confusing, as a project no longer existed in that form;
· There should be more mention of flooding, particularly in view of a map published recently showing the extent of the risk of flooding in the area;
· It was crucial that the priorities be supported by policies to ensure they were achieved.
In response, the Deputy Leader explained that this was the Committee’s opportunity to assess whether the strategy’s priorities themselves were fit for purpose, rather than the performance of specific services to achieve them.
The provision of affordable housing could only ever be achieved by working with partners, which included the use of Government grants.
The statement on Inward Investment was sound in terms of ambition, but thought would be given to rewording the reference to PE21.
The strategy only contained four priorities in order to keep the document clear and concise and the wording was brief to ensure it would remain flexible and did not restrict officers. It was agreed that it was the policies and processes behind the priorities that would take the strategy forward.
The Leader referred to the Environment Agency’s significant investment in the area as well as the operation of the barrier and reassured Members that flooding was high on the agenda and likely to be the first policy adopted across the three authorities of the South East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership.
RESOLVED: That the Corporate Strategy and its Corporate Priorities be supported and the Committee’s comments be reported to Cabinet on 8th December 2021.
(For Members to discuss and add to the Committee’s current work programme, taking into account the attached performance information and draft Forward Plan)
The Committee considered its current work programme along with Quarter 1 performance information and the draft Forward Plan.
A Member raised the issue of the licensing of private rented accommodation and stressed the importance of addressing the problems arising from over-crowded properties as soon as possible in view of the adverse effect on the welfare of the people living there and those that lived nearby.
The Assistant Director - Assets explained that a report would be presented to the Committee in February, explaining the exact details of the legal framework for housing control and suggested Members could consider establishing a Task and Finish Group to look into the details in depth to see what action the Council could possibly take.
The Deputy Leader suggested that an all-Member Briefing could be held on the matter in order to fully inform Members before the Committee considered the officer’s report in February.
Seek to arrange an all-Member Briefing to cover the legal framework for housing control with respect to Houses in Multiple Occupation and housing regulation in general, to take place before the Committee’s meeting on 17th February 2022.
Amend the work programme as follows:
13th January 2022
· Lincolnshire Discretionary Housing Assistance Policy
· Cultural Strategy
· Annual Safeguarding Report
17th February 2022
· Centrepoint Outreach and Council Homelessness Services
· The Legal Framework for Housing Control
7th April 2022
· Mayoralty item