Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber, The Shire Hall, St Peter's Square, Hereford, HR1 2HX
Contact: Ben Baugh, Governance Services
Apologies for absence
To receive apologies for absence.
No apologies for absence were received.
To receive details of members nominated to attend the meeting in place of a member of the committee.
No substitutions were made.
Declarations of interest
To receive any declarations of interest by members.
Item 7 (minute 24) The development of a schools capital investment strategy
Councillor MJK Cooper, Non-Pecuniary, Declared an interest in relation to St Mary's CE Primary School, Dilywn.
Councillor WLS Bowen, Non-Pecuniary, Declared an interest during the item due to being a governor of Kingsland CE Primary School.
To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 21 July 2015.
The minutes of the previous meeting were received.
RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 21 July 2015 be approved as a correct record.
To consider suggestions from the public on issues the committee could scrutinise in the future.
(There will be no discussion of the issue at the time when the matter is raised. Consideration will be given to whether it should form part of the committee’s work programme when compared with other competing priorities.)
It was reported that a suggestion had been received from Mr. Peter McKay; related correspondence was provided within a supplement to the agenda.
The Chairman thanked Mr. McKay for his continued interest and enlightening comments.
It was noted that, in response to a suggestion made by Mr. McKay at the last meeting, a briefing note had been circulated to committee members about the Public Rights of Way service.
The Chairman said that he was aware of the importance of the issues but also the limited time and resources available to the committee. Therefore, the Chairman asked officers to provide a detailed written response to the points raised at the earliest opportunity and for this information to be made available online in a supplement to the agenda for this meeting.
Questions from the public
To note questions received from the public and the items to which they relate.
(Questions are welcomed for consideration at a scrutiny committee meeting subject to the question being directly relevant to an item listed on the agenda below. If you have a question you would like to ask then please submit it no later than 5.00 pm on Thursday 24 September 2015 to firstname.lastname@example.org)
No questions had been received in advance of the meeting in relation to the following items.
To provide General overview and scrutiny committee with the opportunity to review and comment on the progress made in developing a schools capital investment strategy, including considering a presentation of evidence at the committee meeting.
The Chairman reminded the committee that a presentation on the council’s approach to the strategy had been received at the 10 March 2015 meeting and invited officers to update the committee.
The Assistant director commissioning and education introduced the item with the following comments:
i. The strategy was being prepared in the context of the council’s priorities: to keep children and young people safe and give them a great start in life; enable residents to live safe, healthy and independent lives; and invest in projects to improve roads, create jobs and build more homes.
ii. The strategy was an important development for Herefordshire and the schools capital estate.
iii. The council was working with a range of school and community leaders with a bottom-up approach.
iv. The draft principles, identified in Appendix 1 to the report (page 21 of the agenda), were essential to the development of the strategy.
v. The committee was invited to comment on the principles, the presentation, and the approach being taken.
vi. The strategy would be put forward to Cabinet in early November 2015.
The Head of educational development gave a presentation on the background, the principles and applying the principles. The key points made under each slide are summarised below:
Where we are in the process…
a. The work was in phase 4, the phases were: phase 1 - project set up; phase 2 - data collection; phase 3 - verification and analysis; phase 4 - consultation and development of strategy; phase 5 - agreement of high level outcomes of the strategy; phase 6 - detailed development of a strategy and agreement; and Council approval and implementation.
b. Officers had been consulting with various groups, including governors, local communities, and diocesan boards. Discussions with school clusters had been productive, with further sessions to be held during term time.
c. With the emergence of academies and free schools and different governance arrangements, the role of the council was changing and thought needed to be given to the types of environment that the authority wanted to see for children.
d. There was a spectrum in terms of the quality of buildings but this was not the only factor, particularly as there were some outstanding schools in less than outstanding buildings. Consideration needed to be given to how such schools could be supported and how education and schooling could be presented in the best light, particularly to ensure that Herefordshire was a place where businesses wanted to invest and people wanted to live and work.
e. In addition to being detailed in the appendix, the draft principles were summarised as:
1) Schools serving the community
· right amount of places in the right place
· meet parental preference
2) High quality learning environments
· good condition - maintenance up to date and not disproportionate to value
· suitable buildings and grounds
· supportive of curriculum delivery
· not in temporary classrooms
· energy efficient
· accessible to all
3) Expansion of high quality popular schools
4) Consolidation and all through school opportunities
5) Plans ... view the full minutes text for item 28.
To seek the views of the General overview and scrutiny committee regarding the proposed revisions to the current council tax reduction (CTR) scheme ahead of Cabinet review in October and Council approval in December.
The Director of resources introduced the report, the principal points included:
a. The background to the abolition of the national council tax benefit system in 2013 and its replacement with a local council tax reduction (CTR) system was explained, as well as the subsequent reductions in central government funding.
b. Pensioner benefits continued to be protected and the council had discretion on CTR for working age claimants only.
c. The CTR scheme for 2015/16 gave £4.6m in council tax subsidy to working age claimants. Reflecting reductions in government support grant, there was a saving requirement of £200k from CTR for 2016/17.
d. The current CTR caseload profile was: pensioners fully or partially unaffected by the CTR scheme 6,594; and working age claimants 6,738, with approximately 4,500 in receipt of CTR at 84% (the remaining claimants qualified for partial subsidy).
e. The collection rates for council tax remained stable, with 98.10% achieved in 2014/15; the collection rate was 82.5% for claimants in receipt of CTR.
f. The report provided a breakdown of the circumstances of 190 sample CTR cases that had received a summons and this showed that 53% were in receipt of Employment & Support Allowance.
g. Initial responses to the council’s Priorities and budget consultation 2016-2020 prioritised income and savings in the following order (out of 10 proposals for savings): sell our smallholdings estate of 4,500 acres, to reduce our debt repayments; increase car parking charges in Hereford; and reduce the discounts available under the council tax reduction scheme.
h. Appendix 3 to the report detailed the results of a consultation questionnaire on the CTR scheme and the related proposals for 2016/17. The proposals were:
Proposal 1 - reducing the level of CTR from 84% to 80% but also increase restrictions to CTR and protect CTR at 84% for certain claimants.
Proposal 2 - reducing the level of CTR from 84% to 80% with no other scheme changes.
i. The Director of resources said that, informed by the data on summonses, consultation responses and engagement with the Children’s Society, Proposal 1 would seek to maintain CTR at 84% where the claimant was either in receipt of severe disability premium, carers allowance or families with a child under the age of five. This was expected to deliver £144k per annum.
j. To bridge the gap to the saving requirement of £200k, Proposal 1 would involve two additional proposals, to amend CTR from a band D property restriction to a band C restriction and reduce the capital limit to £6k. Appendix 1 to the report detailed the financial impact of 80% CTR and band c restriction and provided examples. The Director of resources, acknowledging a point made to him by the Chairman, noted that 327 CTR claimants living in a band D property would see an increase in the amount payable from £254 to £458 but also referred back to the potential protections for certain claimants.
k. The current capital limit was £16k, reducing this to £6k would mean that approximately 110 ... view the full minutes text for item 29.
To consider the committee’s work programme.
A draft work programme was submitted for consideration. The Chairman drew attention to the following:
· the Smallholdings estate task and finish group was completing its review and its report would be submitted for consideration by the committee on 27 October 2015;
· various other changes had been made to the work programme, as shown at paragraph 6 of the report; and
§ in anticipation of the next round of consultation, it was intended that a member workshop be held on the Community infrastructure levy (CIL).
The Deputy Leader, referring to planned agenda items for the 17 November 2015 meeting, said that additional work was being undertaken on the Housing strategy and was unlikely to available in the timescale identified.
A committee member considered that there was outstanding work for the CIL task and finish group to complete. The Chairman said that he would seek further officer advice on the matter.
A committee member questioned progress with a Digital strategy task and finish group. The committee was advised that, in view of the time that had elapsed since the group had been commissioned, a seminar would be arranged to update members on the current position and to help identify any specific areas where future scrutiny activity could be focussed. The Director of economy, communities and corporate said that it was for the committee to decide how it wished to prioritise the work programme. A committee member requested that a briefing note be prepared.
RESOLVED: That the
(a) the draft work programme be noted; and
(b) a briefing note be prepared on digital issues.
Date of next meeting
The next scheduled meeting is Tuesday 27 October 2015 at 1.00 pm.
Tuesday 27 October 2015 at 1.00 pm.</AI10>