Agenda and minutes
Venue: Online only meeting
Contact: Sarah Buffrey
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
To receive any apologies for absence.
There were no apologies from members of the cabinet.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
To receive declarations of interests in respect of Schedule 1, Schedule 2 or Other Interests from members of the committee in respect of items on the agenda.
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 27 February 2020.
Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on 27 February 2020 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairperson.
To receive questions from members of the public.
Questions received and responses given are attached as appendix 1 to the minutes.
To receive questions from councillors.
There were no questions from councillors.
To report to cabinet on the response by Herefordshire Council to the coronavirus epidemic in the county and its impact on the council and the county.
The chief executive spoke on the report, highlighting the actions taken by the council independently and in conjunction with partners locally, regionally and nationally. Points noted included:
· Challenges in sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) with the council using around 18,000 facemasks per day, gloves, aprons and goggles were also being used where appropriate;
· Local companies had adapted their manufacturing capabilities to produce hand sanitiser within a week of the council’s request;
· The council was working closely with care homes and was in a comparatively sound position compared with other areas of the county, the situation was being closely monitored as Herefordshire was behind the peak curve regionally;
· The council was making use of technology to hold virtual meetings and recognised the opportunities this presented in reducing unnecessary travel and reducing pollution from traffic;
· Systems imposed from central government had generally been less effective than measures designed and implemented locally, this was being communicated back to the government;
· The council had the lowest known staff sickness levels across the region;
· Many staff had been redeployed to assist with the response to the virus, for example car parking charges had been suspended which allowed key workers to park as close as possible to their point of work and released enforcement staff for other duties;
· In the long term it would be necessary to get a vaccine distributed across the county, in the interim full hygiene protocols including washing hands, social distancing and where appropriate in specific roles, use of PPE remained key tools;
· The resource implications were enormous for councils across the country and the impact was still being calculated, councils were signalling that the additional costs could not be met indefinitely without extra funding and would be pressing the government in this regard.
Following the presentation by the chief executive the meeting observed a minute’s silence in remembrance of those who had lost their lives to the coronavirus.
In discussion of the chief executive’s report the cabinet noted that:
· £45.5m worth of grants had been approved to businesses across the county, the council had been unable to reach a number of businesses that might be eligible for grants and would be sending letters out in the following days to encourage them to make contact;
· Planning applications continued to be registered and validated, site notices had been suspended initially but had now been reinstated with appropriate social distancing measures for staff and the first virtual planning committee meeting had been scheduled for 12 May;
· Close working with the care home sector had resulted in a relatively small number of cases in comparison with other parts of the country, a proactive approach was supporting care providers with infection control processes and the council had submitted its model to the Local Government Association as an example of best practice to inform work across the country, however Herefordshire was behind the regional peak curve;
· The chief executive and other senior officers continued to provide regular updates to cabinet members.
In considering comments and questions from ... view the full minutes text for item 142.
Herefordshire Council, together with Worcestershire County Council, Telford & Wrekin Council and Shropshire Council, is one of the member authorities (the ‘Owning Authorities’) of West Mercia Energy (WME) Joint Committee, formerly known as West Mercia Supplies. At the point of sale of the West Mercia Supplies stationery division (WMS) in 2012, the existing pension deficit relating to the former WMS staff was retained within the continuing WME business and is overseen by the WME Joint Committee.
The West Mercia Energy Joint Committee formally approved a request to the Owning Authorities to take direct responsibility for this pension deficit liability on the 24 September 2019. Having undertaken discussions via their respective senior Finance Officers, the Owning Authorities are each seeking approval to take on this liability, which is proposed to be achieved by the transfer of this pension deficit to a newly created ‘employer body’ within the Shropshire County Pension Fund (‘WMS Pension’) managed and overseen by a new ‘WMS Pension Joint Committee’ comprising the same Owning Authorities.
The cabinet member finance and corporate services introduced the report and explained that the proposed changes were intended to give West Mercia Energy a better book position when it came to winning business by moving the pension liability to the books of the four owning authorities’ respective pension boards. Each of the owning authorities needed to agree the proposal. The financial situation for the council was unchanged as the owning authorities were already liable for the pension arrangements.
In considering comments and questions from group leader the cabinet noted general support for the proposal and that the company continued to buy energy and manage costs for the owning councils and a growing number of other customers. It was hoped this step would help to win more customer.
It was agreed that:
(a) Cabinet, on condition that the Executives of Worcestershire County Council, Telford & Wrekin Council and Shropshire Council agreeing to the same recommendations, agrees:
a. To remove the responsibility for the discharge of its function in relation to the pension deficit liability in relation to former WMS employees (including Compensatory Added Years Benefits) as identified in this report from the business of the WME Joint Committee with effect from 1 April 2020;
b. To allocate the pension deficit liability identified in recommendation a above to a new employer within the Shropshire County Pension Fund, called ‘WMS Pension’;
c. To establish a joint committee pursuant to section 101(5) of the Local Government Act 1972, with Worcestershire County Council, Telford & Wrekin Council and Shropshire Council known as the WMS Pension Joint Committee and delegate responsibility with effect from 1 April 2020 to the WMS Pension Joint Committee to discharge the functions of Herefordshire Council relating to the pension deficit liability from former WMS employees (including Compensatory Added Years Benefits) as set out in Appendix A allocated to the WMS Pension employer within the Shropshire County Pension Fund;
d. To approve the proposed governance arrangements set out in Appendix A, and that the Council’s appointed Executive Members to the WMS Pension Joint Committee shall be the Leader of the Council and the current Council representative(s) on the West Mercia Energy Joint Committee;
e. To delegate authority to the Chief Finance Officer (Section 151) to progress and agree the arrangements as set out in this report, including a relevant payment mechanism and finalise a Joint Agreement for the WMS Pension Joint Committee incorporating the terms set out in Appendix A, in consultation with Section 151 Officers from the remaining Owning Authorities.
f. To approve the treatment of the WME asset share to be fully funded with effect from 1 April 2020 using IAS19/FRS102 actuarial assumptions with the resulting additional cost of this funding option allocated to the WMS Pension employer within the Shropshire County Pension Fund.
g. To delegate authority to the Chief Finance Officer (Section 151) to agree the final figures, of which estimates are set out in the resources implications section of this report, and in consultation with the Section 151 Officers ... view the full minutes text for item 143.