Agenda and minutes
Venue: The Conference Room, Herefordshire Council Offices, Plough Lane, Hereford, HR4 0LE
Contact: Sarah Buffrey
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Councillors Hitchiner and Davies.
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 and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 28 April 2022.
Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on 28 April 2022 be approved as a correct record.
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 assist with the efficient transaction of business, the agenda item ‘Promoting Safety: Herefordshire Domestic Abuse Strategy 2021-24’ was taken out of order, after public and councillor questions had been received. The rest of the agenda followed the order in the published agenda.
To approve the final draft of the Domestic Abuse Strategy for Herefordshire 2021-2024, in accordance with the requirements of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.
The cabinet member health and adult wellbeing introduced the report. The draft strategy was produced in October 2021. A significant consultation process had taken place since then and the version before this meeting was the final version for approval.
The cabinet member highlighted that:
· The information gathered through the consultation and ongoing engagement would inform future service delivery;
· Production of this strategy was a statutory duty under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and it would be regularly updated;
· A multi-agency local partnership board had been formed, had positive engagement from key partners and representation from people with lived experience of domestic abuse, the board was responsible for monitoring and measuring progress on outcomes;
· A grant had been provided by the government to deliver the duties in the Domestic Abuse Act and the services to be commissioned would be subject to a separate decision;
· Changes to the document included increased focus on outcomes and further detail on the challenges posed by rurality.
The cabinet member stressed the need to raise awareness and understanding about the devastating impact of domestic abuse on victims and their families, recognising that domestic abuse is not only physical violence but can also include being emotionally controlling or coercive control and economic abuse.
Cabinet members discussed the report and noted:
· A strong determination to address domestic abuse;
· The important of clear governance when lots of different agencies were involved;
· The difficulties of short-term funding which may it hard to plan;
· Links with the community safety partnership.
The chairperson of the adults and wellbeing scrutiny committee thanked the executive for the positive response to the recommendations made by the committee when it reviewed the draft strategy. The committee had noted:
· the potential around increased integration with Talk Community and a holistic approach including support within communities;
· that the assumption that the victim survivor should leave the home needed to be challenged;
· the importance of education and information about the different types of abuse.
Group leaders and representatives presented the comments and queries from their groups. There was general support for the strategy and it was noted that:
· the strategy would need to be promoted and the council would be working with key partners to raise awareness through their channels as well as through the council’s various media and social media contacts;
· the implementation of the strategy was critical;
· the links between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic abuse were now recognised in the document and working in partnership with the animal sector would help to identify potential abuse.
It was resolved that:
a) The final draft of Promoting Safety: Herefordshire’s Strategy for Addressing Domestic Abuse 2021 – 2024 be approved for implementation;
b) The responses to the recommendations made by Scrutiny Committee in appendix 4 of this report are approved; and
c) Approval of updates to the strategy and the associated needs assessment, be delegated to the Director for Community Wellbeing in consultation with cabinet members during the lifetime of the strategy.
To provide an update to cabinet on the children's improvement plan.
The cabinet member children and families introduced the report. She welcomed the input from stakeholders on the new version of the improvement plan and noted ongoing conversations with strategic partners. The cabinet member also highlighted the publication of the final report from the independent review of children’s social care. The government would be responding to this by the end of the year, and the council would take account of any changes in guidance and practice in future updates to the improvement plan.
The corporate director children and young people reminded cabinet members of the background to the improvement plan and key points of the revised document. The next update in July would include details of the additional funding allocation to support the transformation of the service. An inspection of the service by Ofsted was anticipated at some point in the current year. The appointment of new permanent service directors was confirmed and the reduction in caseloads for social workers and more frequent supervision was welcomed. The council continued to work with external partners including the local government association to identify progress and areas for further improvement.
The deputy leader of the council made a statement on the recently broadcast BBC Panorama programme and other media coverage on the council’s children’s services. She acknowledged the concerns raised by residents and councillors and thanked those who had raised specific concerns about their own experiences. The council had invested in the additional staff and resources needed to improve services and was one year into a three-year plan. Supporting families and protecting vulnerable children continued to be the number one priority for the council and the cabinet.
Cabinet members thanked staff for their work on the revised plan and were pleased to see increased focus on outcomes and the progress made to date. The skill, commitment and compassion of staff was recognised.
The chairperson of the children and young people scrutiny committee explained that progress on the improvement plan would be considered at the next scrutiny committee meeting on 21 June. He noted the greater focus on specific metrics and direction of travel, which addressed points raised previously by the committee.
Group leaders and representatives gave the comments and queries from their groups. The new performance reporting was welcomed as it gave a clearer picture of progress and the statistics reported were encouraging. It was noted that:
· It was important to work with and support families as a key mechanism to protect children;
· It was important that decision making was checked to give assurance that good decisions were being made and to give confidence to the workforce;
· Rebuilding trust would take time but the change of culture within the service should start to show in the evidence;
· The multi-agency early help offer needed further development;
· It was important to pick up issues in families that lived or accessed services outside Herefordshire, working with neighbouring authorities to ensure good consultation and dialogue.
It was resolved that the cabinet:
a) Reflect on the progress and impact ... view the full minutes text for item 117.
As the competent body under the Habitat and Species Regulations (2017) Cabinet is asked to note the progress being made towards creating Integrated Wetlands phosphate reduction and steps being taken to ensure Nutrient Certainty to the required standard of beyond reasonable scientific doubt.
As the two items are closely linked, the reports on Nutrient Certainty and Phosphate Credit Pricing and Allocation Policy were debated together. The recommendations were voted on separately.
The cabinet member infrastructure and transport introduced the reports. He thanked officers for their work on the project, which had taken a significant length of time to bring forward and acknowledged the role of the chairperson of the nutrient management board as a supportive and interested advisor on the project.
Cabinet members heard that:
· The nutrient certainty report set out the progress made to date but did not represent a final position;
· The integrated wetlands were a mechanism which allowed the council to strip phosphates out of sewage discharge before it entered the river, enabling some housing development to proceed;
· The current moratorium on housebuilding in the north of the county had had a significant impact on income to the county and on builders and developers operating in Herefordshire;
· The council was not responsible for the health of the rivers in the county, as this role sat with national agencies, but in order to support the building industry the council had chosen to commit resources to this innovative mitigation solution;
· The wetlands would provide a degree of betterment to the river system, which was welcomed, but the primary objective was to provide mitigation for development and the council would continue to press the government to provide funds to national agencies to address the underlying issue of pollution in the river systems.
The interim delivery director for waste transformation and wetland project explained the technical detail of the reports. She reminded cabinet members of the background to the moratorium on house building and explained that it had taken a long time to pull the project together because this was the first time anybody had been able to measure how much phosphate leaves a sewage treatment plant and how much reed beds take up to a level of scientific certainty that they could put a trading system onto that. In addition to the impact of river pollution on wildlife and biodiversity, the inability to approve housing development in the north of the county had a huge impact in constraining the supply of homes, including affordable homes, and on the council’s income in terms of its council tax base and new homes bonus from the government. Cabinet members also noted that:
· The modelling undertaken was robust and allowed for factors such as climate change over the next 70 years and differences in rainfall across the year;
· The modelling work was expected to be completed within the next few weeks and would be brought in a future report for final sign off;
· It was important that those responsible for the pollution of the rivers should address the underlying causes of high levels of phosphates but the wetland scheme would allow for some river betterment in addition to releasing development;
· The phosphate credit system proposed would operate on a first come first served policy based on the ... view the full minutes text for item 118.
Cabinet are asked to consider the proposed pricing arrangements for Phosphate Credits, an interim allocation policy pending a full allocation policy and to note the proposed Phosphate Credit Allocation Policy.
Due to the close connection, this report was discussed alongside the previous agenda item on Nutrient Certainty but the recommendations voted on separately.
It was resolved:
a) To continue with all further necessary preparations to the point of commencing trading of credits but not to proceed with the sale of credits until a further report has been provided to Cabinet updating on Nutrient Certainty of the integrated wetlands;
b) To approve the pricing of Phosphate Credits at £14,000 + VAT per kilogram of offset required per year;
c) To allocate and ring fence the Phosphate Credit income into the specific Wetland Revenue Reserve to fund the ongoing wetland maintenance, Phosphate Credit administration and investment in further phosphate reduction initiatives across the County;
d) To approve an interim ’First Come First Served’ policy in validation order allocation of Phosphate Credits for housing development applications received and validated on or prior to 31st October 2021 as outlined in this report;
e) To note the Phosphate Credit Allocation Procedure as set out in this report;
f) To agree that, where a planning application lapses or a developer chooses not to proceed to build, all unused Phosphate Credits will be forfeited and the fee paid for them returned to the developer less an administration fee, as part of the Section 106 agreement Process;
g) To receive a report at a future date to agree a permanent Phosphate Credit allocation policy for applications received on or after 1st November 2021;
h) To delegate to the Corporate Director of Economy and Environment in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Transport minor clarifications and amendments to the interim Phosphate Credit allocation policy as may be needed from time to time and to review and update the Phosphate Credit price as required; and
i) To review the price of phosphate credits in March 2026 based on actual final build and three years actual operating costs.
The meeting adjourned at 4:22 pm.
The following councillors left the meeting during the adjournment: Cllr Toni Fagan, Cllr Elissa Swinglehurst, Cllr Phillip Howells.
The meeting resumed at 4:33 pm.
To approve the Energy Rebate Discretionary Fund scheme and the criteria for the allocation of the funding.
The cabinet member finance, corporate services and planning introduced the report and explained that it set out how the council proposed to distribute the discretionary element of the funding to households who did not qualify for the main scheme.
Group leaders and representatives gave the comments and queries of their groups. It was noted that:
· Those who lived in properties with higher tax bands did not always have higher levels of disposable income so it was right to offer support;
· A communications plan would be in place to raise awareness of how to benefit from this scheme, including among those without online access;
· Recent announcements from the government would provide further support but the detail had not yet been received.
It was resolved that:
a) The Energy Rebate Discretionary Fund scheme and the criteria for the allocation of the funding is approved; and
b) That all operational and budgetary decisions regarding this scheme be delegated to the director of resources and assurance.
To seek approval for an advance loan of up to £210,000 in 2022/23 to the Herefordshire County Business Improvement District (BID) Limited to enable the company to become operational until such time as the council (as the billing authority) can commence collection of the 2% business rates levy.
The cabinet member environment and economy introduced the report. She explained that the new Herefordshire County BID had requested a loan for the first year of its operation, to be repaid as the levy was collected from businesses. This would support set up costs and the initial marketing activity to promote tourism in the county. A similar facility had been put in place for the Hereford City BID when it was first set up. As the council was the billing authority it would be responsible for collecting the levy and would deduct the repayments from the funds collected. There was no financial risk to the council as nationwide figures show only a very small percentage of businesses fail to pay and the loan would be recouped in less than a year.
Group leaders and representatives gave their comments. The reasons for the loan were understood and the assurances given on the expected repayment were acknowledged and accepted.
It was resolved:
a) To approve a short term 0% loan of up to £210,000 in 2022/23 to the Herefordshire County BID Limited, to be paid on commencement of the Operating Agreement and repaid within the financial year through collection of the levy by the council as the billing authority; and
b) To delegate to the Section 151 Officer following consultation with the cabinet member environment and economy all operational decisions in relation to the payment and recovery of the loan.
To review performance for Quarter 4 2021/22 and the final budget outturn for the year.
The cabinet member finance, corporate services and planning introduced the report and highlighted a published correction to one of the tables. She explained that the council had faced the largest in-year savings target ever at over £11m in addition to the continued challenges of covid and that the final outturn was an underspend of nearly £550k. Additional covid grant support from central government had gone a long way towards meeting the additional costs incurred but there were still significant impacts such as delays to delivery of capital projects.
Cabinet members highlighted the key achievements and progress in their portfolio areas and thanked officers for their support during the year.
Group leaders and representatives put comments and questions on behalf of their groups. It was noted that:
· Further work was needed with parish councils and communities on how to access Section 106 contributions, the importance of updating their lists of infrastructure requests and positively engaging with planning processes;
· A dedicated talk parish session on Section 106 processes was being considered;
· The council would consult with parishes and ward members as part of the Section 106 process but as the senior authority and highways authority the final decisions were the responsibility of Herefordshire Council;
· Previous feasibility work on an eastern bridge route was being reviewed and updated as necessary and would be shared when ready;
· Over 60 talk community hubs had been set up, with the council providing seed funding and support to get them off the ground and development officers to help those running the hubs to ensure they had a sustainable future;
· It was intended that the talk community hubs would work closely with NHS partners and the integrated care services board to develop diagnostic services within some hubs and further expand the services they could offer;
· It was important to share details about the services and projects that the council delivered each year.
It was resolved that:
a) Cabinet, having reviewed performance and financial forecast for year 2021/22, as set out in the appendices A-F, has not identified any additional actions to be considered to achieve future improvements.