Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Brunswick Room - Guildhall, Bath. View directions

Contact: Michaela Gay  01225 394411

Items
No. Item

34.

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting.

 

35.

EMERGENCY EVACUATION PROCEDURE

The Chair will draw attention to the emergency evacuation procedure as set out under Note 6.

 

Minutes:

The Chairman drew attention to the emergency evacuation procedure.

 

36.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS

Minutes:

Councillor Pearce gave his apologies and was substituted by Councillor Anketell Jones.

37.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

At this point in the meeting declarations of interest are received from Members in any of the agenda items under consideration at the meeting. Members are asked to indicate:

(a) The agenda item number in which they have an interest to declare.

(b) The nature of their interest.

(c) Whether their interest is a disclosable pecuniary interest or an other interest,  (as defined in Part 2, A and B of the Code of Conduct and Rules for Registration of Interests)

Any Member who needs to clarify any matters relating to the declaration of interests is recommended to seek advice from the Council’s Monitoring Officeror a member of his staff before the meeting to expedite dealing with the item during the meeting.

Minutes:

Councillor Anketell Jones declared an interest in item 9 ‘Commercial Estate’ as the owner of a commercial property that has 6 party walls with a Council owned property.

38.

TO ANNOUNCE ANY URGENT BUSINESS AGREED BY THE CHAIRMAN

Minutes:

There was none.

39.

ITEMS FROM THE PUBLIC OR COUNCILLORS - TO RECEIVE DEPUTATIONS, STATEMENTS, PETITIONS OR QUESTIONS RELATING TO THE BUSINESS OF THIS MEETING

At the time of publication no notifications had been received.

 

Minutes:

Councillor Sarah Bevan handed a statement to the Cabinet Member for Finance and Efficiency, Councillor Charles Gerrish on behalf of Councillor Karen Walker which detailed a budget wish list.

40.

MINUTES - 13th September 2017 pdf icon PDF 80 KB

Minutes:

The Panel confirmed the minutes of the previous meeting as a true record and they were duly signed by the Chairman.

41.

Budget Monitoring Report (September Quarter Monitoring Figures) pdf icon PDF 66 KB

The Revenue and Capital Budget monitoring report is attached showing the expected year-end position predicted at the end of August 2017.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Andrew Pate, Strategic Director of Resources introduced the item. He stated that the key issue is that the overspend is being closely monitored and actions are being taken. He also pointed to the recent report to full Council on efficiencies which is relevant.

 

Panel members made the following points and asked the following questions on the report:

 

Responding to a query about the 3 month vacancy freeze, the Strategic Director explained that this means a 3 month gap in the spend. He further explained that there are some exceptions to this policy such as some posts in social care and those funded through capital. Councillor Rayment asked if this causes a lottery in that some departments will have higher staff turnover, the Strategic Director explained that there are variations but that departments can apply to be exempt from the policy.

 

Councillor O Brien stated that she fully understood the overspend in the social care area but queried the Finance and Efficiency portfolio where an overspend is shown and some areas where targets have not been achieved – she asked why this had happened. The Strategic Director explained that the majority of the overspend has been in Human Resources (HR) and there has been a complete review and redesign of the service and rebasing of the budget for next year and this has resulted in staff consultation and major restructuring within the service with two teams from two divisions being combined as part of this. This followed a Peer Review. The new arrangements have been benchmarked and future HR costs will be well below the average. There are other moves to save money in this area such as pulling back HR provided to other parties such as schools. The reasons for the in year overspend are that (1) some costs were previously part funded from reserves, to allow for the extra work arising from staff reductions within the organisation, (2) base budget inaccuracies which are now being corrected and (3) losses made on support for schools.

 

The Strategic Director also reassured the Panel that this HR overspend had not been taken lightly, action had been taken, but there is a need to fund HR at an appropriate level. He further explained that previous management savings targets elsewhere in the Resources department had been fully delivered but one of those savings was funded from capital so did not fully achieve the expected revenue impact. Councillor O Brien asked if the revenue/capital issue could not have been anticipated and asked if it is clear that the budget will be achieved. The Strategic Director explained this was a small part of a wider saving but that based budget legacy issues, such as this, have been reviewed ready for next year’s budget.

 

Councillor Barrett stated that he has concerns that virements can be abused and asked for information regarding how much money is vired across headings and who has the authority to authorize this. The Strategic Director explained that there is a budget management scheme  ...  view the full minutes text for item 41.

42.

Commercial Estate pdf icon PDF 74 KB

To introduce the Council’s recently appointed property advisers, Hartnell Taylor Cook (HTC) to the Resources Policy Development & Scrutiny Panel who will receive a presentation from HTC on the role they will be playing in supporting the Council in its strategic management of the Commercial Estate. HTC will also provide a commentary on the national and local property market.

 

Minutes:

Richard Long, Head of Property introduced representatives from Hartnell Taylor Cook (HTC) Ian Lambert and Richard Saunders. HTC, the Council’s recently appointed property advisors, gave a presentation (a copy is kept on the minute book for this Panel) on the role they will be playing in supporting the Council in its strategic management of the Commercial Estate. The presentation covered the following points:

 

·  Who is HTC?

·  What difference will the partnership with HTC make?

·  How well is the BANES estate performing?

·  What are the existing market conditions?

·  Conclusion

 

Panel members made the following points and asked the following questions on the report:

 

Councillor Barrett asked why HTC are being introduced now if they have been working with the Council for three years and also what are the financial implications of using HTC. The officer explained that HTC have taken on a new role after a tendering process to replace the previous property advisor earlier this year, before that process HTC had only acted with the Council on individual acquisitions. On the financial issue, the officer explained that there is a fixed rate fee per annum, the figures will be circulated.

 

Panel members queried some phrases used – ‘reversionary lease’ is an extended expiry date; ‘rental tone’ is the established level of rent and a ‘void’ is an empty property.

 

Councillor Rayment stated that the presentation focused on how to get the most money but in the long term, thought should be given to the unique aspects of the city such as independent shops. The officer stated that Bath is in an extremely fortunate position in having a high number of independent shops and the focus for HTC is maintaining the income from the prime pitches (High Street brands) as this allows breathing space in talks with independent businesses where there is a different management approach. The HTC representatives explained that they understand the value of independent shops.

 

Councillor O Brien asked when rents are reviewed, the officer explained that this is done on a 4 yearly basis and rents don’t automatically go up as it would depend on the tone value of the rental area. In the past it was common to have a rental period of 25 years but more recently, to respond to the market, term lengths have been brought down (4 or 8 years is common).

 

Councillor O Brien commented on the need to help independent shops with signage to help drive footfall to the area. Richard Saunders (HTC) explained that in certain areas of the city there are tenant collectives (e.g. Walcot Street Traders) and HTC work to try to promote such areas.

 

Councillor Furse referred to the gearing which is 20.8% (LTV – Load to Value) he stated that his concern is that the authority is dealing with public money so should not take high risks. Ian Lambert (HTC) commented that 20.8% is a low gearing and there is at least 10% headroom.

 

Councillor Anketell Jones asked the following questions (answers are shown below:

 

·  We  ...  view the full minutes text for item 42.

43.

Grand Parade and Undercroft Update pdf icon PDF 1 MB

The Panel is asked to provide feedback to the Cabinet Member for Finance and Efficiency on the proposal to seek a disposal of the long lease of the Grand Parade and Undercroft area to allow this development to take place.

Minutes:

Derek Quilter, Divisional Director of Property and Project Delivery introduced the item and explained that he would feedback the Panel comments to the Cabinet member.

 

Panel members made the following points and asked the following questions on the report:

 

Councillor Furse stated that his concern is that, while this was a Council scheme, there was control over the appearance and usage but in selling it the Council would lose that control. He added that he would like to know what restrictions will be put in the terms of the building agreement as this may be the only control the Council has as it is difficult for Councillors to oppose potential licensing applications. The officer stated that the lease would only be granted on certain terms and that there will be a building agreement. He added that there are already restrictions on opening hours for the scheme and that these restrictions would carry over.

 

Councillor O Brien stated that we must be aware that a developer can apply for a variation on a license. She added that it is important that we make it clear that the building must be maintained. The lease must be very specific. The officer explained that this was a listed building so restrictions would apply.

 

Councillor Rayment echoed concerns about potential changes to this iconic area of Bath. The officer explained that there is a very detailed planning application and it would not be sold as freehold so the Council would maintain some control.

44.

Cabinet Member Update

The Cabinet Member will update the Panel on any relevant issues. Panel members may ask questions on the update provided.

 

Minutes:

The Cabinet member for Finance and Efficiency, Councillor Charles Gerrish updated the Panel on the following:

 

·  The round of budget engagement meetings has begun – so far there have been meetings with Bath Avon South and 3G (a third sector group) – groups have expressed wishes to work positively with the Council. There is a Bath Avon North meeting today and next week Bath, Keynsham and Somer Valley.

·  We are proactively looking at where we can transfer community assets – these help with savings.

 

Panel members made the following points and asked the following questions on the report:

 

In response to a query from Councillor Anketell Jones, the Cabinet Member explained that 3G includes CAB/MIND/Age UK/SWAN/Rural Network and DHI.

 

Councillor Rayment asked if there was any indications of the impacts of the national budget (announced today 22nd November 2017). The Cabinet Member explained that he had not yet seen the Government reports but he noted there was no mention of social care. Andrew Pate, Strategic Director of Resources explained that Universal Credit had been referred to and also empty homes.

 

In response to a query from Councillor Rayment, the Cabinet Member explained that the authority had not met with Government representatives yet but they will explore ways to enable the Government to empower the authority to find ways of raising money.

 

45.

Panel Workplan pdf icon PDF 113 KB

This report presents the latest workplan for the Panel. Any suggestions for further items or amendments to the current programme will be logged and scheduled in consultation with the Panel’s Chair and supporting officers.

Minutes:

With the following amendments, the Panel noted the workplan:

 

·  The ‘Update on demand for Printing, Catering and Cleaning services and future delivery options’ item be moved to 21st March 2018.

·  The Chair to speak with officers about where best to place other unscheduled items.