To consider the report of the Chief Finance Officer.
Following an earlier request, the Principal Accountant (PM) responded to a Member’s enquiry about the funding for the Car Park Consultation and Feasibility Study. He stated that the Council had set aside an earmarked reserve to support one-off funding opportunities such as this. He would ensure that a more comprehensive reply was forthcoming.
The Principal Accountant (PM) presented the report which advised Members of any major differences, by management unit between the approved revenue budget and the estimated outturn as part of a quarterly financial update in respect of Place Scrutiny Committee. The current forecast suggested that net expenditure for the Committee would increase from the approved budget by a total of £188,220 after transfers from reserves and revenue contributions to capital. This represented a variation of 2.86% from the revised budget and included a supplementary budget of £574,297, already agreed by Council. The Principal Accountant (MH) stated that the report also included a predicted outturn update in respect of the Place Capital Programme, and she confirmed a total current spend of £1,121,576 in 2017/18 with £4,666,810 of the programme potentially deferred until 2018/19.
The Principal Accountant (PM) responded to a Member’s comment on the expenditure for external advice relating to appealed planning decisions. He stated that the Council employed a planning solicitor, but on occasions it had been necessary to seek additional legal advice. The expenditure was a reduction on the previous year and he would respond to the Member and confirm the figures. Another Member agreed that it would be more desirable to have an additional in-house staff rather than seek external advice. A Member had also spoken with the Events, Facilities & Markets Manager about his disappointment over the reduced scale of the Sunday Market and Car Boot Sale at Matford and he hoped that the income stream could be improved. The Member also referred to the efforts made by the Exeter Tidy Group working with Exeter University and others to raise the level of recycling. He felt that Exeter’s recycling rate did not compare with neighbouring local authorities, and accepted that the income for recycling fluctuated. The Director Communications and Marketing stated that the Director Place had reset the targets for the Council’s Recycling teams and it should be noted that even a 1% increase could see revenues increase by £55,000. The Chair invited the Portfolio Holder for Place to speak on this matter and he welcomed any opportunity to work with the Member and others, in an effort to continue to drive up recycling rates through education as well as spread the message of the Council’s commitment. A Member referred to the difficulty of making a direct comparison with neighbouring Councils, particularly as Devon County Council were able to include the material from the Recycling Centres at Exton Road and Pinhoe. The Member Champion for Food Waste also referred to the work of the Devon Authorities Strategic Waste Committee and added that as food waste was also included by some authorities, Exeter did quite well in comparison. He also paid tribute to the hard working staff at the Materials Recycling Centre (MRF), a sentiment that was echoed by the rest of the Scrutiny Committee.
Place Scrutiny Committee noted the report.