Contact: Sharon Sissons, Democratic Services Officer Tel: 01392 265115 or email email@example.com
The minutes of the meeting of the Strategic Scrutiny Committee held on 19 November 2020 were taken as read, approved as correct, for signing by the Chair at the earliest possible convenience.
Declaration of Interest
Councillors are reminded of the need to declare any disclosable pecuniary interests that relate to business on the agenda and which have not already been included in the register of interests, before any discussion takes place on the item. Unless the interest is sensitive, you must also disclose the nature of the interest. In accordance with the Council's Code of Conduct, you must then leave the room and must not participate in any further discussion of the item. Councillors requiring clarification should seek the advice of the Monitoring Officer prior to the day of the meeting.
No declaration of interest was made by a Member.
Questions from Members of the Public Under Standing Order 19
Details of questions should be notified to the Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support by 10.00am at least three working days prior to the meeting. For this meeting any questions must be submitted by 10.00am on Monday 18 January 2021.
For details about how to speak at Committee, please click the following link - https://exeter.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/councillors-and-meetings/public-speaking-at-meetings/overview/
No questions from members of the public were received.
Questions from Members of the Council Under Standing Order 20
To receive questions from Members of the Council to the relevant Portfolio Holders for this Scrutiny Committee.
In accordance with Standing Order 20, Councillor Diana Moore submitted the following question relating to consultation and engagement, which the Leader responded to and which was set out below in the following terms:-
“In October 2019 I
submitted the following scrutiny proposal to set up a task and finish group to develop a framework
for the Council, setting out its approach to consultation and
engagement. The framework would include setting out:-
· the meaning, purposes and principles of consultation, engagement and any related methodologies the Council intends to use,
· what the Council and contributors might expect from participation in such processes,
· how and what decisions may be influenced by such contributions or participation and where and when those decisions will be taken; and
· how contributions will be analysed and how feedback to contributors and the public will be given.
The Leader responded and advised that a report was being prepared for the forthcoming meeting of the Executive on 9 February and then Council later in the month. The report would include a proposed framework for how the Council would consult in the future. Members would be able to comment on the report, with the opportunity to make a statement at the Executive and address any questions at Council on 23 February.
Councillor Moore in asking a supplementary question enquired if there would be further consultation on the proposal and if the intended course of action was incongruous with the sentiment of consultation. She looked forward to an opportunity to offer feedback on the proposal, but felt the current process did not allow for active scrutiny on that matter. She felt confident of the shared aspiration with the Leader to ensure that consultation worked well, and asked if there would be any opportunity to comment on the report before the Executive. The Leader confirmed that the report would outline how the Council will consult with the appropriate groups and organisations. There was the opportunity for further discussion around that when the report is presented though the Committee process. He gave his assurance that the Council’s stance was to listen and consult, and there would be the opportunity to continue to reflect on the proposals at the forthcoming Executive and Council He gave an undertaking that any received comments would be considered.
To receive a briefing note on Recovery aspects from the Growth & Commercialisation Manager for discussion(attached)
The Growth and Commercialisation Manager presented a briefing note which provided an overview of the activity of her team, work on recovery plans and developing business support activities, and included an update on data collected since Covid 19 restrictions commenced. Weekly meetings were held with the Exeter Chamber of Commerce, Exeter branch of Federation of Small Businesses and InExeter. Discussions considered the effect of the pandemic on the city’s retail and businesses and more recently the further challenges presented by the impact of Brexit.
The following areas were highlighted from the briefing note:-
· Exeter’s residents and businesses continued to meet the demands of the pandemic and Brexit, but the city’s position remained favourable in comparison with other towns and cities. Exeter was listed within the top ten cities for footfall recovery and its economy was classed as moderately strong.
· the impact of home and flexible working arrangements would remain as one of the major challenges for the city centre going forward. The loss of the lunchtime and after work trade from workers in the city centre had caused a huge impact on businesses who are reliant on this trade.
· there had been 15 shop openings and 45 closures since March 2020, with the majority of shop openings being in the city centre which offered some reassurance for future investment.
· the increase in home working had reduced car park usage and drastically reduced much needed income for the City Council.
· nationally, the trend for job postings had been increasing but were for temporary positions.
· the number of claimants within Exeter had risen dramatically, with the self-employed adversely effected, however the numbers were still lower than the regional and national average.
· during summer 2020, the team had led on a number of Covid-19 city recovery groups, as well as a number of initiatives including Exeter Works and a joint project with Exeter Chamber of Commerce supporting residents and businesses affected by redundancy.
· a number of new business support initiatives had also been finalised this week, funded through the City Council’s Additional Restriction Grant allocation.
· the purpose of the business support initiatives were to support businesses with recovery. Grants would be available to support businesses looking to diversify or introduce new innovation or equipment to their operations to aid recovery. In addition a city click and collect and a zero carbon delivery service was being investigated.
· Pop up shops continued to be encouraged as a way to support new and micro businesses, but there were a limited number of vacant City Council properties available, and the team would be working with private landlords.
· work on developing a temporary market space was under way to offer another opportunity to attract new business start-ups, micro-businesses or existing market traders. The market would have to complement the existing retail offer in the city centre.
The Portfolio Holder for City Centre and Corporate Services was in attendance and thanked the Director Net Zero & City Centre Management and the Growth and Commercialisation Manager for their efforts to put ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
To note the report of the Director Finance presented to the Executive on 12 January 2021. (report attached)
The Director Finance introduced the Budget Strategy which included the strategic overview of the budgetary position for the 2021/22 financial years and beyond. The report included an indication of the likely level of available resources, current demand for resources and proposals to ensure that a balanced budget was achieved. The report had previously been considered by the Executive on 12 January 2021, but this provided the opportunity to ensure Members were fully briefed before consideration of the budget at Council on 23 February 2021. The Director Finance reminded Members, that the Council was required to agree a balanced budget, and council tax prior to the start of the financial year. He added that the detail of the final settlement from Government was not expected until February and after the Executive agenda was published.
Having already made reference to the expected delay in the arrival of the final financial settlement, he outlined the key points -
· the Government, through its one year Settlement, had announced a Lower Tier Services Grant given to all District Council’s and Unitary authorities running lower tier services, Exeter’s allocation to be £228,000. These grants would ensure no Council’s had a negative core spending power and, as a result, the Council’s core spending power would remain the same as the current financial year;
· a higher contribution had been received in respect of the New Homes Bonus from a third payment received for houses built by the Council in 2020;
· the Referendum Principles for the Council Tax set by the Government would allow Councils to increase the tax by £5 or less than 2% whichever was the higher. A £5 increase equated to 10p a week. This increase along with the surplus in the collection fund would raise an extra £174,000;
· the Medium Term Financial Plan had included a drop in Business Rates Income as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic;
· a new software update would be installed shortly for the National Non Domestic Rates (NNDR) figure to be provided to Government; and
· the Government were still committed to resetting the Business Rates and removing the New Homes Bonus. These two actions would have a significant negative financial impact on the Council with £6.1 million savings required for the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTF) up to 2024/25 with £3.3million savings in 2022/23. It was for Members to consider what can be afforded rather than what we want to do and so work on identifying savings was needed now.
The Director Finance responded as follows to Members’ questions and comments:-
· there would not be a disproportionate effect to those on lower council tax bands by charging £5 rather than a 2% increase in the council tax levy.
· the Section 31 grant of £16.45m was the estimate of the money that the Government will give to offset the impact of no Business Rates receipts from the retail, leisure and hospitality businesses in the city. This was a significant sum identified in the assessment which will be set aside to pay ... view the full minutes text for item 6.