Agenda item

Executive - 7 July 2020


The minutes of the Executive of 7 July 2020 were presented by the Leader, Councillor Bialyk, and taken as read.


In respect of Minute No. 68 (Post-Pandemic Recovery of Leisure Services), the Leader reported that, to secure a long term future for the Council’s leisure services, a commitment was to be made to permanently in-source the service to ensure a viable and sustainable long term future. The impact of the pandemic on the leisure industry nationally had been devastating and the in-sourcing model proposed provided more direct control and was considered to be a safer approach given the high level of uncertainly caused by the pandemic. Many other authorities had expressed their admiration that the Council was able to commit to this policy change. He was particularly pleased that the staff would transfer to the Council under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) and they would have new benefits including access to the council staff pension scheme. The Leader also covered the cost implications as set out in the recommendations.


The Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Physical Activity, in responding to a query from a Member on the implications of recent Government guidance on the re-opening of leisure facilities, confirmed that it was the intention to re-open facilities from September when it would be safe and practical to do so. No dates could be confirmed at this time as detailed health and safety risk assessments were required to ensure all aspects of the facilities are Covid-19 secure. Any necessary changes would be implemented as soon as possible but that public health and safety would always be paramount. There would be many issues to address including meeting new ventilation and air quality requirements, ensuring safe customer flows throughout facilities and some layouts may have to changes within the Leisure Centres to ensure social distancing for both staff and customers.


The Portfolio Holder stated that, bringing the service in-house was an exciting development for the city and that it provided the opportunity to align with the Sport England Local Delivery Pilot as well as the work around the Physical Activity and Built Facilities Strategies for leisure. He referred to the flagship St. Sidwell’s Point Swimming Pool and Leisure Centre and the refurbishment of the Riverside Swimming Pool and Leisure Centre, both of which could operate in a Covid-19 secure way.


During discussion the following points were raised:-


·         the allocation of £1.5 million was required for the fit out costs for St. Sidwell’s Point;

·         bringing the Leisure Service in-house was a significant defining step for the City;

·         the alignment with the Sport England pilot was important to encourage people to become more active and this encompassed activities in parks and open spaces supported by the City Council;

·         the move to bring the service in-house was welcome as it provided greater control for the Council and presented the best opportunity for securing a quality service; and 

·         the opening of the Riverside Leisure Centre on the completion of the  refurbishment would be welcomed by residents west of the River.


The Leader of the Progressive Group expressed his support for bringing the Leisure Service in-house and the Council Leader re-iterated the benefits of the City Council assuming direct control of this valuable service.


The Leader moved and the Deputy Leader seconded the recommendations and they were carried.


In respect of Minute No. 69 (Overview of General Fund Revenue Budget 2019/20), the Leader moved and the Deputy Leader seconded the recommendations and they were carried unanimously.


In respect of Minute No. 70 (Capital Monitoring 2019/20 and Revised Capital Programme for 2020/21 and Future Years), the Leader moved and the Deputy Leader seconded the recommendations and they were carried.


In respect of Minute No. 71 (2019/20 HRA Budget Monitoring Report – Outturn) the Leader moved and the Deputy Leader seconded the recommendations and they were carried.


In respect of Minute No. 72 (Treasury Management 2019/20), the Leader moved and the Deputy Leader seconded the recommendation and it was carried unanimously.


In respect of Minute No. 73 (Emergency Budget 2020/21), Councillor D. Moore moved, and Councillor J. Moore seconded, the following amendment:-


To introduce parking charges at all Leisure Centres and public open space car parks in the City, where a charging structure is not currently in place. All income generated after covering the costs associated with introducing the measures are to be earmarked for Housing Needs and Homelessness services.

In moving the amendment, Councillor D. Moore made the following points:-


·         in the face of an unprecedented financial crisis, the most vulnerable in society were being hit the hardest and the additional funds from car parking charges would help address the homelessness and housing need situation in the city;

·         a charge of £1 or £2 for a three hour period could be appropriate;

·         a modal shift away from car use could be an offshoot, as residents would be encouraged to walk or bike to the facilities;

·         the proposal would tie in with both the Council’s Net Zero Carbon goal and the Sport England pilot and help reduce air pollution; and

·         given the uncertainty of Government support in the future, the need to supplement the housing needs and homelessness budget was particularly important.


During discussion the following points were raised:-


·         many on lower incomes in less affluent areas do own cars and will not be able to afford the suggested charges and therefore loose the motivation to exercise and enjoy the open spaces. Those without cars could be discouraged in accessing the facilities by bus because of the high fares in the city;

·         the suggested total increase for the housing and homelessness service of £20,000 would not achieve a great deal;

·         such a move would be contrary to the existing City Council initiatives such as the Sport England pilot and Wellbeing Exeter;

·         an additional cost could be incurred in resurfacing the car parks;

·         the service has suffered a reduction in its budget of £117,460 and, with the existing number of homeless, the Council cannot afford to cut the budget. Additional funding should be welcome and could be used, for example, to appoint a Complex Needs Officer; and

·         guide-lines have been followed in putting forward the amendment, the implications of which have been thoroughly researched.


The amendment was put to the vote and LOST.

Councillor M. Mitchell moved, and Councillor K. Mitchell seconded, the following amendment:-

That any financial assistance from the Government this financial year to compensate for loss of income be allocated to restore the cuts proposed in the pending budget (July 2020). The Executive Committee should determine as funds become available the priorities for restoration within the original approved 2020/21 Budget. That the proposed £1million delegated fund should only be used in regard to reducing the impact of budget reductions or Covid-19 and not be used to fund the development of new projects.


In moving the amendment, Councillor M. Mitchell stated that its intention was to enable the Council to revisit proposals put forward within the original budget should the Government allocation enable it to do so and Councillor K. Mitchell, in seconding the amendment, confirmed the intention to ensure the integrity of the existing agreed budget would be upheld, with the potential for it to be reinstated as agreed earlier in the year.


The amendment was put to the vote and LOST.


The Leader presented the Emergency Budget which set out the proposals to ensure that, despite the unprecedented damage to the city’s economy resulting from Covid-19, the huge losses of income and the additional budgetary pressures arising in responding to the pandemic, a revised and balanced budget could still be set. He thanked the Portfolio Holders and Directors for bringing forward the package of measures before the Council to ensure that, unlike some authorities, the City Council would not be facing the possibility of issuing a Section 114 Notice under the Local Government Finance Act 1988.


The Leader highlighted the following:-


·         Exeter had received nearly £1.4 million of funding from the Government in two tranches but this would not meet the gap of £11.19 million being faced and which should be viewed in the context of income lost and the need for additional spend;

·         some £8.56 million would be lost in the financial year 2020/21. Projected income losses up to June 2020, included lost car park income up to the end of June of £1.9 million, £426,000 from commercial waste and a reduction of £468,000 in income from visitor attractions together with losses also in commercial income;

·         the additional spend requirement of £2.62 million included support for rough sleepers, creation of the Exeter Community Wellbeing hub, the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and safe working arrangements in respect of Cleansing Services;

·         the net additional cost of re-housing rough sleepers had been £180,000 (up to July), yet the Government grant received for this purpose had been £23,250;

·         together with the Government grant of £1.4 million, measures to balance the budget included using £1.2 million from the General Fund Working Balance, re-purposing Earmarked Reserves, offsetting repayment of debts against previous voluntary re-payments, recognising the saving of £300,000 in respect of the successful RAMM business rate valuation appeal and reductions in service expenditure totalling over £1.6 million;

·         the Council would still need to make further savings of £5.8 million over the next three years; and

·         it remained this City Council’s intention to maintain front line services. Exeter was in the top 10 of local authorities predicted to experience a quick recovery. This Council would therefore continue in its role as a driver for the local and regional economy and, crucially, promote job creation and economic growth.


During discussion the following points were raised:-


·         the City Council has a record of sound financial management;

·         in respect of the Housing Revenue Account, no cuts in services to Council tenants were proposed as money had been saved by putting on hold works during the Lockdown period but, without further Government support, the position would need to be reviewed regularly;

·         it is a regret that no additional funding has been identified by the Government to meet the additional costs incurred by the Environmental Health, Licensing  and Community Safety Services in response to Covid-19;

·         the first tranche of Government support in the sum of £72,737 together with money made available from repurposing the housing budget was utilised to accommodate the homeless;

·         Government funding to combat any local outbreaks of the virus will be utilised by Devon County Council as the upper tier authority;

·         the Government undertaking to reimburse local authorities 75% of lost income incurred during the crisis should be honoured; and

·         it was hoped that, as a result of the crisis, the Government would recognise the vital roles undertaken by local authorities and the misguided stance of successive Governments in underestimating the role of Local Government in supporting their communities. 


Both Leaders of the Opposition Groups supported the Emergency Budget.


The Leader moved and the Deputy Leader seconded the recommendations and they were carried.


In respect of Minute No. 74 (Review of the General Buller Statue), the Leader reported that the continued appropriateness of the statue of General Buller and his horse Biffen would be considered by a Task and Finish Working Group comprising Councillors Ghusain, Foggin, Mrs Henson, D. Moore and Quance for report to the Strategic Scrutiny Committee.


In respect of Minute No. 75 (Council Development Programme), and in response to a query from a Member regarding a Government announcement that additional funding would be made available to enable Councils to build Council homes, the Portfolio Holder for Council Housing Development and Services advised that, when the detail was announced, the City Council would be well placed to bid for this, as well as the Government's additional funding opportunity, “green funding”, because of the innovative work already commenced within the Housing Assets and Development Team to retrofit the Council’s Housing stock. The Council was also working closely with Homes England as part of the development programme.


The Leader moved and the Deputy Leader seconded the recommendations and they were carried.


In respect of Minute No. 76 (The Introduction of a Council Housing and Development Advisory Board), Members noted the importance of engaging with tenants through the proposed Board.


The Leader moved and the Portfolio Holder for Council House Development and Services seconded the recommendations and they were carried.


In respect of Minute No. 77 (Greater Exeter Strategic Plan: Draft Policies and Site Options Consultation), the Leader and the Portfolio Holder for City Development emphasised that the sites within Exeter identified in the Strategic Plan were those set out within the Liveable Exeter initiative and that these, together with all sites identified in neighbouring authorities, would now be put out to public consultation in the Autumn.


The Leader moved and the Deputy Leader seconded the recommendation and it was carried.


In respect of Minute No. 78 (Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) : Joint Statement of Community Involvement), and in response to a Member’s query regarding the availability of resources, the Portfolio Holder for City Planning and Development confirmed the Council’s commitment to continue supporting the GESP process as well as developing the Local Plan in parallel. Central to the work was the identification of potential sites for development to support the Council’s desire to bring forward purpose built shared accommodation and affordable public sector housing in line with the Council’s green agenda and Covid-19 Recovery Plan.


In respect of Minute No. 81 (Resources Required to Develop Exeter’s Local Plan), and in response to a reference by a Member to the petition as set out in Min. No. 26 above, the Leader confirmed that a report on the matter would be presented to the Planning Committee.


The Leader moved and the Deputy Leader seconded the recommendation and it was carried.


In respect of Minute No. 83 (Exeter City Living Ltd. Business Plan 2020/21), the Leader moved and the Deputy Leader seconded the recommendations which were carried.


RESOLVED that the minutes of the Executive held on 7 July 2020 be received, and where appropriate, adopted.




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