Agenda and draft minutes

Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee
Tuesday, 27th November 2018 2.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1, City Hall

Contact: Graham Watts, Principal Democratic Officer  (01522 873439)

Items
No. Item

18.

Confirmation of Minutes - 17 September 2018 pdf icon PDF 115 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 17 September 2018 be confirmed.

19.

Declarations of Interest

Please note that, in accordance with the Members' Code of Conduct, when declaring interests members must disclose the existence and nature of the interest, and whether it is a disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI) or personal and/or pecuniary.

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were received.

20.

Financial Monitoring Quarter 2 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 64 KB

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To present the Joint Committee with the second quarter’s financial performance for the Revenues and Benefits Shared Service for 2018/19.

 

Decision

 

That the report be noted.


Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

The approved budget for 2018/19 was agreed by the Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee on 20 February 2018 which set a budget of £2,285,710 for the service. This had since been increased after receipt of New Burdens Grants with the budget adjustment totalling £51,770.

 

Financial performance for the second quarter of 2018/19 was set out in Appendix 1 to the report but it was noted that there was an underspend against the approved budget of £46,748.

 

The forecast outturn for 2018/19 predicted that there would be an underspend against the approved budget of £100,831. A summary of the main forecast year-end variations against the approved budget was set out in paragraph 4.3 of the report, with the main variations being due to all salaries at career grades being budgeted at the top of their grades and receipt of New Burdens Grants.

 

In answer to a question regarding New Burdens Grants, it was noted that this funding did not have to be returned if it was unspent at the end of the financial year.

 

With regard to salaries, the current model of budgeting those salaries on career grades at the top of their grades would be changed moving forward to more accurately represent actual grades in the knowledge that not all officers were on the top of the career grade.

21.

Performance Update pdf icon PDF 128 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To provide the Joint Committee with an update on performance in the Revenues and Benefits Shared Service.

 

Decision

 

That the report be noted.

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

Council Tax

 

Comparing Council Tax in-year collection for quarter two 2018/19 to quarter two 2017/18 indicated that the City of Lincoln and North Kesteven was lower by the same percentage of 0.37%. It was noted, however, that the collectible debit for both the City of Lincoln and North Kesteven had increased from 2017/18 by £2.5 million and 3.8 million respectively.

 

In terms of the position as at the end of October 2018 compared to the position at the end of October 2017, the City of Lincoln was 0.32% lower and North Kesteven was 0.22% lower. A single person discount review had been undertaken for both the City of Lincoln and North Kesteven as part of a countywide process. As a result of this, single person discounts had been removed for 722 Lincoln accounts and 484 North Kesteven accounts. This had raised the amount of revenue to be collected by £218,724 for Lincoln and £153,176 for North Kesteven, which would have an impact on collection rates until this additional revenue was collected.

 

Business Rates

 

Comparing quarter two 2018/19 to 2017/18, the City of Lincoln was down by 0.56%, North Kesteven was up by 3.56% and West Lindsey was up by 0.11%.

 

In terms of the position at the end of October 2018 compared to the position at the end of October 2017, the City of Lincoln was 0.93% lower, North Kesteven was 0.27% higher and West Lindsey was 0.01% higher. It was noted that there were a number of factors affecting Lincoln’s business rates at this point in time not only relating to collection but liability in general. These included an increase in empty and exempt properties and a large increase in net collectable debit.

 

In terms of the current collection levels, the total net receipt had increased from 2017/18 by 955,000 for the City of Lincoln, £1.1 million for North Kesteven and £790,000 for West Lindsey. Tables outlining the net collectible debit were set out in paragraph 4.10 of the report.

 

Business Improvement District Levy Collection

 

The Business Improvement District financial year ran from 1 July to 30 June, so the figures set out in the report represented the collection up to the end of quarter two 2018.

 

A comparison of in-year collection rates between the Business Improvement District financial years ending 30 September 2017 and 30 September 2018 showed a decrease in collection by 1.27%. It was reported that officers did not consider this of major concern but would continue to monitor and manage it closely.

 

Outstanding Revenues Customers

 

The number of outstanding revenues customers as at the end of quarter two 2018/19 showed an increase since 31 March 2018 which was due to reduced numbers of staffing through unforeseen circumstances during the first quarter. The position had been maintained during quarter two  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.

22.

Welfare Reform and Universal Credit Update pdf icon PDF 91 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To provide the Joint Committee with an update regarding the national and local position of welfare reform, with a specific focus on Universal Credit.

 

Decision

 

That the report be noted.

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

As Full Service roll-out progressed with Universal Credit, the number and range of people claiming Universal Credit was likely to grow quickly. As of 24 October 2018 there were 517 jobcentres running the Full Service with roll-out scheduled to be completed by December 2018. As of 13 September 2018, 1,220,443 households received Universal Credit which was a 10% increase from August 2018, of which 35% were in employment.

 

A number of changes to Universal Credit had been introduced as part of the Autumn 2018 budget announcements which impacted the following:

 

·         Universal Support;

·         Universal Credit Work Allowance increase;

·         extra held for households moving onto Universal Credit;

·         funding for previously announced measures;

·         support for 18 to 21 year olds and supported housing;

 

A major announcement in respect of Universal Support was that Citizens’ Advice would deliver the Full Service Universal Credit solely from April 2019. There was still a great deal of clarity required regarding how this arrangement may work, what the exact scope was and what local authorities’ roles may be. Concerns were noted in respect of how the model may operate and whether or not it would match the holistic service to Universal Credit customers currently being provided by the shared service to residents of Lincoln and North Kesteven. A pilot would be undertaken to test the work needed prior to April 2019 and it was noted that no, or very little, consultation with local authorities had taken place ahead of this announcement which had been met with some surprise across the country. Officers were shortly due to meet with representatives of the Department for Work and Pensions and Citizens’ Advice locally on 29 November 2018 to establish any further developments in respect of the announcement and what this may mean going forward.

 

Further details relating to these areas of change were set out in paragraphs 5 and 6 of the report.

 

The Welfare Reform and Project Officer had been working with the City of Lincoln Housing and North Kesteven Housing colleagues to monitor the impact Universal Credit claims were currently having on rent collection. The data showed that of the 863 City of Lincoln tenants in receipt of Universal Credit, as of 12 November 2018 there was an increase in arrears for 583 tenants totalling £177,113. For North Kesteven 77 tenants were in receipt of Universal Credit and an increase in arrears for 70 tenants totalled £36,870.

 

The Universal Credit Support Team continued to work on a rota basis and was located in Lincoln Jobcentre to be on hand to support customers and a dedicated email address and telephone number were in place for direct access to the team. This team provided assisted digital support for customers wishing to make a range of related claims, helped  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

Business Rates Update pdf icon PDF 108 KB

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To provide the Joint Committee with an update on current issues within non-domestic rates.

 

Decision

 

That the report be noted.

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

Supporting Small Business Relief Scheme 2017/18 – 2020/21

 

The number of hereditaments that had been identified for 2018/19 and had benefitted from the scheme as at 30 June 2018 for each of the three authorities was as follows:

 

·         City of Lincoln – eight had been identified, five had responded and a total award of £7,007 had been made;

·         North Kesteven – 23 had been identified, 18 had responded and a total award of £24,178 had been made;

·         West Lindsey – 26 had been identified, 15 had responded and a total of £19,926 had been made.

 

Support for Pubs Scheme 2017/18 – 2020/22

 

The number of application forms returned as at 30 June 2018 were noted as follows:

 

·         City of Lincoln – 63 had been identified and 24 awards had been made totalling £23,975;

·         North Kesteven – 40 had been identified and 30 awards had been made totalling £28,371;

·         West Lindsey – 59 had been identified and 29 awards had been made totalling £26,118.

 

Discretionary Relief Scheme 2018/19

 

During quarter one of 2018/19 officers had undertaken a number of exercises to correctly identify those ratepayers who may be entitled to relief and calculated the cost of relief for all businesses affected by the revaluation, whereby the 2018/19 charge had increased as a result.

 

Since 2017/18 the number of accounts identified for all three districts had decreased and as a result the value of relief awarded was as follows:

 

·         City of Lincoln – this was a banded scheme and the reward had remained the same for all bands with the exception of those facing an increase of between £25 and £500. The relief to be awarded for 2018/19 had increased from 50% to 70%, providing additional support to those ratepayers;

·         North Kesteven – this was a banded scheme and the award had remained the same for the first two bands but all others had reduced to 80% of the 2017/18 award;

·         West Lindsey – this was a percentage reduction scheme, with all identified ratepayers receiving a 50% reduction. This was a decrease from 2017/18 of 80%.

 

Chief Finance Officers had delegated authority to approve the 2018/19 scheme and, as a result, the relief had been awarded to all accounts identified and ratepayers had been issued with a decision notice and letter of explanation. This was much earlier than for the 2017/18 scheme and in doing this ratepayers could declare whether any relief awarded would not exceed the state aid limit.

 

A review of awarded relief would take place during November and December 2018. As a result, the schemes may be adjusted to ensure all funding was awarded up to 30 September 2019. The respective table set out in paragraph four of the report showed the number of accounts identified and the total cost of relief for both 2017/18 and 2018/19  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.

24.

Housing Benefit Overpayments Update pdf icon PDF 94 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To provide the Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee with an update on the recovery of housing benefit overpayments.

 

Decision

 

That the report be noted.

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

The Housing Benefit Overpayment Recovery Action Plan was attached to the report at Appendix 1 and was being used as a working document to provide the Housing Benefit Team with a clear direction for the work which would be undertaken over the next nine months to address overpayments.

 

A number of actions had already taken place since the last meeting of the Joint Committee, as set out in paragraph 5.2 of the report.

 

As part of the formation of the housing benefit overpayment project, officers had reviewed all recovery methods available for all stages of debt, with stages broken down as follows:

 

·         overpayments recovered from ongoing housing benefit;

·         overpayments at sundry debtors less than four months old;

·         overpayments at sundry debtors over four months old;

·         write off.

 

Officers were therefore able to have a detailed understanding of what stage debts were at and, at a glance, whether the debts were increasing or decreasing and where resource allocation was needed.

 

The table at paragraph 6.2 of the report showed the improvements for quarter one and quarter two for 2018/19 for the City of Lincoln and North Kesteven since the project started in June 2018. Since the start of the project the total overpayments outstanding had reduced by £296,599, with £185,342 attributable to the City of Lincoln and £101,257 for North Kesteven.

 

It was noted that the rate of recovery of the overpayments was exceeding the creation of overpayments, which currently showed an in period collection rate of 106.75% for the City of Lincoln and 116.43% for North Kesteven.

25.

Revenues and Benefits Shared Service Business Plan 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 70 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To provide the Joint Committee with an opportunity to consider the Revenues and Benefits Shared Service Business Plan 2019/20.

 

Decision

 

That the Annual Business Plan for the Revenues and Benefits Shared Service 2019/20 be approved.

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

The Revenues and Benefits Shared Service Business Plan for the financial year 2019/20 was included as Appendix 1 to the report, with key features noted as follows:

 

·         key achievements in 2018/19;

·         savings in 2018/19;

·         key activities for 2019/20;

·         strategic priority schemes 2019/20;

·         Towards Financial Sustainability projects 2019/20;

·         key risks;

·         safeguarding;

·         equality actions;

·         working in neighbourhoods;

·         workforce development;

·         social value;

·         data protection and information governance.

 

It was agreed that 2018/19 had been another positive year for the Shared Service with most areas of performance progressing well, continued implementation and embedment of integrated e-forms as well as a whole host of improvement and partnership projects as set out in the report. Members noted that these noticeable achievements had been carried out under the ongoing demands placed on the service from both national and local challenges, such as welfare reform and the current economic climate.