Agenda and draft minutes

Executive - Monday, 18th January 2021 5.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1, City Hall

Contact: Graham Watts, Democratic Team Leader and Elections Manager  (01522 873439)

Items
No. Item

65.

Confirmation of Minutes - 4 January 2021 pdf icon PDF 129 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 4 January 2021 be confirmed.

66.

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.

67.

Draft Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021-26 pdf icon PDF 549 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To recommend the draft Medium Term Financial Strategy for the period 2021-26 and the draft budget and Council Tax proposal for 2021/22, for consultation and scrutiny.

 

Decision

 

(1)       That the Executive agree, for consultation and scrutiny, the Draft Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021-2026 and the Draft Capital Strategy 2021-2026, including the following specific elements:

 

-       a proposed council tax increase of 1.9% for 2021/22;

-       a proposed housing rent increase of 1.5% for 2021/22;

-       the Council is member of the Lincolnshire Business Rates Pool in 2021/22;

-       the Draft General Fund Revenue Forecast 2021/22-2025/26 as shown in Appendix 1 and paragraph 4 of the report and the main basis on which this budget has been calculated;

-       the Draft General Investment Programme 2021/22-2025/26 as shown in Appendix 2 and paragraph 6 of the report and the main basis on which the programme has been calculated;

-       the Draft Housing Revenue Account Forecast 2021/22-2025/26 as shown in Appendix 3 and paragraph 5 of the report and the main basis on which this budget has been calculated;

-       the Draft Housing Investment Programme 2021/22-2025/26 as shown in Appendix 4 and paragraph 7 of the report and the main basis on which the programme has been calculated.

 

(2)       That the Executive agree to delegate to the Chief Finance Officer approval of the final Business Rates Base for the financial year commencing 1April 2021 and ending 31 March 2022 and submission of the base (via the NNDR1 return) to the Department for Communities and Local Government by 31January 2021.

 

(3)       That all changes to the base estimated in the Draft Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021/26 be reported to the Executive as part of the Final Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021-26 on 22February 2021.

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

The financial landscape for local government presented an unprecedented challenge to the Council. The Covid-19 pandemic was having immediate effects on the Council’s budgets as a result of increases in spending on local services and plummeting income from sales, fees and charges and commercial activities. Beyond the immediate impact, the crisis would cast a longer term shadow on the Council’s finances. The Government had pumped billions of pounds into the economy to support the response phase of the pandemic and to protect jobs and services. In the medium-term the levels of additional national borrowing and the United Kingdom’s budget deficit would need to be managed down at the same time as meeting ongoing needs to invest in recovery to achieve the growth required to repay the national deficit. The Government’s strategy to address this challenge was not yet known, nor what it would mean for local government funding more generally. Furthermore, there remained potential longstanding impacts on the Council’s local income sources if behaviour, working practices and spending patterns in the city continued to change. 

 

The Council’s reliance on local income streams had increased significantly in recent years as Government funding had reduced through  ...  view the full minutes text for item 67.

68.

Collection Fund Surplus or Deficit - Business Rates pdf icon PDF 255 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To inform the Executive of the estimated balance for the Business Rates element of the Collection Fund and the surplus or deficit to be declared for 2020/21.

 

Decision

 

(1)          That the Executive confirms the action of the Chief Finance Officer in declaring a business rates deficit of £30,070,943 for 2020/21 subject to the confirmation of the business rates base by 31January 2021.

 

(2)          That any amendments to the declared deficit be notified to the relevant preceptors and be included in the Final Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021-26 to be presented to the Executive on 22February 2021.


Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

Prior to setting the Council Tax for 2021/22 the City Council was required to estimate whether there was to be a surplus or deficit on both the Council Tax and Business Rates elements of the Collection Fund for the current financial year.

 

At the Executive meeting on 4 January 2021 the Council declared a deficit on Council Tax of £1,105,616 for the financial year 2020/21, of which its share was £165,680. The Council would declare a deficit on the Business Rates Collection Fund of £30,070,943 for 2020/21 subject to the confirmation of the Business Rates base by 31 January 2021, of which its share was £12,028,378. 

 

Whilst this was a significant deficit, £26,397,692, of which the Council’s share was £10,559,077, of the deficit was offset by Government grants received to compensate local authorities in respect of the expanded retail rate reliefs awarded to business in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The remaining £3,673,251 deficit, of which the Council’s share was £1,469,301, had arisen primarily due to an increase in provision for business rates appeals and an increase in empty property reliefs, both of which had been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.  

 

In response to these significant financial pressures that Councils were facing arising from the impacts of Covid-19 on local taxes as part of the Spending Review 2020, the Government announced a compensation scheme for irrecoverable local tax losses. Based on the principles of the consultative policy paper on this scheme, and the estimated deficit, the Council would receive compensation of £1,082,564 towards its remaining share of the business rates deficit, leaving a balance of approximately £386,737 to be resourced by the Council through the General Fund.

 

69.

Council House and Garage Rents 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 261 KB

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To enable the Executive to consider a proposition to increase council house rents in line with the Government’s Rent Policy for social housing (April 2020) and to seek approval for the introduction of revised rents from Monday 5 April 2021.

 

To seek approval for an increase of 3% on Council garage rents for 2021/22 in line with other fees and charges revisions by the Council.

 

Decision

 

That the Executive:

 

(1)       Support the basis of rent calculation for changes to individual Council         house rents as set out in the report, which represents an increase in the   average calculated 52-week Council house net rent in 2021/22 of 1.5%            for social housing rents (£1.05 per week) and affordable rents (£1.61             per week) increase per property and that this be recommended to    Council for approval.

 

(2)       Support the increase in Council garage rents for 2021/22 in accordance     with the proposal set out in the report, equating to a 3% increase, and    that this be recommended to Council for approval.


Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

In keeping with the Housing Business Plan approved by Council and the Government’s Rent Guidelines, the formula rent rise for 2021/22 was based on the Consumer Price Index in the previous September. In Lincoln’s case this equated to an average rent increase of 1.5% from Monday 5 April 2021.

 

During the last nine months the Council had continued to add to its housing stock via the buy-back programme. Between 1 April 2020 to 18 December 2020 the following properties had been acquired as part of this programme:

 

·         one bedroomed properties – 3;

·         two bedroomed properties – 11;

·         three bedroomed properties – 10;

·         four bedroomed properties – 2;

·         four/five bedroomed properties – 1.

 

The Government’s Right to Buy Programme sales had negatively impacted on the Council’s current stock and rental income between April to December 2020. To date, 17 properties had been sold which was lower than projected due to the Covid-19 pandemic but since July the Council had received 37 Right to Buy applications. The loss of three-bedroomed properties in particular had a significant impact on the Council’s ability to provide family homes.

 

The average weekly rent for the City of Lincoln Council, based on data at 18 December 2020 for net social housing rent calculated over 52 weeks, would increase from £69.79 in 2020/21 to £70.84 for 2021/22. This equated to an average equivalent increase of income per property of £1.05 per week over 52 weeks. The 50-week average rent would be charged at £73.67.

 

There were currently 260 properties charged at an Affordable Rent which was higher than social housing rent. Based on data at 18 December 2020 the increase, on the average weekly net rent calculated over 52 weeks, would result in rents moving from £107.82 in 2020/21 to £109.43 per week for 2021/22, equating to an average equivalent increase of £1.61 per week over 52 weeks

 

An increase in garage rents of 3% was proposed in line with the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 69.

70.

Allotment Fees and Charges pdf icon PDF 347 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To outline a proposal to increase allotments charges in order to deliver a contribution to the Towards Financial Sustainability Programme.

 

Decision

 

That the Executive supports changes to the fees and charges for allotments with effect from the annual billing in 2022 and new leases thereafter, as follows:

 

(a)        Removal of the 50% discount based on age.

 

(b)        Protection of discounts for those on means tested benefits at 50%.

 

(c)        Increase in base charges by 50%.

 

(d)        Income achieved above £30,000, linked to inflation, be ringfenced for allotment projects.

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

Numerous options had been explored as indicated by the pricing matric set out in the report.

 

Reason for Decision

 

As a result of the financial challenges the Council faced, the Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021-26 would require a significant reduction in the Council’s net cost base to ensure it maintained a sustainable financial position.

 

A programme of individual reviews had been developed which included a review of the net cost of the allotments service, with a requirement to reduce the net cost by £20,000 per annum. In addition, the review would also address the existing £10,000 per annum underachievement of income which had been the position in recent years. Achievement of these two objectives would reduce the net cost of the allotment service to approximately £67,000 per annum.

 

Proposed changes to the fees and charges for allotments with effect from the annual billing in 2022 and new leases thereafter, were noted as follows:

 

·         removal of the 50% discount based on age;

·         protection of discounts for those on means tested benefits at 50%;

·         increase in base charges by 50%;

·         income achieved above £30,000, linked to inflation, be ringfenced for allotment projects.

 

Councillor Ric Metcalfe highlighted the challenging circumstances currently facing the Council in balancing its budgets and contributions from services such as this needed to be made. He reminded the Executive that a substantial capital investment had been made in respect of allotments in the city so it did not seem appropriate to start making cuts to the service or even close sites in order to achieve savings. The proposal therefore reflected a position where those using this valuable service were asked to contribute slightly more in order that service provision could be maintained. He was confident that service users would recognise this as being the preferred solution, particularly in view of it being a modest increase with concessions in place as well as changes not coming into effect for twelve months.

 

Councillor Bob Bushell agreed with Councillor Metcalfe’s sentiments and reiterated that significant investment had been made in allotments, particularly in respect of security, access to water, accessibility and a new site. Councillor Bushell was very keen for the service to continue to operate, especially in the current circumstances, as owning and maintaining allotments did contribute to improvements in physical and mental health. He added that the proposed increase was a small amount and that service users would still consider the service as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 70.

71.

Proposals for the Review of Existing Public Space Protection Order Within the City Centre pdf icon PDF 371 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To review the existing Public Space Protection Order relating to intoxicating substances and consider a proposal to vary the scope of this Order in consultation with the public and relevant partners.

 

Decision

 

That the proposal to extend and vary the Public Space Protection Order to include Zone 3, as set out in Appendix C of the report, and the amendment to the wording to that shown in the draft Order as set out in Appendix E of the report be approved.

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

In April 2015 the Council enacted a Public Space Protection Order under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014. This was renewed in February 2018 and the current Order was set out at Appendix A of the report.

 

A Public Space Protection Order may not last more than three years so should be reviewed before its expiration and may then be extended for a further period of up to three years. As part of the review the Order may be amended to add or remove prohibitions or requirements, change the geographical area or discharge the Order.

 

Consultation had been undertaken for 28 days, commencing on 2 November 2020, further to which five responses had been received with four coming from partners and one being received from a member of the public. All five responses had called for the existing Public Space Protection Order to remain in place, with all four partner responses calling for the extension of the geographical area of the Public Space Protection Order to cover St Rumbolds Street.

 

In addition to consultation responses, the Citizens Panel had also returned comments relating specifically to drug users and drunks in the city centre and St Rumbolds Street area. 45 separate comments about drug and alcohol misuse in the city centre had been received.

 

Evidence in respect of the current geographical area to remain in place for the Public Space Protection Order was included within the report, outlining the number of surrenders, breaches, fixed penalty notices and prosecutions. The report also set out additional evidence for the extension of the Public Space Protection Order to include St Rumbolds Street, referred to as Zone 3 in Appendix C.

 

Councillor Christopher Burke supported the proposed extension of the geographical area of the Public Space Protection Order and commended the scheme as having been very successful. He was aware of residents in the area proposed who had been aggrieved and upset by the consistent occurrence of anti-social behaviour and understood that the Lincolnshire Police was also supportive of the proposal.

 

Councillor Neil Murray reflected on the introduction of the initial Public Space Protection Order and said it was a shame but necessary in order to protect people from such instances of anti-social behaviour.