Agenda and draft minutes

Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee
Monday, 25th November 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Committee Room 1, City Hall. View directions

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

Items
No. Item

23.

Confirmation of Minutes - 6 September 2019 pdf icon PDF 118 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 6 September 2019 be confirmed.

24.

Related Matters

Minutes:

The Head of Shared Revenues and Benefits advised that today agenda was a shortened version due to the current pre-election period. He advised that the Revenues and Benefits Shared Service Business Plan 2020/21 would be considered at the next meeting of Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee to be held on 5 February 2020.

25.

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.

26.

Performance Update pdf icon PDF 127 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

 

Updates were noted on the following aspects of the Shared Service (data contained within Appendix A):

 

Council Tax

 

The table at paragraph 4.2 of the report showed the in-year collection period for the current financial year 2019/20 up to the end of Quarter 2, compared to the same point in 2018/19.

 

As at the end of Quarter 2 2019/20, Council Tax in-year collection was up by 0.07% for the City of Lincoln and down by 0.35% for North Kesteven, respectively. For the City of Lincoln, not only was collection marginally higher than in the year prior (by 0.07% equivalent to £31,429), but the net collectable debit had also increased by £2,955,109. With regard to North Kesteven, the reduced collection rate equated to £230,952, however, the net collectable debit had increased by £4,685,501 and total net receipt had increased by £2,471,812. In-year collection was down by 0.49% at the end of August 2019 (equivalent to a reduction of £323,221) – which showed the improvement in September 2019. There had been an additional 573 properties added to the taxbase compared to April 2018.

 

Committee were further updated that at the end of October2019, Council Tax in-year collection was down for the City of Lincoln and North Kesteven, respectively, although not by a huge amount. Officers were not massively concerned, although keeping a watching brief. There had been a drop off in council tax support applications, the authority was carrying out a publicity campaign in this respect together with putting letters in council tax reminders.

 

Business Rates

 

The table at paragraph 4.5 of the report showed the Business Rates in-year collection period for the current financial year 2019/20 up to the end of Quarter 2 2019/20, compared to the same point in 2018/19.

 

As at the end of Quarter 2 2019/20, Business Rates in-year collection was down by 0.99% for the City of Lincoln, and down by 0.31% for North Kesteven, however up by 0.41% for West Lindsey. For the City of Lincoln the reduced collection rate of 0.99% equated to £446,555 of the net collectable debit, with total net liability having increased by £60,882 and total net receipt having decreased by £411,427. In-year collection was down by 1.61% at the end of August 2019 (equivalent to a reduction of £784,462) – which demonstrated improvement in September 2019.

 

With regard to North Kesteven the decreased collection rate of 0.31% equated to £87,633 of the net collectable debit, with total net liability having increased by £808,072 and total net receipt had decreased by £367,226. For West Lindsey the increased collection rate of 0.41% equated to £73,424 of the net collectable debit, with total net liability having increased by £286,462 and total net receipt also increased by £241,829.

 

Committee were further updated that at the end of October 2019, Business  ...  view the full minutes text for item 26.

27.

Revenues and Benefits - Financial Monitoring Quarter 2 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 72 KB

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To present the Joint Committee with the second quarter’s performance for the Revenues and Benefits Shared Service for 2019/20.

 

Decision

 

1.    That the actual position at Quarter 2 be noted.

 

2.    That the budget adjustments for 2019/20 as per paragraph 3.2 of the report be approved.

 

3.    That projected budget underspend carried forward into 2020/21 to extend 2.0 Full Time Equivalent additional Council Tax Administration Officers recently appointed, for the whole of 2020/21 – approximate cost £51,934 be approved.

 

4.    Agreement that extension of these positions would significantly assist with tackling Council Tax performance matters, as detailed in the Performance Update report on this Committee’s Agenda be noted.

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

The approved budget for 2019/20 was agreed by the Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee on 19 February 2019 of £2,367,000 for the service, which had since been increased after receipt of New Grants Burdens, totalling £97,781. The budget had therefore subsequently been revised for New Burdens Grants notified to each authority in quarter 2 as set out in paragraph 3.2 of the report.

 

Financial performance for the first quarter of 2019/20 was detailed in Appendix 1 attached to the report. At quarter two there was an underspend against the approved budget of £26,967.

 

The forecast outturn for 2019/20 predicted that there would be an underspend against the approved budget of £94,190 as detailed at Appendix 2 to the report. A summary of the main forecast year-end variations against the approved budget for 2019/20 included:

 

·         Revenues and Benefits Management: IT costs - £13,000

·         Benefits: Salaries (Including Career Grades) - £(50,200)

·         New Burdens Grants - £(26, 330)

·         Benefits/Money Advice: Salaries - (13,800)

·         Revenues Local Taxation: Agency spend - (20,600)

28.

Welfare Reform and Universal Credit Update pdf icon PDF 80 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 national Universal Credit.

 

Decision

 

That the report be noted and a further update be presented at the next meeting of this Committee on 5 February 2020.

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

The following updates contained within the report were noted:

 

·         Figures published on 15 October 2019 by the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) with statistics relevant to the period up to 12 September 2019:

Ø  2,476,704 households were currently receiving Universal Credit, an increase from 2,171,997 as reported at the last meeting of this Committee

Ø  809,288 were in employment (33%), an increase from 697,789 as reported at the last meeting of this Committee

·         The Department for Work and Pensions had announced that it was developing a Private Landlord Portal, whilst this was possibly better for the landlord to apply, this appeared to potentially come away somewhat from the original concept of UC being paid direct to the tenant and budgeting accordingly.

·         Recent changes as a result of the Autumn 2018 budget and January 2019 announcements, along with how these would impact customers and the respective local authority.

·         Progress with our shared service’s ‘high level’ Welfare Reform Strategy Action Plan as detailed at Appendix 2 of the report, which was fluid and flexible to respond to changes in welfare reform related priorities, changes and demands, to be monitored by Joint Committee on a quarterly basis.

·         Outcomes currently being considered on the UC Advice Review undertaken by the City of Lincoln Council to review the UC support arrangements/advice provision and potential options going forward for joint working between the Universal Credit Support team, Welfare Advice team and Housing team. Committee were verbally updated that current internal UC support arrangements had now been extended to 31 March 2020, with a review of processes taking place over the remainder of the financial year 2019/20.

29.

Business Rates Update pdf icon PDF 118 KB

Additional documents:

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

 

The following updates were noted:

 

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

 

This relief was made available to those ratepayers who faced a large increase as a result of the loss of small business or rural rate relief. The transitional relief scheme did not provide support in respect of changes in reliefs, therefore, those ratepayers who lost some or all of their small business or rural rate relief may have faced very large percentage increases in bills from April 2017. Further details relating to the support provided as part of this scheme were set out in paragraph 4.1 of the report.

 

The number of hereditaments that had been identified for 2018/19 and 2019/20 and had benefitted from the scheme as at 30 April 2019 for the City of Lincoln, North Kesteven and West Lindsey were set out in the tables at paragraph 4.1 of the report.

 

Once this relief had been announced, officers manually adjusted accounts – this had ensured those ratepayers who faced large increases as a result of the loss of small business or rural rate relief, were not left waiting for relief to be awarded. This was a mandatory relief for which the local authority was compensated for.

 

Officers noted that although the number of businesses awarded relief has reduced, the total award had increased. This was due to the increase in rateable value for 2019/20 – as a result of the annual uprating and reduction of transitional relief in year.

 

Discretionary Relief Scheme

 

The table at paragraph 4.2 of the report showed the number of accounts identified and the total cost of relief for the years 2017/18 to 2019/20 for comparison purposes. A review of awards for 2019/20 would take place in November 2019 and the initial banding scheme would be adjusted to allow for further relief to be awarded.

 

It was noted that this was a discretionary relief which the local authority was compensated for.

 

Retail Discount - Autumn Budget 2018

 

One of the announcements affecting Business Rates as part of the Autumn Budget 2018 related to high streets, recognised as crucial parts of communities and local economies. High street businesses were already benefitting from recent reforms and reductions to business rates announced since Budget 2016 worth more than £12 billion over the next five years. To provide upfront support through the business rates system, the Government was cutting bills by one third for retail properties with a rateable value below £51,000, benefitting up to 90% of retail properties for two years from April 2019, subject to aid status.

 

With regards to the High Streets, Retail Guidance was issued in November 2018. The guidance confirmed this measure was for 2019/20 and 2020/21 only. Eligibility criteria had been provided and local authorities would be reimbursed using a grant under Section 31 of the Local Government  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.

30.

Discretionary Housing Payments Update pdf icon PDF 93 KB

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To provide the Joint Committee with an update regarding Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) expenditure for 2019/20.

 

Decision

 

That the spend position in relation to Discretionary Housing Payment expenditure (as at October 2019) as well as the government grant figures for Discretionary Housing Payments in 2019/20 be noted.

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

Demand against 2019/20 Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) grants remained high. City of Lincoln Council had a remaining budget of £4,213 and North Kesteven a remaining budget of £3,117. 2019/20 DHP government grants for both City of Lincoln and North Kesteven had decreased from 2018/19, but demands were higher due to welfare reforms in this new financial year – for example, due to Universal Credit (UC), the impact of which was constantly increasing.

 

Details of DHP spend to the end of October 2019 could be viewed at the table within paragraph 3.2 of the report.

 

There had been notification of 158 Council Tax support claims received and determined up to quarter 2 of 2019/20 for the City of Lincoln in relation to Universal Credit and 77 in relation to North Kesteven District Council.

 

The number of DHP applications for customers in receipt of Universal Credit has increased from 2018/19. This was indicative of the number of customers moving from legacy benefits to UC increasing throughout the year. Officers were also raising awareness of DHP, there was also a robust and consistent decision-making process in a highly-sensitive and complex area of administration.

 

Whilst the average award for DHP had reduced by £39 for City of Lincoln and £37 for North Kesteven, the total number of awards had increased by 80 for City of Lincoln and 34 for North Kesteven.

 

An internal DHP working group continued to review DHP procedures with the aim of ensuring that those most in need of additional help with their housing costs received appropriate support.

 

Each year, the DHP guidance is reviewed with recommendations made to Section 151 Officers of both City of Lincoln and North Kesteven for approval. Any changes proposed were with the aim to provide a positive impact in meeting local needs in relation to housing costs.