Agenda and draft minutes

Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee - Tuesday, 31st May 2022 2.00 pm

Venue: Committee Rooms 1-2, City Hall. View directions

Contact: Cheryl Evans, Democratic Services and Elections Manager  (01522 873439)

Items
No. Item

30.

Election of Chair

Minutes:

RESOLVED that Councillor Ray Cucksey be elected as Chair of the Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee for 2021/2022.

 

COUNCILLOR RAY CUCKSEY IN THE CHAIR

31.

Confirmation of Minutes - 8 February 2022 pdf icon PDF 163 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 8 February 2022 be confirmed and signed by the Chair.

32.

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.

33.

Performance Update pdf icon PDF 543 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To provide the Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee with an update on performance in the Revenues and Benefits Shared Service, as detailed within Appendix 1 of the report.

 

Decision

 

That the report be noted, and an update be presented to the next meeting of this Committee on 8 September 2022.

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

The report provided an update on revenues performance in respect of annual outturns for the financial year 2021/22 for (a) council tax for the City of Lincoln Council and North Kesteven District Council; and (b) business rates for the City of Lincoln Council, North Kesteven District Council and West Lindsey District Council. Comparisons to the national and local position in terms of performance was provided, where possible.

 

The revenues and benefits shared service had now been in operation for 11 years since 1 June 2011, and performance had largely been maintained and improved whilst continuing to provide value for money. Continual improvement and success was being achieved in both statistical and financial performance, as well as positive outcomes for customers of the partner local authorities. However, the Covid-19 pandemic had understandably impacted on some areas of performance and these impacts were likely to continue for many more months.

 

In respect of council tax for the financial year 2021/22, in-year collection was down for the City of Lincoln by 0.78% and up for North Kesteven by 0.35% respectively. The financial impacts of Covid-19 on residents' incomes had continued, making collection of Council Tax a balance of the importance of collecting monies due in a prompt manner, whilst making repayment arrangements where applicable and appropriate in order that undue financial hardship to taxpayers was avoided. Net collectable debit for 2021/22 (compared to 2020/21) had increased by £2,728,406m for Lincoln and £3, 115,475m for North Kesteven.

 

It had been envisaged that outstanding Council Tax Hardship monies (City of Lincoln circa £200k, North Kesteven circa £90k) would have been allocated to identified cohorts within the latter part of 2021/22 – however, this required a script from our ICT system supplier (NEC, previously Northgate). Understandably, NEC resources had been diverted to the Council Tax Energy Rebate, - the script to allocate Council Tax Hardship monies was now being picked up again in the early part of 2022/23.

 

In respect of business rates, for the financial year 2021/22, in-year collection was down by 0.52% for Lincoln, 2.53% up for North Kesteven and 1.15% down for West Lindsey. The year 2021/22 was not wholly comparable to 2020/21 due to a reduction in Expanded Retail Discount

 

As detailed at paragraph 4.9 of the report, there had been key movements in business rates bases over the last year.

 

As at the end of the end of the financial year 2021/22, outstanding revenues documents stood at a total of 3,022, of which 2,046 were from the City of Lincoln and 976 from North Kesteven. Although this figure was higher than the total figure at the end of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.

34.

Financial Outturn 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 169 KB

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To provide the Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee with the financial outturn for the Revenues and Benefits Shared Service for 2021/22, as detailed at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

Decision

 

That the content of the report and the budget adjustments as set out in paragraph 3.6 be noted.

 

Alternation Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

The approved budget for 2021/22 was agreed by the Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee on 23 February 2021 which set a budget of £2,520,080 for the service.

 

At Quarter 1 the budget was subsequently reduced by the sum of £60,110 to reflect charges resulting from the deletion of vacant posts as agreed by Joint Committee on 23 February 2021. The budget was then increased by a further £17,790 as a result of New Burdens funding to give a revised budget of £2,477,760. At Quarter 3 it was further increased to reflect additional New Burdens grants totalling £1,650 and again at Quarter 4 by a further £9,010.

 

The 2021/22 financial outturn for the Revenues and Benefit Shared Service resulted in an overspend of £41,927, a variance of 1.7% of the revised budget and an improvement against the forecast overspend of £85,807 as at Quarter 3. This was prior to a recharge for new IT kit totalling £38,914.62 split at agreed proportions between both authorities at £20,795.48 for Lincoln and £18,119.14 for North Kesteven.

 

The main year-end variations against the approved budget for 2021/22 were noted within the table at paragraph 4.2 of the officer’s report:

 

One of the main reasons for the forecast overspend related to Benefits overtime largely due to the administration of Test and Trace Support Payments (TTSP). Each Council had received a compensation grant to cover this administration cost, however, these grants sat outside the Shared Service budget. For the period 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022 TTSP administration grants were requested from Central Government in the sum of £107,516 for Lincoln and £57,015 for North Kesteven, and although the final figures had not yet been received, these grant payments would outweigh the overspend.

35.

Business Rates Update pdf icon PDF 351 KB

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To provide the Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee with an update on current issues within non-domestic rates, related to City of Lincoln Council, North Kesteven District Council and West Lindsey District Council.

 

Decision

 

That the content of the report be noted.

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

The report focused on the changes announced as a result of Covid-19 and the support provided to businesses in the form of relief, – as grants were not directly paid by the Revenues and Benefits Shared Service, these were not covered in this report. The report also focused on the financial impact of recent appeals and reductions to rateable values.

 

Focus for both Government and billing authorities since the last meeting of Joint Committee had been a continuing response to Covid-19 measures announced since 11 March 2020.

 

The following updates were noted:

 

Expanded Retail Discount

 

At the budget on 27 October 2021 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a Government package of business rate measures to support businesses in England.

 

For 2022/23 the Chancellor set out:

 

  • A new relief for eligible retail, hospitality and leisure properties with 50% relief on rates bills up to £110,000 per business

 

  • A freezing of the multipliers at 49.9p (small business multiplier) and 51.2p (standard multiplier)

 

  • The Transitional Relief and Supporting Small Business Schemes would be extended into 2022-23 as a discretionary scheme

 

  • The scope of the discount for 2022/23 would return to pre-Covid-19 eligibility retail properties. Hospitality and leisure properties would continue to remain in scope, and the Rateable Value continued to be uncapped.

 

Government would reimburse LA’s that used their discretionary relief powers under Section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (amended). LA’s had already completed their NDR1 for 2021/22.

 

In terms of Expanded Retail Discount (ERD), the table at paragraph 4.6 of the officer’s report reflected the significant reduction in the amounts awarded during 2022/23 compared to 2021/22 and 2020/21 (2020/21-100%, 2021/22-100% (April, May & June), then 66%, and 2022/23-50%.

 

Nursery Discount

 

There was no announcement in respect of nurseries for the 2022/23 financial year. Therefore, for these customers, their bills returned to their ‘normal’ pre-covid calculation as their additional support ended on 31st March 2022.

 

Discount for Businesses Affected by Covid-19

 

On 25 March 2021, the Government announced funding of £1.5 billion for businesses affected by Covid-19. The detail of the scheme was announced on 15 December 2021 with funding amounts allocated for each authority of £2,711,060 for City of Lincoln Council, £1,719,343 for North Kesteven District Council and £1,408,044 for West Lindsey District Council

 

Brief guidance from the Government stated that Local Authorities would be responsible for designing the discretionary relief schemes that were to operate in their areas as detailed at paragraph 6.3 of the report. 

 

Following discussions, guidelines for Lincoln, North Kesteven and West Lindsey, Covid Additional Relied Fund (CARF) schemes were agreed. Application forms were sent out in February 2022 to those account holders which officers identified may be eligible for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 35.

36.

Welfare Reform Update pdf icon PDF 298 KB

Minutes:

Purpose of Report

 

To provide the Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee with an update regarding various areas relating to the national welfare reform agenda, as well as current initiatives to support residents. 

 

Decision

 

That the content of the report be noted, with a further update to be presented to the next meeting of Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee

 

Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

 

None.

 

Reason for Decision

 

This report provided Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee with an update on the national and local position of welfare reform/other initiatives, with a specific focus on Universal Credit, Test and Trace Support Payments, Discretionary Housing Payments, Council Tax Hardship Fund, Household Support Fund, Council Tax Energy Rebate, and Financial Inclusion matters.

 

The national Welfare Reform agenda had resulted in a significant impact on residents of Lincoln and North Kesteven since 2013 when certain changes were introduced such as Removal of Spare Room Subsidy, and Benefit Cap; this had continued as further changes had been introduced, such as the ongoing rollout of Universal Credit. These changes had resulted in major changes to the operation of our shared service, to ensure a proactive and positive response to welfare reform and the impacts on residents.

 

The following updates were noted:

 

Universal Credit

 

The latest national figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were released on 12th April 2022, with statistics relevant to the period up to February 2022: 

 

  • 5,510,549 households receiving UC (a decrease from 5,697,267 as reported at the last meeting of this Committee).

 

Local authority statistics also available:

 

  • City of Lincoln – 10,641 (10,950 as at the last report);
  • North Kesteven – 6,181 (6,434 as at the last report).

 

On 25th April 2022, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions made a statement in the House of Lords (regarding managed UC migration for working-age legacy benefits – with the aim of completing this migration by the end of 2024. Further information regarding the migration process was published on GOV.UK (Completing the move to Universal Credit - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)) and since then, an initial 500 cases in Bolton and Medway areas had been invited to migrate from legacy benefits to UC.

 

There was currently no further detail as to the rollout schedule for other areas of the country, officers had made contact with DWP colleagues locally and nationally and would report back to this Committee with relevant updates at future meetings.

 

COVID-19 Test and Trace Support Payments

 

The Test and Trace Support Payments (TTSP) scheme (with mandatory and discretionary elements) had now ended (30th April 2022). The Welfare Reform Support Team was in receipt of all applications and had undertaken assessment decisions. The team also secured further funding from Lincolnshire County Council to make TTSP related payments utilising Winter Grant Scheme monies.

 

In total, the team received 4,918 applications for City of Lincoln, of which at the time of writing this report on 5th May 2022, 2,091 had received a payment.

 

In  ...  view the full minutes text for item 36.