PROPOSED CABINET MEMBER DECISION - FEES AND CHARGES
- Meeting of Health, Housing and Adult Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday, 13 March 2012 7:00 pm (Item 132a)
To receive a report on a proposed Cabinet Member Decision called in by two members of the Committee. The decision relates to proposed Fees and Charges within Adult and Community Services for 2012/13.
Having called in the decision and having declared a personal interest owing to this fact Councillor Jones resigned the Chair for the duration of the item. Vice Chairman, Councillor Butler, took the Chair.
The Committee received a report of the Cabinet Member for Adult Services, Health and Housing the purpose of which was to introduce for the committee the Call-in of a Cabinet Member Decision and to explain the reasons for the decision in light of this.
The decision called in was the ‘Annual Review of Fees and Charges’. The Committee Manager explained the procedural details of the Call-in. The Committee was informed that, although having been previously considered by the Committee, and therefore requiring a majority of the committee to call the decision in as per the council’s constitution, the call-in had been allowed with just two supporting members. The decision to allow this was taken by the Cabinet Member for Adult Services, Health and Housing in order to facilitate the fullest discussion and consultation.
Councillor Jaeger and Councillor Jones, having called in the decision, addressed the Committee to explain the reasons why.
Councillor Jaeger raised the following points:
(i) That the budget debate that had taken place since the Committee had first considered the fees and charges report in January, altered the context of the decision sufficiently that it should be discussed again in light of other budgetary and policy decisions.
(ii) In particular, the decision that parking charges be frozen, benefiting all motorists but maintaining a new charge on Blue Badges, was considered to be unfair and targeted the most vulnerable.
(iii) That the financial implications of the decision to introduce or raise charges had not been fully explained. Percentage increases were not translated to income generated and this would have helped the Committee to put the decisions into context. This should be included in all future reports to the committee.
(iv) That information on who charges would affect, and by how much, had not been received by the Committee previously and again this would aid effective scrutiny.
Councillor Jones raised the following additional points:
(i) That further clarification of various facts was needed and that this call in was aimed at facilitating this as much as questioning the Blue Badge charges.
(ii) That more information about the people likely to be affected by changes would be welcomed.
Councillor Urquhart addressed the committee, in order to explain the reason for the decision. In particular she referred to the following:
(i) That the Administration’s policy had been clear – that the greatest number of residents be helped at the lowest cost. This was the motivation behind the freeze on council tax. Fees and Charges were considered after and outside of this decision.
(ii) The increases in fees and charges had occurred where they are necessary and fair, and increases applied were considered reasonable. In this respect, introducing a charge on Blue Badges which would never more than meet the administrative costs of issue, was considered to meet these criteria. Parking charges were a separate issue, that could not be directly compared
The Committee discussed the report and the reasons for call-in. Themes explored and information received from the Cabinet Member and Director of Adult and Community Services in response were as follows:
(i) That the increase suggested on Blue Badge was the maximum allowed by national government and that initially a lesser increase might be more appropriate. The Cabinet Member responded that the £10 fee for a three year badge was considered to be fair and that it still would not fully cover administrative charges.
(ii) The Cabinet Member also noted that the challenging economic climate made difficult choices necessary. Increases such as those being discussed were helping to fund initiatives such as the £500,000 fund established to help people with disabilities to stay in their own homes for longer.
(iii) In response to questions regarding the amount to be raised and numbers affected, the Head of Finance (ACS) joined the table and explained the following:
· That there would be approximately 550 new applications and 1150 renewals per year subject to the new charge.
· This equated to £17000 per year in additional income.
· That this was unlikely to cover the administrative costs involved in the issue of the badges especially in light of some of the new duties to be undertaken by the council in relation to assessment of applicants.
(iv) In response to questioning, the Director of Adult and Community Services confirmed that most London Borough’s had also decided to introduce the maximum charge for Blue Badges.
(v) That the equality impact assessment of the introduction of Blue Badge charges was undertaken in the context of all those who were successful being, by default, vulnerable.
(vi) That the time allowed to discuss the fees and charges item at the January meeting was insufficient and that the committee should seek to have more detailed reports and the time allowed for effective scrutiny.
(vii)The figures were related in the context of other areas of income generation. The Head of Finance explained that:
· That in total budgeted income from fees and charges for Adult Social Care Services in 2012/13 is £10.1m, of which £6.4m relates to residential care and £2.6m relates to Non Residential Care Services. £0.439m relates to Careline, £0.348m relates to Community Meals and £0.312m relates to charges to Other Local Authorities for the Adults Emergency Duty Team
· The additional income budgeted from these charges in 2012/13 totals £265k including £150k for Residential Care and £87k for Non Residential Care, £11,000 for Careline and £8,000 for Community Meals.
(viii) That increases to service users were generally fixed at 2.5% (unless a fee was being introduced from 0) and that the state pension and benefits and had both had an inflationary increase of 5.2%.
A member of the committee requested the time taken to debate the issue be recorded here. The Committee debated the item for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
It was RESOLVED
That the decision be noted and now implemented.
2. That comments made regarding content of reports, and additional information required, be noted and included next year.
- Item 5a - call-in report, item 132a PDF 70 KB
- Item 5a - call-in report - Appendix A, item 132a PDF 117 KB
- Item 5a - Call-in report - Appendix B, item 132a PDF 31 KB