Councillors' Attendance Statistics
Agenda and minutes
Co-ordination, Finance and Performance Commission
Tuesday, 23 June 2009 7:00 pm
Venue: Salon, York House, Twickenham
Contact: Thayyiba Shaah, 0208 891 7191, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Jones, Michael Wilson and Knight.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
In accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct, Members are requested to declare any interests orally at the start of the meeting and again immediately before consideration of the matter. Members are reminded to specify the agenda item number to which it refers and whether the interest is of a personal or prejudicial nature.
Members are also reminded of the requirements of Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 that they should declare and not vote on specified matters if they are two months or more in arrears with their Council Tax payments.
Councillor Coombs declared a personal interest on item 6 of the agenda: Twickenham Riverside Scheme: Environment Trust’s River Centre Business Plan by virtue of being the Vice-President of Arts Richmond, tenants of the Environment Trust.
To consider and approve the minutes of the meeting held on 10 March 2009 and 2 June 2009 (attached).
The minutes of the meeting held on 10 March, 8 April and 2 June were received and approved and the Chair be authorised to sign them.
REPRESENTATIONS BY THE PUBLIC (IF ANY)
Representations were made on agenda item 6 by:
1. Mr Tim Sierwald
2. Mrs Adrienne Rowe
3. Mrs Susan Chappell
4. Mr Scott Naylor
EXECUTIVE DECISIONS CALLED IN (IF ANY)
This Report further advises the Committee on the current position of the Environment Trust’s River Centre business plan and the anticipated timescales for its further review and finalisation.
Report of the Assistant Director of Environment attached.
In response to requests by some Members of the Committee, the Chair stated that only those matters germane to the item on the agenda would be discussed. Members further requested that the Chair direct members of the public about the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny procedures rules, in particular paragraph 17(a) iii), that members of the public should also keep strictly to what was on the Agenda when speaking.
The following summarises representations made by Members of the Public:
Mr Tim Sierwald stated that he had no interests to declare and made the following points:
· Limited funding for the River Centre had been secured by the Environment Trust, which is considerably short of what is required in the business plan. Mr Sierwald asked what had happened since the last meeting, and what other steps had been taken to address this shortfall.
· Mr Sierwald also asked on what basis the Trust’s pre-application to the Heritage Lottery Fund to fund the fit out of the River Centre had been agreed and what proportion of those total costs would be covered by this.
· With regards to the current business plan, Mr Sierwald asked if additional revenue streams, other than the restaurant had been identified.
· Previously the Council had stated that it would not proceed if the business plan was not viable in terms of revenue.
· Mr Sierwald asked whether the Environment Trust would be publishing an up-dated plan for public scrutiny in the near future and if it would be an abridged version or a full version. In addition, it was also asked whether this update would be available before or after the contract with Countryside had been signed.
· Mr Sierwald was concerned that the Council proposed offering a multi-million pound contract to a property developer who had been late in filing its financial accounts; a Trust, whose total net income for the latest accounting period was less than £20k; and with current assets of less that £60k. Mr Sierwald stated that he had expected a full external due diligence report, not just a cursory credit check on Countryside and the Environment Trust proposals, in view of the large sum of money involved and to provide the Council with the level of comfort that the plans are viable, achievable and sustainable. The Council has a fiduciary duty to perform such checks prior to moving forward with this project.
· Mr Sierwald also stated that the Minutes of the meeting held on 2 June did not include many of the important points made by the public at that meeting.
Mrs Rowe, who is a local resident and restaurateur, made the following points:
· The Charity Commission has stated that in keeping with the Environment Trust’s Charitable status, the restaurant operation would have to be undertaken by a non charitable subsidiary established for that purpose and it would be required to covenant its profits after operating costs back to the charity annually. Mrs Rowe requested confirmation that the Memorandum and Articles of the Environment Trust permitted them to ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
The report advises the Commission on the provisional revenue and capital outturn figures for the financial year 2008/09 and makes recommendations as to the level of balances, provisions and reserves to be held. The full Statement of Accounts for 2008/09 will be reported to Statutory Accounts Committee on 29 June 2009.
Report of the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources attached.
The Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Strategy and Partnerships, Councillor Lourie informed the Committee that the Council had ended the year with reserves under the Council’s control. Cllr Lourie thanked officers for the excellent service they had provided to the Council in terms of financial control, particularly in relation to the advice and action by officers that investing in Icelandic banks was inappropriate. And also for the Council’s 4 Star rating
Cllr Lourie stated that he had been advised that a further 13 million from reserves would be spent on Teddington School, as the project exceeded the current level of funding received from the Government.
The Assistant Director of Finance advised the Committee that there were a few errors in the report as follows:
· page 18: the dates should read 2008/9 rather than 2007/8; and
· the figures were provisional; since this report was published the final figure for reserves has reduced by a further £53,000.
The Chair of the meeting, Cllr Samuel stated that over the past 6 or7 years, special educational needs had been overspent, which is common to most Councils. Two or three years ago Croydon overspent by £5m. This is a regular occurrence. Cllr Samuel reiterated his requests made in previous years that a realistic figure should be included in the SEN budget and not an optimistic one.
In response, the Commission was advised that this would be very difficult as the SEN spend comes from the dedicated schools grant which is ring-fenced. Although officers try to keep costs down, it is very difficult to allocate funds in advance as it is not possible to determine actual numbers and the cost of individual cases can vary, for example there are some cases which are in excess of £100,000 a year. It is, therefore, difficult to fulfil the Chair’s request.
Concern was raised that the SEN budget for the future may become a bottomless bit as parents are desperate to have their children statemented and the school budget is unable to meet these demands. Dyslexia is an additional expense on this budget. The Commission was requested by a member of the Committee to bear in mind the human context in which these budgets have to be administered.
The Commission was advised that £2.3 million was being spent on the refurbishment of the Civic Centre and on the Richmond Works Project.
It was noted that the search for efficiencies was ongoing. The £11.1 million quoted in the report relates to the target set under the comprehensive spending review 2007.
The Commission was advised that under the Gershon Review the target was that 50% of the efficiency savings could be non cashable (for example if an officer worked an hour longer every day this could be costed up as an hour of the officer’s salary and referred to as a non cashable efficiency saving). Under the new arrangements all efficiency savings have to be cashable which means that they could, should the Council choose, ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
On the 23 October 2008 members of the Co-ordination, Finance and Performance Commission met (informally) with members of the Cabinet to discuss possible topics for review. It was suggested that a task group should be set up to review the business and employment support provided to local businesses.
Following this suggestion, the Co-ordination, Finance and Performance Commission agreed to set up a task group on the 15 January 2009. The Small Business Task Group has worked closely with Cabinet (and other stakeholders) while carrying out its work.
The Commission is requested to comment on the report, the recommendations of the task group (as set out on page 6 of the report) and to determine how it wishes to monitor the recommendations.
Report of the Small Business Task Group attached.
Cllr Miller, Chair of the Task Group thanked Cllr Khosa, Cllr Fleming, Mr Hatch and officers for their contribution.
During debate the following points were raised:
· As the Council did not support small businesses financially; it was looking at other ways in which these businesses could be supported.
· The Commission was advised that in one or two places there was a rent issue, for example in Whitton people were moving because the rent was high. It was acknowledged that this needed to be addressed urgently as empty properties could encourage vandalism.
· Concern was raised that the cost of trade waste/refuse collection was high. The Commission was advised that trade refuse was collected by private businesses/contractors. It was agreed that a possible solution would be for small businesses to shop around to see what the best rates were for the collection of trade waste.
· It was suggested that the citizens’ panel could be used to find out why local shops were not being used.
· The Commission was advised that sales may have decreased because of on line sales which were in the region of 20 - 30%.
· It was suggested that there were too many shops in this borough. The high streets had a number of empty shops because the trade that sustained them previously was no longer there. It was felt that there should be more focus on local shops.
· Discussion took place around encouraging people who were in business to stand as local Councillors, as was the case in the past.
· With respect to recommendation 18, it was noted that a number of businesses were now operating from home, and that this practice was on the increase.
· With respect to recommendation 15, it was noted that Development Control had been recommended to be flexible in using planning Protocol when dealing with change of use. The Commission acknowledged that the Council could not stand in the way of market forces.
· It was recognised that good dialogue between the landlords and the Council; between the landlords and the tenant; and with the residents of the borough is important, as they all share a common interest.
· The Commission was advised that the rents in Teddington were half that in Twickenham, and that there were 300 landlords in Twickenham.
· Teddington High Street may be doing well because it has the right mix of shops.
1. the task group’s report and recommendations be approved for submission to Cabinet on the 7 September 2009;
2. Further research be carried out, by a scrutiny task group, in relation to the self employed/ home based business sector to ensure suitable business support is provided for this sector in the future;
3. the Commission’s comments as stated above be forwarded to Cabinet for consideration at its September 2009 meeting; and
4. an update be presented to this Committee in six months time.
The Committee is requested to consider the items within the proposed work programme, set out at Appendix 1 to this report, and suggest any amendments or additional topics to be included in the future.
Information items are included in a Briefing information/General Information Pack, which has been sent to Members of the Committee separately to this agenda. A list of reports included in the Pack is attached as Appendix 2 to this report. The pack can be accessed via the following link: http://www.richmond.gov.uk/reports_for_information.htm
Items included in the pack will not be discussed at the meeting. If you wish to discuss any issue arising from the reports included in the pack please contact the Committee Manager, whose details are given on the front sheet of the agenda. Your enquiry will be forwarded to the Chair of the Committee, the Cabinet Member or appropriate officer.
Report of the Scrutiny Manager attached.
1. the work programme be noted;
2. the dates of the following meeting be changed:
· 10 September 2009 meeting changed to 8 October 2009
· 12 November 2009 meeting changed to 11 November 2009
3. the Member Services Manager be advised that the ACM dates are not included on the Council’s website; and
4. the draft calendar of meetings be circulated to Members in advance of it being published.