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The minutes of the meeting held on 5th February 2020 were approved as a correct record.
(Moved by Councillor Dr S Peaple and seconded by Councillor S Goodall)
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of Members’ interests (personal and/or personal and prejudicial) in any matters which are to be considered at this meeting.
When Members are declaring a personal interest or personal and prejudicial interest in respect of which they have dispensation, they should specify the nature of such interest. Members should leave the room if they have a personal and prejudicial interest in respect of which they do not have a dispensation.
There were no declarations of interest.
To receive an update from the Chair.
The Chair thanked Officers for the training which had been provided to facilitate the transition to remote meetings. The Chair also thanked members for attending the training provided as well as joining this first remote meeting of the Corporate Scrutiny Committee.
The Chair welcomed the two new members of this Committee; Councillors Michael Oates and Peter Thurgood.
The Chair reminded members that whilst the agenda and reports for the March 2020 Corporate Scrutiny Committee meeting were published, the meeting was cancelled. Under the work plan item later on the agenda the Chair reported that the Committee would look at this year’s possible items of business. The Chair suggested that following this meeting, he would request that Democratic Services re-circulate to members the Review of Council and Cabinet Decisions since May 2019 Report which was attached to the March agenda and the Chair asked that members raise with him (ahead of the July Committee meeting) any specific decisions which they would like to be brought forward onto this Committee’s agenda over the coming year.
The Chair further reminded members that the draft Annual Report of this Scrutiny committee was circulated to all members of the Committee in May 2020 for comment. The Chair reported that the intention was that this Report would be received by full Council in July. The Chair therefore requested that if members had any final comments on that report, to provide them to the Chair by 30th June 2020.
Discussion item – link to Forward Plan
The Committee considered the Forward Plan. It was suggested that the Capital Outturn Report be considered by this Committee at its July Committee meeting.
Report of the Leader of the Council
The Report of the Leader of the Council which provided the Committee with a performance update and financial healthcheck was received.
The Chair welcomed the Leader of the Council, Councillor D Cook, and the Executive Director Organisation, Assistant Director Finance and the Knowledge Performance and Insight Co-ordinator to the meeting.
The Leader of the Council introduced the report and reported that COVID-19 had had, and was expected to continue to have, an impact. Updated forecasts had been prepared which modelled the impact on the Council’s finances. It was currently anticipated that income levels would be 10% lower, although at this point the Leader reminded members that no one could know the full impact.
The Committee sought and received clarification in the following areas:
1. The strategy for Solway and whether an adjustment in this was required. The Leader reported that it was capital which would be allocated to Solway and that he considered that the strategy behind Solway would continue to be relevant in the current situation.
2. The impact on the town centre strategy, including property /business values, and the interaction with the Future High Street Fund business case. The Leader reported that COVID-19 would be likely to impact on the town centre and advice was being taken.
3. The progress being made on the Customer Portal. The Executive Director, Organisation reported that two priority processes had now moved into full testing mode, and that by the Q1 Report there would be likely to be more progress to report.
4. The progress on regeneration work at Tinkers Green and Kerria. The Leader agreed to update members by email as to the current position.
5. The reasons for the underspend of the budget for the Joint Waste Arrangements. The Leader noted that over successive years there had been an underspend and agreed that this was an area where further advice would be sought.
6. The Leader confirmed that the unbudgeted government grant referred to was a COVID-19 related grant.
7. Following a question, the Knowledge, Performance and Insight Co-ordinator agreed to review the figures set out in the Universal Credit summary to ensure that all historic figures were accurately represented in the graphs.
8. The Leader was asked about the updated forecast for the General Fund which identified on the central case scenario an impact of £2.5m, which the report indicated would require savings of around £2m per annum savings over the next five years, starting immediatley. The Leader confirmed that the council was waiting for the Government’s decision on Fairer Funding.
9. Whether the council’s corporate debt strategy would be revisited in light of the financial impacts on residents of COVID-19. The Leader hoped that it would be possible to continue to work within the existing strategy.
10.The impact on the council’s ICT strategy of the financial pressures and the need sometimes to look over a longer time period to see the benefits of IT investments. The Leader agreed that this often presented difficulties around IT ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
To consider the Committee’s Work Plan
The Committee considered the Work Plan and discussed the inclusion within it of:
1. The Capital Outturn Report on the July 2020 agenda
2. The inclusion of Solway on the August 2020 agenda
3. Further amendments as considered necessary by the Chair following consultation with relevant Officers.
The draft Work Plan is set out below: