Agenda and draft minutes

Cabinet - Tuesday, 6th February 2024 6.00 p.m.

Venue: Morecambe Town Hall

Contact: Liz Bateson, Democratic Support - email  ebateson@lancaster.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

59.

Minutes

To receive as a correct record the minutes of Cabinet held on Tuesday, 16 January 2024 (previously circulated). 

Minutes:

 

The minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday 16 January 2024 were approved as a correct record.

 

60.

Items of Urgent Business Authorised by the Leader

To consider any such items authorised by the Leader and to consider where in the agenda the item(s) are to be considered. 

Minutes:

The Chair advised that there were no items of urgent business.

 

61.

Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations by Councillors of interests in respect of items on this Agenda. 

Councillors are reminded that, in accordance with the Localism Act 2011, they are required to declare any disclosable pecuniary interests which have not already been declared in the Council’s Register of Interests. (It is a criminal offence not to declare a disclosable pecuniary interest either in the Register or at the meeting). 

Whilst not a legal requirement, in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 9 and in the interests of clarity and transparency, Councillors should declare any disclosable pecuniary interests which they have already declared in the Register, at this point in the meeting. 

In accordance with Part B Section 2 of the Code Of Conduct, Councillors are required to declare the existence and nature of any other interests as defined in paragraphs 8(1) or 9(2) of the Code of Conduct. 

 

Minutes:

62.

Public Speaking

To consider any such requests received in accordance with the approved procedure. 

 

Minutes:

Members were advised that there had been no requests to speak at the meeting in accordance with Cabinet’s agreed procedure.

 

63.

Budget & Policy Framework Update 2024/25 to 2028/29 pdf icon PDF 421 KB

(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Hamilton-Cox)

 

Report of Chief Officer Resources    (report published on 2 February 2024)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Hamilton-Cox)

 

Cabinet received a report from the Chief Finance Officer that set out the latest position in respect of the budget and policy framework and Cabinet’s proposed General Fund revenue budget for 2024/25.

 

The options, options analysis, including risk assessment and officer preferred option, were set out in the report as follows:

 

Council may adjust its revenue budget proposals, so long as the overall budget for 2024/25 balances and fits with the proposed Council Tax level.

 

Depending on the nature of any alternative proposals put forward, Officers may need time to assess the risks and implications. This is to ensure that relevant considerations are taken into account, to support informed and lawful decision making.

 

Cabinet will have the opportunity to consider any further changes or amendments at its meeting 20th February where it will be asked to recommend its Budget to Full Council for approval at its accordance with the Constitution.

 

The officer preferred option is that Cabinet considers the updates to the General Fund Revenue Budget 2024/25 recognising that a final report will be presented at its meeting 20th February 2024.

 

Consideration was given to the comments made by the Budget and Performance Panel on 18 January 2024  as detailed in paragraph 5.1 of the report.  With regard to the green waste subsidy, it was noted that the costs of this were difficult to determine and removing the subsidy would likely impact on the number of subscribers.  Work continues to take place at Salt Ayre to ensure value for money can be evidenced along with its contribution to Council priorities. This includes benchmarking, performance management and consideration of best practice.The request for council tax information  had been addressed and work was ongoing in relation to identified savings.  This would be reported back to Budget & Performance Panel.

 

As the report was for noting there was no vote on this item.

 

64.

Capital Strategy & Capital Programme 2024/25 to 2028/29 pdf icon PDF 312 KB

(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Hamilton-Cox)

 

Report of Chief Officer Resources (report published on 2 February 2024)

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Hamilton-Cox)

 

Cabinet received a report from the Chief Finance Officer to present Cabinet’s final budget proposals in order that the Council can approve a General Fund Capital Programme for 2023/24 to 2028/29 and a Capital Strategy 2024/25 as required by regulation.

 

The options, options analysis, including risk assessment and officer preferred option, were set out in the report as follows:

 

Cabinet may put forward alternative proposals or amendments to the proposed Strategy ahead of consideration by Budget & Performance Panel. For capital, Council may adjust its capital investment and financing proposals taking account of spending commitments and priorities, but its proposals for 2024/25 must balance.

 

Depending on the nature of any alternative proposals put forward, Officers may need time to assess the risks and implications. This is to ensure that relevant considerations are taken into account, to support informed and lawful decision- making.

 

The officer preferred option was for Cabinet to consider the Capital Programme and Strategy as attached to the report and refer it to Budget and Performance Panel for review.

 

The report addressed the actions required to complete the budget setting process for its Capital Programme and Capital Strategy. If Cabinet, or Budget Council changed its Capital Programme from that which was proposed in the report then this would require a change in the prudential indicators which are part of the Treasury Management Strategy.

 

Councillor Hamilton-Cox proposed, seconded by Councillor Wood:-

 

“That the recommendations, as set out in the report, be approved.”

 

Councillors then voted:-

 

Resolved unanimously:

 

(1)             That Cabinet recommends the following for consideration and comment by Budget & Performance Panel:

· the updated Capital Programme covering financial years 2023/24 to 2032/33 · the Capital Strategy (Investing in the Future) 2024/25

 

Officer responsible for effecting the decision:

 

Chief Officer Resources

 

Reasons for making the decision:

 

The Council’s revenue and capital budgets should represent, in financial terms what the Council is seeking to achieve through its Policy Framework. The proposed capital programme and supporting strategy is part of the Council’s budget and policy framework, and fits into the Medium Term Financial Strategy.  Cabinet will have the opportunity to consider any comments at its meeting 20th February where it will be asked to recommend the strategy to Full Council for approval at its accordance with the Constitution.

 

The proposed budget incorporates measures to address the climate emergency and digital improvements as well as activities to address wellbeing, health and community safety.

65.

Treasury Management Strategy pdf icon PDF 231 KB

(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Hamilton-Cox)

 

Report of Chief Officer Resources (report published on 2 February 2024)

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Hamilton-Cox)

 

Cabinet received a report from the Chief Finance Officer to present to Cabinet the draft Treasury Management Strategy and associated documents for 2024/25 and to provide an opportunity for consideration and comment ahead of formal presentation to Budget & Performance Panel for their consideration and comment.

 

The options, options analysis, including risk assessment and officer preferred option, were set out in the report as follows:

 

Cabinet may put forward alternative proposals or amendments to the proposed Strategy ahead of consideration by Budget & Performance Panel, but these would have to be considered in light of legislative, professional, and economic factors, and importantly, any alternative views regarding the Council’s risk appetite. As such no further options analysis is available currently.

 

Furthermore, the Strategy must fit with other aspects of Cabinet’s budget proposals, such as deposit interest estimates and underlying prudential borrowing assumptions, feeding into Prudential and Treasury Management Indicators. There are no options available regarding other components of the overall framework.

 

The officer preferred option was for Cabinet to consider the framework as attached to the report and refer it to Budget and Performance Panel for review.

 

The report addressed the actions required to complete the budget setting process for Treasury Management, and for updating the Council’s associated financial strategy. This was based on the Council continuing to have a comparatively low risk appetite regarding the security and liquidity of investments particularly, but recognising that some flexibility should help improve returns, whilst still effectively mitigating risk. It was stressed that in terms of treasury activity, there was no risk free approach. It was felt, however, that the measures set out in the report provided a fit for purpose framework within which to work, pending any update during the course of next year.

 

If Cabinet, or Budget Council changes its Capital Programme from that which was proposed in this report then this would require a change in the prudential indicators which are part of the Treasury Management Strategy.

 

Councillor Hamilton-Cox proposed, seconded by Councillor Wood:-

 

“That the recommendation, as set out in the report, be approved.”

 

Councillors then voted:-

 

Resolved unanimously:

 

(1)           That Cabinet recommend the Treasury Management Strategy 2024/25 and  Appendices A to C for consideration and comment by the Budget & Performance Panel.

 

Officer responsible for effecting the decision:

 

Chief Officer Resources

.

Reasons for making the decision:

Treasury Management forms part of the Councils budget framework. Effective Treasury Management and use of the Councils’ resources is fundamental to the delivery of its priorities and outcomes.  Cabinet will have the opportunity to consider any comments at its meeting 20th February where it will be asked to recommend the strategy to Full Council for approval at its accordance with the Constitution.

66.

Medium Term Financial Strategy

(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Hamilton-Cox)

 

Report of Chief Officer Resources (report to follow)

 

Minutes:

67.

Housing Revenue Account and Capital Programme pdf icon PDF 822 KB

(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Caroline Jackson)

 

Report of Chief Officer for Housing & Property and the Chief Officer Resources (Section 151 Officer)   (report published on 2 February 2024)

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Caroline Jackson)

 

Cabinet received a joint report from the Chief Officer for Housing & Property and the Chief Officer Resources (Section 151 Officer) that sought Cabinet decisions on Council Housing rent setting proposals and HRA revenue and capital budget proposals.

 

The options, options analysis, including risk assessment and officer preferred option, were set out in the report as follows:

 

The options with regards to rent setting are set out under section 4, the maximum permitted increase being CPI+1%. By applying this increase, it allows for a budget that can deliver on the Council’s ambitions on improving housing standards and addressing the climate change emergency, whilst adhering to the Rent Standard and legislative requirements.

 

In relation to garage rents, the previous decision was to freeze rents for 2023/24. In order to protect current occupancy and income levels, and in line with sector benchmarking, a further 12-month freeze is recommended. Garage rents and occupancy will remain under review.

 

With regard to the revenue budget generally, Cabinet could consider other proposals that may influence spending in current and future years, as long as their financing is considered and addressed and coherent with the legislative and regulatory requirements of a Registered Provider.

 

The options available in respect of the minimum level of HRA balances are to retain the level at £750K in line with the advice of the Section 151 Officer, or adopt a different level. Should Members choose not to accept the advice on the level of balances, then this should be recorded formally in the minutes of the meeting and it could have implications for the Council’s financial standing, as assessed by its external auditor.

 

The options available in respect of the Capital Programme are:

i)                 To approve the programme in full, with the financing as set out;

ii)                To incorporate other increases or reductions to the programme, with appropriate sources of funding being identified.

 

Any risks attached to the above would depend on measures Members proposed, and their impact on the council housing service and its tenants. As such, a full options analysis could only be undertaken once any alternative proposals are known, and Officers may require more time in order to do this.

 

 

Option 1: Set housing and garage rent levels as set out in this report and approve the provisions, reserves and balances position (and their use); the revenue budgets and capital?programme

Option 2: To propose alternatives to those outlined in Section 11 to the report.

Advantages

Increased rental income supports the Council to deliver against its Regulatory requirements and ensuring homes are safe and decent.

Unknown

Disadvantages

Increased rent levels for tenants.

Would require further options analysis

Risks/ Mitigation

The HRA budget set out in this report is sustainable in the long term. The risks associated with Option 1 are outlined in Appendix F – Risks and Assumptions.

Impact on housing service and council housing tenants unknown. Potential for housing service to fall foul of legislative and regulatory requirements, leading to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 67.

68.

Decision to Consider Sustainability of a Council Housing Dwelling Block pdf icon PDF 405 KB

(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Caroline Jackson)

 

Report of Chief Officer for Housing & Property   (report published on 2 February 2024)

 

Minutes:

(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Caroline Jackson)

 

Cabinet received a report from the Chief Officer Housing & Property that sought decisions from Cabinet regarding the future sustainability of Bridge House, Mainway, in the context of the ongoing Mainway project and liabilities contained within the Building Safety Act.

 

The options, options analysis, including risk assessment and officer preferred option, were set out in the report as follows:

 

 

Option 1: Cease to let dwellings within Bridge House and support current residents to move out of the block.

Option 2: Commit to fully tenanting Bridge House while it remains operational.

Advantages

Safety risks are eliminated, and maintenance and other costs are not incurred

Rental income can be achieved in the short term.

Disadvantages

Loss of income from rents would be seen – this has provisionally been factored into the HRA budget report.

The exact lifespan of the block is unknown. It is feasible that significant money may be spent on the block only for it to be considered unsustainable in the near future.

Risks

An empty block would pose its own security risks, which would need management by the service.

Financial liabilities relating to tenanting the block make this a risky financial decision. Failure of the cladding, and the risk to health and safety, is likely to be an increasing risk.

 

 

Due to the current condition of Bridge House and the risks relating to this, Option 1 is the preferred option.

 

It is recognised that the decision to cease letting of Bridge House will impact current residents. The housing team are committed to supporting residents to accessing a suitable alternative housing solution, including financially in respect of reasonable moving costs.  In addition, ceasing to let Bridge House creates some flexibility within the Mainway project regarding the prospective demolition of the block. It should be noted that the loss of rental income for this block from April 2024 onwards has currently been built into HRA budget projections to be presented to Cabinet within the HRA Budget Report for consideration in February 2024.

 

It was noted that the third recommendation should have read 4.4 and not 3.3 and this along with a typo in the introduction would be amended in the published report.

 

Councillor Caroline Jackson proposed, seconded by Councillor Potter:-

 

“That the recommendations, as set out in the report, be approved with ‘3.3’ in recommendation (3) amended to 4.4.”

 

Councillors then voted:-

 

Resolved unanimously:

 

 

(1)        That the decision to cease to let empty properties in Bridge House, Mainway, be approved.

 

(2)        That it be noted that options to facilitate vacating the remainder of Bridge House, Mainway, will be explored by officers.

 

(3)        That, should the BFLR funding application in paragraph 4.4 be successful, the Chief Executive has delegated authority to approve acceptance of any attendant funding award following publication of key decision notice as required.

 

Officer responsible for effecting the decision:

 

Chief Officer Housing and Property

 

Reasons for making the decision:

 

The proposal is in support of wider Council ambitions to deliver  ...  view the full minutes text for item 68.