Agenda and minutes

Community and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 2nd February, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Virtual Meeting. View directions

Contact: Kevin J Thomas  01267 224027

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

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Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Handel Davies and Councillor H.A.L. Evans (Executive Board Member for Environment).

 

2.

DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL INTERESTS INCLUDING ANY PARTY WHIPS ISSUED IN RELATION TO ANY AGENDA ITEM

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Minutes:

There were no declarations of any prohibited party whips.

 

The following declarations of interest were made

Councillor

Minute Number

Nature of Interest

J. Gilasbey

4 – Revenue Budget Strategy Consultation 2021/22 to 2023/24

Trustee of Kidwelly Tinplate Museum

J Gilasbey

5 – Housing Revenue Account Budget and Housing Rent Setting for 2021/22

Family Member is a Council Tenant

J. Gilasbey

7 – Revenue and Capital Budget Monitoring Report 2020/21

Trustee of Kidwelly Tinplate Museum

J. Gilasbey

11 – Forthcoming Items

Executive Board Forward Work Programme – Family member is employed in education

 

3.

PUBLIC QUESTIONS (NONE RECEIVED)

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Minutes:

The Chair advised that no public questions had been received.

4.

REVENUE BUDGET STRATEGY CONSULTATION 2021/22 to 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 238 KB

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Minutes:

(Note: Cllr J Gilasbey had earlier declared an interest in this item and had been granted dispensation by the Standards Committee to speak only in respect of that interest)

 

The Committee considered the report presented by the Executive Board Member for Resources on the Council’s Revenue Budget Strategy 2021/22 to 2023/24, as endorsed by the Executive Board for consultation purposes at its meeting held on the 18th January 2020.  The report provided Members with the current view of the Revenue Budget for 2021/2022 together with indicative figures for the 2022/2023 and 2023/2024 financial years based on officers’ projections of spending requirements and takes account of the provisional settlement issued by Welsh Government on the 22nd December 2020. It also reflected current departmental submissions for savings proposals after taking account of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the delivery of those savings.

 

The Executive Board Member advised that whilst the announced provisional settlement represented an average increase of 4.0% across Wales on the 2020/21 settlement, Carmarthenshire’s increase had been 3.8% (£10.466m) thereby taking the Aggregate External Finance to £284.820m for 2021/22 which included £244k for teachers pay.

 

Whilst the budget proposals assumed the full delivery of all savings proposals, together with the identification and delivery of the shortfall in savings proposals for the 2022/23, and 2023/24 financial years, further cost reductions would need to be identified for those latter years to be able to maintain the current Budget Strategy and level of Council tax. 

 

Although the Strategy proposed a 4.89% Council Tax increase for each of the three financial years, the Executive Board had recommended the increase for 2021/22 be reduced to 4.48%, which would be considered by the Council in setting the Council Tax level for 2021/22 at its meeting on the 3rd March 2021. Additionally, the Welsh Government final settlement figure was to be announced on the 2nd March 2021 and any amendments required to be considered to the budget strategy from that announcement would also be considered by Council on the 3rd March

 

The Committee thereupon considered the following detailed budget information appended to the Strategy relevant to its remit:

 

·       Appendix A(i) – Efficiency summary for the Regeneration, Leisure, Planning and Non HRA Housing Services;

·       Appendix A(ii) – Growth Pressures summary for the Regeneration and Planning Services (none for the Leisure and Non HRA Services;

·       Appendix B – Budget monitoring report for the Regeneration, Leisure, Planning and Non HRA Housing Services;

·       Appendix C – Charging Digest for the Regeneration, Leisure, Planning and Non HRA Housing Services;

 

The following questions/issues were raised on the report:-

 

·       The Executive Board Member in response to a question on the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on the collection of Council tax, advised that the Council had taken measures in that regard by extending the payment period over 12 months to the end of the 2020/21 financial year, instead of the usual 10 month payment period. The Welsh Government had also announced a 75% grant would be made  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT BUDGET AND HOUSING RENT SETTING FOR 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 379 KB

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Minutes:

(NOTE: Councillor J Gilasbey having earlier declared an interest in this item left the meeting during its consideration)

 

The Committee considered the report presented by the Executive Board Member for Resources on the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Budget and Housing Rent Setting for 2021/22, being presented as part of the budget consultation process that brought together the latest proposals for the Revenue and Capital budgets for the Housing Revenue Account 2021/24 to be presented to the Executive Board and Council for determination.

 

The Executive Board Member advised that the report had been prepared reflecting the latest proposals contained within the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Business Plan, being the primary financial planning tool for delivering and maintaining the Carmarthenshire Homes Standard Plus (CHS+) for the future. The proposed investment within the current business plan delivered the CHS by 2015 (to those homes where the tenants agreed to have work undertaken) provided investment to maintain CHS+ and continued investment for the Authority’s Affordable Homes Commitment. 

 

The Executive Board Member reminded the Committee that with regard to the setting of the Housing Rents, the Authority had, on the 24th February 2015, adopted the Welsh Government’s Social Housing Rent Policy for the four year period ending in 2018/19. For 2019/20, the Welsh Government had provided an interim policy while it awaited the results of the Affordable Housing Supply Review.  Following that review, the Welsh Government had decided to retain the policy for a further 5 year period from 2020/21 – 2024/25 with some additional/amended requirements, as detailed within the report. The annual rent uplift (total rent envelope) would be up to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) + 1% for each of the 5 years, using the level of CPI from September of the previous year. CPI + 1% would be the maximum increase allowable in any one year but must not be regarded as an automatic uplift to be applied by social landlords and their decisions on rent should have regard to the affordability for tenants.

 

In applying that policy for 2021/22, the Welsh Government had notified the level of rents for individual tenants could be reduced or frozen or rise by up to an additional £2 over and above the CPI+1% on condition the total rental income collected increased by no more than CPI +1%

 

If the budget proposals were to be endorsed, the 2021/22 Housing Revenue Account would have an expenditure level of £51m, with the capital programme being £37.6m for 2021/22, £37.4m for 2022/23 and £30.6m for 2023/24

 

The following issues were raised in relation to the report:-

·       In response to a question on the percentage of Council Tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit, the Committee was advised one third were paying full rent, one third partial rent and the remaining third were received full benefit. The Head of Homes and Safer Communities advised that setting rent levels represented a difficult balancing act between ensuring rises did not adversely impact on tenants’ ability to pay, whilst providing funding for the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

THE CARMARTHENSHIRE HOMES STANDARD PLUS (CHS+)- BUSINESS PLAN 2021-24 pdf icon PDF 441 KB

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Minutes:

The Committee received a report presented by the Executive Board Member for Housing on the Carmarthenshire Homes Standards Plus (CHS+) Business Plan 2021-24, the purpose of which was fourfold. Firstly, it explained the vision and detail of the CHS+ over the next three years and what it meant for tenants. Secondly, it confirmed the financial profile, based on current assumptions for delivery of the CHS+ over the next three years. Thirdly, it showed how the housing investment programme could help stimulate the local economy and recovery from Covid 19. Fourthly, it produced a business plan for the annual application to the Welsh Government for Major Repairs Allowance (MRA) for 2020/21 equating to £6.1m.

 

The report highlighted the importance of the Council supporting its tenants and residents in everything it did, with the following four key themes having been identified as driving the business for the next three years:-

 

-        Theme 1 – Supporting Tenants and Residents;

-        Theme 2 – Investing in our Homes’ and the Environment

-        Theme 3 - Providing more homes;

-        Theme 4 – Foundational Economy, Community Benefits and Procurement

 

The Following questions/issues were raised on the report:

·       The Executive Board Member in response to a question on void levels within the authority’s 9,200 homes, advised there were approximately 340 voids at present. Those properties required differing levels of work and efforts were being undertaken to reduce the total voids as quickly as possible. However, the covid pandemic had impacted on the speed and timescale for those works, especially during the initial 3 month period of the pandemic when contractors were unable to work on site.

·       With regard to a question on the impact of the pandemic on the council’s house building programme, the Executive Board Member confirmed that, as with the voids, delays had been encountered initially from contractors not being able to attend on site and subsequently from delays in the supply of building materials following the easing of the lockdown. Works were now progressing, however, and it was hoped the programme would return to schedule in the near future.

·       The Executive Board Member confirmed the Council’s House Building programme aimed to address the shortage of housing in both rural and urban areas and work was currently ongoing on the development of a further 21 sites throughout the county.

·       In response to a question on homelessness levels with the County, the Executive Board Member advised that in March 2020 the Welsh Government had placed a duty on all Welsh Local Housing Authorities to house the homeless, including the single homeless. While homeless levels were increasing, 117 people had currently presented themselves to the Council as homeless, 100 of whom were single persons, and the Council was working with them to address their housing requirements, which included providing advice and guidance on managing a successful tenancy

 

She further commented on the increase in single homelessness within the County which had highlighted a shortfall in accommodation provision for single persons within the Council’s housing stock,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

REVENUE & CAPITAL BUDGET MONITORING REPORT 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 243 KB

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Minutes:

(Note: Cllr J Gilasbey had earlier declared an interest in this item and had been granted dispensation by the Standards Committee to speak only in respect of that interest)

 

The Committee considered a report presented by the Executive Board Member for Resources on the 2020/21 Revenue and Capital Budget Monitoring reports for the Housing, Regeneration, Planning and Leisure and Recreation Services for the period up to the 31st October, 2020. It was noted that the revenue budget was forecasting a £293k overspend, the capital budget a £44,381k underspend, whilst the Housing Revenue Account was forecasting a £2,784k underspend.

 

The following questions/issues were raised on the report:-

·       In response to a question on the current position on Carmarthen Mart, the Executive Board Member for Resources advised that tender documents would be issued shortly with it being anticipated a new tenant could be in place within several months.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the Revenue and Capital Budget Monitoring Report be received.

 

8.

2020/21 HALF YEAR PERFORMANCE REPORT (1ST APRIL TO 30TH SEPTEMBER 2020) RELEVANT TO THIS SCRUTINY pdf icon PDF 414 KB

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Minutes:

The Committee received the 2020/21 Half Year Performance Report for the period 1st April to 30th September 2020 presented by the Executive Board Members – Leader, Deputy Leader, Housing and Culture, Sport and Tourism in respect of the areas falling within their portfolios and the Committees remit.

 

The report detailed the progress made against the actions and measures in the Corporate Strategy 2020/12 on the delivery of the Well-Being Objectives within the Committee’s remit. It was noted that due to the covid pandemic, Departmental Action plans for 2020/21 were not being monitored to allow services to concentrate on dealing with emergencies but that a half year Covid 19 pandemic Community Impact Assessment had been produced in lieu. An annual report for 2020/21 would also be produced on the Corporate Well-being Objectives

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the report be received.

9.

COMMUNITY COHESION ACTION PLAN pdf icon PDF 533 KB

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Minutes:

The Committee considered a report presented by the Executive Board Member for Communities and Rural Affairs providing an overview of the Community Cohesion Regional Plan and seeking its endorsement of the Action Plan attached thereto.

 

The Executive Board Member advised that Carmarthenshire was the host authority for receiving Welsh Government grant for the Mid and West Wales region comprising the local authorities of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys. The Action Plan had four main themes together with several key objectives i.e.:-

 

·       Theme A – Identifying and mitigating community tensions (hate crime, extremism, anxiety and anti-social behaviour) relating to Brexit;

·       Theme B – Foster Good Relations;

·       Theme C – Ensure Equality of Opportunity;

·       Theme D – Administration and Reporting to support work under themes A-C.

 

The Executive Board Member provided examples of the work undertaken under the Community Cohesion Plan and advised that a revised action plan would be produced by March 2021 for the 2021/22 financial year as part of Welsh Government grant conditions.

 

The following questions/issues were raised on the report:-

·       In response to a question on funding and the United Kingdom’s recent withdrawal from the European Union, the Executive Board Member advised that previous grant funding had been received from the Welsh Government and it was hoped it would announce its continuance in March 2021

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the Mid and West Wales Community Cohesion Action Plan be endorsed.

 

11.

FORTHCOMING ITEMS pdf icon PDF 128 KB

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Minutes:

(Note: Cllr J Gilasbey had earlier declared an interest in this item and had been granted dispensation by the Standards Committee to speak only in respect of that interest)

 

The Committee considered a list of forthcoming items to be considered at its next scheduled meeting to be held on the 25th February 2021.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the list of forthcoming items to be considered at the next scheduled meeting on the 25th February 2021 be noted.

10.

EXPLANATION FOR NON-SUBMISSION OF SCRUTINY REPORT pdf icon PDF 8 KB

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Minutes:

The Committee received an explanation for the non-submission of the following scrutiny report:-

 

·       Welsh Public Library Standards Annual Report

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the explanation for the non-submission be noted.

12.

TO SIGN AS A CORRECT RECORD THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 17TH DECEMBER 2020 pdf icon PDF 248 KB

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