Agenda and minutes

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Offices, Reading, RG1 2LU

Contact: Simon Hill - Committee Services Email: (simon.hill@reading.gov.uk)  0118 9372303

Link: Webcast of meeting

Items
No. Item

65.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

Councillors Ennis and Lovelock declared pecuniary interests in item 71 – ‘Shareholder Consent: Homes for Reading Ltd Appointment of External Auditor for 2018/19’, left the meeting and took no part in the debate or decision.  Nature of interest: the Councillors were Directors of Homes for Reading Limited.

66.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 76 KB

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 14 January 2019 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

67.

Petitions and Questions pdf icon PDF 130 KB

To receive any petitions from the public and any questions from the public and Councillors.

 

Minutes:

Questions on the following matters were submitted by members of the public:

 

 

Questioner

Subject

Reply

 

1.

Hilary Smart

Caversham Library

Cllr Hacker

2.

Glenn Dennis

Cultural Partnership & Cultural Education Partnership

Cllr Hacker

3.

Richard Stainthorp

Prison Site

Cllr Page

4.

 

WITHDRAWN

 

5.

Roger Lightfoot

Sale of Arthur Hill Pool

Cllr Lovelock

6.

Peter Burt

Sale of Arthur Hill Pool

Cllr Lovelock

7.

Peter Burt

Sale of Arthur Hill Pool

Cllr Lovelock

8.

Amjad Tarar

Retention of Business Rates

Cllr Lovelock

9.

Anne Green Jessel

Sale of Arthur Hill Pool

Cllr Lovelock

 

Questions on the following matters were submitted by Councillors:

 

 

Questioner

Subject

Reply

 

1.

Cllr White

Accessible Playgrounds in Reading

Cllr Hacker

2.

Cllr White

Increasing Council Spend on Agency Staff

Cllr Lovelock

 

(The full text of the questions and responses was made available on the Reading Borough Council website).

68.

Concessionary Travel Scheme - Investigation of Budget Saving Proposals pdf icon PDF 123 KB

Councillor Page / Director of Environment and Neighbourhood Services

 

This report provides an update on proposed changes to the Concessionary Travel scheme for Older Person pass holders and disabled people using the Access Pass in Reading.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Environment and Neighbourhood Services submitted a report providing an update on possible changes to the Concessionary Travel scheme for Older Person pass holders and disabled people using the Access Pass in Reading. In February 2018, the Policy Committee had agreed to investigate the potential removal of further discretionary elements of the Concessionary Travel scheme, following the implementation of initial changes to the Older Persons’ scheme in April 2017. The anticipated budget savings from these potential changes, subject to the outcome of public consultation and an Equalities Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposals, had been estimated to be approximately £200-250k per annum.

The report noted that, following an initial review of the consultation results, it had been announced at the meeting of Policy Committee on 29 October 2018 that the Council did not intend to proceed with the removal of the Companion Entitlement for eligible Access Pass holders, as this provided a vital lifeline for disabled residents who were unable to travel alone.  However, this prospective change had been included in the list of proposals to enable the Committee to confirm formally the position taken at the earlier meeting.

 

The report also recommended endorsing an internal review of the current process for assessing the eligibility of applications for Access Passes to ensure the process provided value for money in line with Government guidance.  This process would include an assessment of the renewal procedure, which could be amended to require pass holders to renew their eligibility for the scheme at the end of the five-year lifespan of their pass, whilst recognising any such review would need to be sensitive to those pass holders who had a permanent disability.

 

The report had appended: an Equality Impact Assessment of the proposals; Consultation Questionnaires; the full results of the consultation response; background information on administering eligibility and the Concessionary Fares Schemes in the South-East; and the Readibus consultation responses.

 

Having considered the recommendations and in light of the responses received to the public consultation and the Equality Impact Assessments undertaken, Councillor Page, Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, proposed that the possible changes to the discretionary element of the Concessionary Travel scheme set out in Section 4 of the report should not be implemented.

 

Resolved –

 

(1)         That the report and the potential financial savings of £200k - £250k per annum that the changes to the scheme could deliver be noted;

 

(2)         That, taking into account the responses received to the public consultation and the Equality Impact Assessments undertaken, none of changes set out in the report be made to the discretionary elements of the Concessionary Travel scheme, which would mean the following would continue to be available:

·         Off-peak Weekday Free Travel (pre-9.30am/ after 11.00pm) for Access Pass Holders;

·         Companion entitlement for eligible Access Pass Holders;

·         Free use of Readibus dial-a-ride services for eligible Access Pass Holders;

·         Free use of Readibus scheme by Older Person Pass Holders;

(3)     That the administration of eligibility criteria for Access Passes  ...  view the full minutes text for item 68.

69.

Chief Finance Officer's Report on the Robustness of the Council's 2019/20 Budget pdf icon PDF 71 KB

Director of Resources

 

This report fulfils the requirement under Section 25 of the Local Government Act 2003 for the Council’s Chief Financial Officer to report to Council on the robustness of the estimates made for the purposes of the calculations of the budget, and the adequacy of the proposed level of financial reserves.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Resources submitted a report fulfilling the requirement on her under Section 25 of the Local Government Act 2003 as the Council’s Chief Finance Officer to report on the robustness of the estimates made for the purposes of the calculations of the budget and the adequacy of the proposed level of financial reserves.  The Council had a duty to have regard to the advice set out in the report when considering setting its 2019/20 Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy for the subsequent two financial years.  The Statement of Reserves and Balances, which provided a summary of estimated reserve movements from 31 March 2019 and 31 March 2022, were circulated to the Committee for its information.

 

Recommended to Council –

 

That the Chief Finance Officer’s reporton the robustness of the Council’s 2019/20 budget and indicative budgets for the subsequent two financial years 2020/21 and 2021/22 be noted and the opinion contained therein be taken into account by the Council when it considered the Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy on 26 February 2019.

70.

Draft 2019/20 Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy to 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 351 KB

Councillor Lovelock / Director of Resources

 

This report sets out the Council’s draft Medium Term Financial Strategy and associated spending plans for the three years 2019/20 to 2021/22.  The report covers all aspects of the Council’s spend: General Fund revenue expenditure funded by the council tax payer, government grant and other sources of income, Housing Revenue Account (HRA) expenditure, funded by council tenants’ rents, and the Council’s Capital Programmes (General Fund and HRA) funded by grants and contributions, capital receipts, revenue and prudential borrowing.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Resources submitted a report asking the Committee to recommend to Council, on 26 February 2019, the draft 2019/20 Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) and associated spending plans for the three years 2019/20 to 2021/22.  The report covered all aspects of the Council’s spend: General Fund revenue expenditure funded by the Council tax payer; Government grant and other sources of income; Housing Revenue Account (HRA) expenditure, funded by Council; tenants’ rents; and the Council’s Capital Programmes (General Fund and HRA) funded by grants and contributions, capital receipts, revenue and prudential borrowing.  The proposed Medium Term Financial Strategy had been informed by and supported delivery of the Council’s Corporate Plan priorities and sought to ensure that the Council was “fit for the future” with sound finances that allowed the Council’s future funding challenges and spending pressures to be met.

 

The report stated that the MTFS 2019 - 2022 provided for a balanced budget position across the three years, as well as making a net contribution to reserves over the three years of £2.4m by using part of the benefit from the business rate pilot, which would enable reserves to move back towards a more robust level.  The Strategy provided for a robust financial position going forward, which relied on significant service transformation to drive increased efficiency savings and income generation in order that service reductions could be minimised.  In particular it assumed:

a)    Revenue Support Grant from Government had effectively reduced to zero in 2019/20 due to the Business Rates pilot and would remain at zero following the Business Rates reset;

b)    Council Tax increases of 2.99% in 2019/20 and 1.99% in both 2020/21 and 2021/22;

c)    The benefit of Business rate growth forecast in 2019/20 had been discounted in 2020/21 because the impact of the planned business rate reset was as yet unknown;

d)    £27.5m of efficiencies and increased income across the period;

e)    A contingency provision over the three years (£4.4m 2019/20; £4.1m 2020/21; and £3.4m 2021/22) to mitigate possible slippage or non-achievement of higher risk savings and budget pressures over the period;

f)     Capital investment of £464m over the period 2019/20 to 2021/22 of which £249m would be for invest to save purposes;

g)    £6.4m of transformation funding (over the period 2019/20 to 2021/22) to support delivery of efficiency savings assumed within the MTFS; and

h)    Service reductions of £2.6m.

On 1 December 2018, the Council had incorporated a Local Authority Company, Brighter Futures for Children, to provide services previously delivered directly by the Council.  The cost of providing those services, as well as funding for transformational change (an additional £2.1m in 2019/20) had been included in the Medium Term Financial Strategy.

 

The report had appended:

 

Appendix 1   Summary of General Fund Budget 2019-20 to 2021-22;

Appendix 2   General Fund Revenue Budget by Service 2019-20 to 2021-22;

Appendix 3   Detailed General Fund Budgets 2019-20 to 2021-22;

Appendix 4   Housing Revenue Account Budget 2019-20 to 2021-22;

Appendix 5   General Fund and HRA Capital Programme 2019-20  ...  view the full minutes text for item 70.

71.

Shareholder Consent: Homes for Reading Ltd Appointment of External Auditor for 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 60 KB

This report seeks approval from the Committee, acting as Shareholder of Homes for Reading Ltd, to appoint an external auditor to prepare the accounts for the 2018/19 financial year.

Minutes:

The Director of Resources submitted a report seeking consent from the Policy Committee, in its capacity as sole shareholder for Homes for Reading Limited (HfR), for the appointment of Wilkins Kennedy as external auditors for HfR.  The report explained that HfR had to present its accounts to Companies House, in accordance with the Companies Act, and that the Shareholder Agreement between the Council and HfR required the Company to submit its annual accounts to the Shareholder to facilitate their incorporation into its main accounts within a reasonable period after the end of the financial year. 

 

Resolved –

 

That Shareholder Consent be given to Homes for Reading Limited to appoint Wilkins Kennedy as its external auditor for the preparation of its 2018/19 financial accounts.

 

(Councillors Ennis and Lovelock declared pecuniary interests in this item, left the meeting and took no part in the debate or decision.  Nature of interest: the Councillors were Directors of Homes for Reading Limited.  Councillor Page took the Chair for this item).