Agenda and minutes

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

Contact: Simon Hill - Committee Services Email: (  0118 9372303


No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 165 KB


The Minutes of the meeting held on 12 June 2023 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.


Petition and Question pdf icon PDF 130 KB

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


Hilary Kemp presented a petition about an Article 4 Direction for Houses in Multiple Occupation in St Bartholomew’s Road. Councillor Leng, Lead Councillor for Planning and Assets, responded to the petition.


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








James Rutland

Underage Vaping

Cllr McEwan


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


Household Support Fund 4 pdf icon PDF 201 KB

This report sets out the proposed use of the Household Support Fund grant to provide cost of living support to households in the most need.


The Committee considered a report on a Household Support Fund (HSF) grant of £2,261,298 that had been confirmed for Reading to provide cost of living support to households in the most need, particularly those who might not be eligible for other support recently made available.  Key requirements of the HSF4 process were summarised in Appendix 1 and details of the proposed application-based element of HSF4 were presented in Appendix 2.


The report explained that the grant was funded by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to help families and vulnerable individuals who struggled to pay for basic living costs, such as energy and water, food and housing costs.  The grant was to be used between 1 April 2023 and 31 March 2024 and DWP had stipulated grant conditions including that local authorities were expected to offer support throughout the duration of the Fund Period and must develop their delivery plans to reflect this.  A summary of the DWP conditions was set out in Appendix 1.


The report proposed that the use of the HSF grant over the coming year be focused on two key elements. The first was an application-based scheme that was agile and flexible enough to meet the specific needs of local people who were in need of cost-of-living support.  There were a wide range of people who needed such support, but that were difficult to specifically identify, and therefore provide a defined funding allocation.  The second element was automatic support through an allocation scheme to low-income households with children in receipt of Pupil Premium/Free School Meals and older people in receipt of Housing Benefit who did not receive the direct government support provided to recipients of other DWP benefits.


The report noted that the Council might make changes to the delivery of HSF4 during the year to respond to changes in demand from residents and to ensure that the delivery of HSF4 remained within the available funding, and approval was sought for a delegation to make changes to the scheme if required.  Due to HSF4 being delivered over a full year, in contrast to the six-month timescale of previous HSF rounds, the resources being utilised through the scheme were now more than £2,000,000 and had therefore been submitted to the Committee for approval.  To enable timely delivery of the scheme £499,500 of the funding had been drawn down under delegated authority, with £383,000 identified to begin the first payment of the allocation element of HSF4 to be made by July 2023, prioritising Pupil Premium families with children entitled to free school meals, and £116,500 of the funding allocated to cover the set-up and administration costs of the application-based element.  Following detailed data collection on the number of eligible households, the allocation to voucher payments had been increased to £400,000.


Resolved –


(1)       That the utilisation of the DWP Household Support Fund for 2023/24 to support Reading residents in the most need, as set out in the report, be agreed;


(2)       That the Executive  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.


CIPFA Practical Guidance for Local Authorities on Audit Committees pdf icon PDF 190 KB

This report sets out the outcome of a self-assessment against the ‘CIPFA Audit Committees: Practical Guidance for Local Authorities and Police and recommends revised Terms of Reference for the Audit & Governance Committee.

Additional documents:


The Committee considered a report on the CIPFA Practical Guidance for Local Authorities on Audit Committees.  Attached to the report at Appendix 1 were proposed revised terms of reference for the Council’s Audit & Governance Committee and at Appendix 2 a Self-assessment of good practice against the CIPFA Practical Guidance for Local Authorities on Audit Committees.


The report noted that the Guidance updated previous CIPFA guidance from 2018 and complemented the CIPFA Position Statement on Audit Committees; it also incorporated recent legislative changes and professional developments following the Redmond Review into the effectiveness of external audit and transparency of financial reporting in local authorities.  Whilst it was guidance CIPFA expected that all local government bodies should make their best efforts to adopt the principles, aiming for effective audit committee arrangements.  The report summarised the guidance relating to the purpose, independence and effectiveness, core functions, membership, engagement and outputs, and impact of the Audit Committee.  CIPFA had endorsed the recommendation of the Redmond Review that the external audit annual report should be submitted to Council by the external auditor and the report sought the Committee’s endorsement of this change.


The report explained that a self-assessment using the CIPFA self-assessment tool had been conducted by Internal Audit in January 2023 and was attached to the report at Appendix 2.  This had concluded that current arrangements partially complied with the guidance, with ‘moderate’ improvement required.  One of the outcomes from the self-assessment review was to propose that the Audit & Governance Committee’s terms of reference be updated to those suggested by CIPFA for local authorities and the suggested revised terms of reference were attached to the report at Appendix 1. 


The report noted that, generally, the current Audit & Governance Committee terms of reference addressed the core areas identified in CIPFA’s Position Statement but would benefit from updating to reflect increased emphasis in some areas and the inclusion of some additional areas.  Areas for possible increased emphasis included organisational risk profile, value for money and an oversight role on fraud and anti-corruption and a broadened reference to internal controls and financial management.  Possible areas for specific inclusion in the terms of reference included review of governance and assurance arrangements for significant partnerships/collaborations, considering the assurance framework and whether it adequately addressed the Council’s risks and priorities, detailing that both the Chief Auditor and External Audit had unrestricted access to the Committee Chair and an opportunity to meet privately with the Committee and also a number of areas relating to internal audit.  The proposed Terms of Reference would also remove the decision-making powers of the Committee in relation to the approval of the annual financial statements, which would therefore revert to Council.


Resolved –


(1)       That the key points arising from the ‘CIPFA Audit Committees: Practical Guidance For Local Authorities And Police’, as summarised in the report, be noted;


(2)       That the recommendations of the Redmond Review that the external audit annual report should be submitted to Council by the external auditor be endorsed;


(3)       That  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.


Food Service Plan 2023-24 pdf icon PDF 161 KB

This report sets out the updated Food Service Plan for the period 2023-2024, a statutory requirement under the Food Law Code of Practice set by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Additional documents:


The Committee considered a report setting out for approval the updated Food Service Plan.  Attached to the report at Appendix 1 was the Food Service Plan 2023-2024 and at Appendix 2 a Climate and Impact Assessment.


The report noted that the Food Service Plan was a statutory requirement for all Local Authorities who undertook official food controls and was detailed within the Food Law Code of Practice set by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The Food Service Plan outlined the Local Authorities commitment to development of the food service.  The FSA set a standard template for the Food Service Plan which had to be drawn up in accordance with the FSA Framework Agreement on Official Feed and Food Controls by Local Authorities. The Plan included qualitative and quantitative performance reviews of delivery against previous plans and outlined how national priorities and standards would be addressed and delivered locally. The 2023/24 Plan outlined the Food Service’s key achievements for 2022-23 and outlined service objectives and work plans for 2023-24.


The report noted that there remained a backlog of inspections, particularly Food Hygiene inspections, following Covid-19. At present there was a deficit of resources in order to meet the requirements of the Food Law Code of Practice, clear the backlog of inspections and maintain the required number of inspections and complete other work identified within the Food Service Plan, including statutory requirements that fell to the Food & Safety Team.  There was also additional work that fell within the remit of the Food Service which was a priority but outside the scope of the Food Service Plan.


Resolved –


          That the statutory Food Service Plan for 2023-2024 be approved.


Elections 2023 - Voter Identification and other issues pdf icon PDF 145 KB

This report provides the Committee with an update on the 2023 Local Elections and the changes introduced by the Elections Act 2022, including the requirement for electors to produce photographic identification in order to vote.


The Committee considered a report on the 2023 local elections including information on the new requirement for photo identification in order to vote at a polling station and other forthcoming changes to elections including those introduced by the Elections Act 2022.


The report noted that the Borough Elections in 2023 had returned to their normal cycle of elections by thirds, following the all-out elections in 2022 after ward boundary changes.  On 4 May 2023, fifteen of the sixteen wards in Reading had elected one councillor and there had been a by-election in Park ward which had elected two councillors.  This had been the first time that electors had had to produce photographic identification in order to vote at the Polling Station, and the report set out how this requirement had been managed.  The data collected at polling stations indicated that 99.7% of voters in the Polling Station had been issued with a ballot paper and had produced one of the relevant forms of ID.  270 people had initially attended the polling station without the right ID, but 197 of these had returned during the day and been able to vote.  This left 73 people (0.3%) who had not come back to the polling station by the close of poll.


The report summarised other forthcoming changes relating to Police and Crime Commissioner Elections system, overseas voters, new parliamentary boundaries, postal vote applications and handling and EU Voting and candidacy rights changes.


Resolved –


          That the report be noted.


2022/23 Quarter 4 Performance Report pdf icon PDF 387 KB

This report sets out the provisional revenue and capital outturn positions for the Council’s General Fund and Housing Revenue Account (HRA) for 2022/23 as well as performance against the measures of success published in the Council’s Corporate Plan.

Additional documents:


The Committee considered a report­ setting out the provisional revenue and capital outturn positions for the Council’s General Fund and Housing Revenue Account (HRA) for 2022/23 and the performance against the measures of success set out in the Council’s Corporate Plan.  The following documents were attached to the report:


·         Appendix 1 - General Fund Outturn

·         Appendix 2 - Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Outturn

·         Appendix 3 - Capital Programme Outturn

·         Appendix 4 - Savings

·         Appendix 5 - Delivery Fund

·         Appendix 6 - Reserves Position as at 31 March 2023

·         Appendix 7 - Corporate Plan Monitoring for Quarter 4 2022/23 (Measures & Projects)

·         Appendix 8 - Corporate Plan Measures for Quarter 4 (Charts)

·         Appendix 9 - Debt Write-Offs (exempt information)


The report noted that the budget for 2022/23 had been prepared during a challenging period due to the continuing uncertainty caused by the ongoing implications of the Covid-19 pandemic and a one-year Local Government funding settlement from Central Government. The Budget had included £10.224m of savings to be delivered in 2022/23 to deliver a balanced budget position, with a planned contribution of £0.695m to reserves.  The actual outturn position was a positive net variance of £4.191m, which was an improvement of £0.884m from the projected outturn position as at the end of Quarter 3.  The actual outturn position for net service expenditure was £137.408m, inclusive of approved net transfers to reserves of £6.592m, resulting in an adverse net variance of £3.989m. This included adverse variances of £1.221m within Economic Growth and Neighbourhood Services, £0.123m within Resources, and £0.131m within Chief Executive Services, which were offset by positive variances of £0.237m within Adult Care and Health Services, and £0.094m within Children’s Services Retained by the Council.  Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) were requesting additional funding support of £2.845m over and above the 2022/23 contract sum.  The adverse variance on service expenditure was a net increase of £0.004m from the projected outturn position reported to the meeting of the Committee on 13 March 2023 (Minute 62 refers), with the most material movements being from the increase in the adverse variance reported by BFfC of £1.974m and the improvement in the Adult Care and Health Services position of £1.553m which was mainly due to additional Winter Pressures income.  Detailed explanations for all service variances were set out in the report.


The report explained that Services had submitted two carry forward requests totalling £0.281m which related to staffing in Human Resources & Organisational Development and Digital, Technology & Change. If these requests were approved this would leave a remaining surplus of £3.910m that would be added to earmarked reserves. It was recommended that £0.500m be transferred to a new Hardship Fund and the remaining balance of £3.410m be transferred to the Capital Financing Smoothing Reserve to support the Capital Programme.


The original budget for 2022/23 had included assumed savings of £10.224m, including £2.045m of savings brought forward from the previous year.  A total of £7.401m of ongoing savings had been delivered in 2022/23, leaving a residual balance of £2.823m  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.


Exclusion of Press and Public


Resolved –


That pursuant to Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended), members of the press and public be excluded during consideration of items 19 and 20 below as it was likely that there would be a disclosure of exempt information as defined in the relevant paragraphs specified in Part 1 of Schedule 12A to that Act.


Declarations of Interest for Closed Session


Councillor Brock declared a pecuniary interest in Item 19, on the basis that he was a Council-appointed Director of an organisation for which it was proposed to write off a debt owed to the Council by means of a retroactive reduction in rent.


2022/23 Quarter 4 Performance Report - Debt Write-offs


The Committee considered a recommendation included in the report considered at Item 17 above to write off a number of debts owed to the Council.  The details of the debts were set out in a confidential Appendix to the report.


Resolved –


            That the write-off of debt relating to Non-Domestic Rates (£156,153.21) and Sundry Debt (£167,618.08), as set out in Appendix 9 of the report considered at Item 17 above, be approved.


(Exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3).