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Agenda item

Council Plan Performance Tracker and COVID-19 Recovery Tracker - Quarter One 2021/22

To review and scrutinise the performance management and recovery information and, where appropriate, to require response or action from the Executive Committee. 

Minutes:

39.1          The report of the Head of Corporate Services, circulated at Pages No.133-163, attached the performance management and COVID-19 recovery information for quarter one of 2021/22.  The Overview and Scrutiny Committee was asked to review and scrutinise the information and, where appropriate, identify any issues to refer to the Executive Committee for clarification or further action to be taken.

39.2          Members were advised that this was the first quarterly monitoring report for 2021/22 and represented the latest information in terms of the status of the actions set out in the Council Plan and the Corporate Recovery Plan.  Progress against delivering the objectives and actions for each of the six Council Plan priorities was reported through the performance tracker, attached at Appendix 1 to the report, which was a combined document that also included a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  In addition, a corporate COVID-19 recovery plan had been established based on the Council Plan priorities, and a recovery plan tracker, attached at Appendix 2 to the report, had been created to monitor progress in delivering those actions and objectives.  Key financial information was also reported alongside the tracker documents with a revenue budget statement attached at Appendix 3 to the report, a capital monitoring statement attached at Appendix 4 to the report, and a reserves position summary attached at Appendix 5 to the report.  It was noted that, in order to ensure the Council Plan remained a ‘live’ document, all actions were reviewed annually and refreshed where appropriate.  The refreshed plan had been considered by the Executive Committee on 1 September 2021 where it had been well-received and would now be considered at the Council meeting on 28 September 2021; it was not anticipated there would be any major changes to the actions within the Performance Tracker.  The report to Council would recommend that the Corporate Recovery Plan continued to the end of the financial year at which time any outstanding actions would be transferred to the Council Plan meaning there would be a single overarching strategic document.

39.3           Key actions for the quarter were highlighted at Paragraph 2.3 of the report and included the first promotion event under the Tewkesbury High Street Heritage Action Zone being arranged for 18 September 2021; commencement of work on a new Housing Strategy in partnership with ARK Consultancy; a collective total of £107,000 being awarded in capital grants to help improve community facilities; successful implementation of the new bulky waste service; implementation of a new recruitment microsite and an automated recruitment tracker system; the specification for the new heating system going out to tender; and implementation of a small Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) scheme.  Members were reminded that, due to the complex nature of the actions being delivered, it was inevitable that some would not progress as smoothly or as quickly as envisaged and the details of those actions – which largely related to the Joint Core Strategy - were set out at Paragraph 2.4 of the report.  The Head of Corporate Services pointed out that the Joint Core Strategy timetable was currently being reviewed so the new target dates were not yet available.  In terms of the KPIs, Members were informed that six new KPIs had been added for 2021/22 and, due to changes in reporting, the housing-related KPIs had also been revised.  The status of each indicator was set out at Paragraph 3.2 of the report and KPIs where direction of travel was down and/or were not on target, were set out at Paragraph 3.3 of the report.  It was noted that a lot had been discussed previously and related to planning performance and enforcement; those matters were being addressed as part of the planning service review.

39.4           With regard to the COVID-19 recovery tracker, key activities to bring to Members’ attention were set out at Paragraph 4.2 of the report and included: reopening of the Public Services Centre to customers on 19 July; good feedback on customer experience following the reopening of Tewkesbury Leisure Centre on 12 April; agreement of an action plan to deliver the ‘Welcome Back Fund’ for High Street recovery; and continued promotion of the COVID-19 community grant scheme with 139 groups being awarded £114,079 in total.  Paragraph 4.3 of the report referenced those actions within the tracker which had not progressed as intended.  Overall, the picture was considered to be a very positive one; COVID-19 was still out there in communities but a lot of Council services were well into recovery and it was hoped this would continue into the next quarter.

39.5           During the debate which ensued, the following queries and comments were made in relation to the Council Plan and Recovery Plan trackers:

Priority: Economic Growth

P73 – Objective 2 – Action c) Publish the Infrastructure Funding Statement – A Member questioned whether the additional Section 106 / Community Infrastructure Levy Officer post had been filled.

The Head of Development Services advised that interviews were taking place later that week.  Once a successful applicant had been appointed, Members would be informed accordingly.

P77 – KPI 6 – Number of visitors to Winchcombe Tourist Information Centre – A Member noted that the commentary stated that “Overseas visitor numbers are dramatically reduced as visitor confidence has grown; this has been reflected through numbers coming through the TIC”; this did not make sense to him so he sought an explanation as to what this meant.

The Community and Economic Development Manager explained that it should state that overseas visitor numbers had decreased but domestic visitor numbers had increased significantly as visitor confidence had grown.

P71 – Objective 2 – Action a) Deliver employment land through allocating land in the Joint Core Strategy and Tewkesbury Borough Plan - A Member asked for an explanation for the delay to the Joint Core Strategy and sought clarification as to the timetable for getting back on schedule.

The Head of Development Services explained that the Joint Core Strategy was a very complex document which was produced in partnership with two other local authorities – Cheltenham Borough and Gloucester City Councils - and also involved close working with Gloucestershire County Council.  The timetable for the Joint Core Strategy was being revised to ensure it was achievable; a meeting of the Joint Core Strategy Member Steering Group had taken place the previous day where this had been discussed. She indicated that she would be happy to arrange a Member training session to provide an overview of the development plan - which included the Joint Core Strategy and the Tewkesbury Borough Local Plan – in order to give Members a better understanding of the current position in terms of the review of the Joint Core Strategy, as well as an overview of its governance and structure.  She pointed out there was now a different policy framework from the one that had been in place when the previous Joint Core Strategy had been developed and what needed to be done this time was quite different.  Planning Policy Reference Panel meetings had been taking place with future meetings scheduled until Christmas – all Members were welcome to attend these sessions if they so wished.

In response to a query as to whether the Joint Core Strategy process would be easier this time, the Head of Development Services indicated that, unfortunately, that was not the case.  The Joint Core Strategy identified strategic allocations with a minimum of 500 units and next time the allocations were put forward it was necessary to set out the infrastructure required, when it would need to be delivered, who would deliver it and how it would be paid for so a lot of technical and joint working needed to be done.  A Member queried whether it would include all retrospective outstanding infrastructure, for instance, the A38/A40 link road, and was advised that, although there was approximately £80m of infrastructure required to deliver the original Joint Core Strategy, that would not be included.  This was one of the reasons that the Joint Core Strategy authorities had undertaken to develop the Community Infrastructure Levy.  Nevertheless, there would be an impact if the infrastructure required for the original Joint Core Strategy had not been delivered when new sites started to be allocated. The Member questioned whether the outstanding infrastructure would be required and the Head of Development Services confirmed that it would be based on existing infrastructure in place at that time.  If previous infrastructure had not been delivered, that would need to be taken into account – it could be determined that the same infrastructure was required or that greater mitigation was needed.

Priority: Housing and Communities

P87-91– KPIs 17-22 Percentage of ‘minor’ and ‘other’ planning applications determined and investigation of enforcement cases (Categories A-D) within the agreed timescales – A Member questioned whether the poor planning performance against these KPIs was likely to continue until the planning services review had been completed or whether there were any improvements being made in the interim.

The Head of Development Services provided assurance that Officers were not waiting for the outcome of the review to look at the reasons for the decline in performance in respect of planning applications and enforcement cases.  Detailed performance monitoring had been set-up and applications were being tracked on a weekly basis to understand exactly what percentage were being delivered.  A Member questioned when the review was due to be completed and was informed that a high level report was due to be taken to the Executive Committee in November 2021.

Priority: Sustainable Environment

P107 – Objective 3 – Action a) Take a robust approach towards fly-tipping and other enviro-crimes – A Member noted that the current Public Space Protection Order relating to dog fouling had expired in June 2021 and he queried whether it was required to lapse before it was reintroduced.

The Head of Community Services advised that, unfortunately, in June 2021 when the current Order had lapsed, the focus of the team had been elsewhere and he confirmed that under normal circumstances it would have been addressed earlier to keep the Order in place.

P108 – Objective 3 – Action c) Introduce a small Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) scheme across the borough – A Member welcomed the introduction of the scheme but was interested how this had come about as it had not been included in the tracker previously.

The Head of Community Services advised that the project had been an aspiration for the last couple of years but had been held up by the pandemic.  There had only been a soft launch for the scheme due to the critical driver shortage and the need to ensure that the crews were not overloaded but a more significant launch was planned for later in the month as part of national recycling week.

39.6          The Head of Finance and Asset Management advised that the financial budget summary for quarter one of 2021/22 showed a projected surplus of £22,382 for the full year against the approved budget; whilst there were early indications that income streams were improving and there was potential for increased government support, given that the report was based on performance in only the first three months of the year, a prudent position was taken with regard to full year estimates.  The table at Page No. 61, Paragraph 5.2 of the report showed the forecast outturn position for service provision, the net position on corporate income and expenditure and the resulting surplus.  With regard to service-related expenditure, an overall deficit of £849,177 was predicted.  The full year projection for employees highlighted a potential surplus of £377,508; however, there was a corporate savings target of £155,000 for employment costs, therefore, the net position was a surplus of £222,508.  The service areas contributing to the surplus were outlined at Page No. 62, Paragraph 5.4 of the report, and included deletion of the Chief Executive post.  Payments to third parties highlighted a small projected overspend of £75,005 with the main element of that relating to extra payment being made to attract and retain drivers at Ubico; Members would be aware of the national driver shortage and waste services were not immune to that.  Ubico was looking at a range of incentives for drivers, one of which was an increased market supplement of £2.30 per hour which would cost the Council an additional £50,000.  With regard to COVID-19 impacts, staff continued to work in the business cell administering business grants, there were additional costs for the provision of waste and recycling services and continued support to Tewkesbury Leisure Centre, although it was anticipated the latter would cease in the near future. 

39.7           The expenditure associated with corporate activities showed an estimated surplus of £871,559 for the financial year.  The Council’s commercial property portfolio was currently predicting a small deficit of £50,000 on the year as a result of the temporary void at one office unit and the inducements offered to secure leases at the Clevedon units.  That deficit could be offset by rental income for one of the units at the Tipton site where heads of terms for a long term lease were currently being agreed; however, should the commercial property account remain in deficit for the full year, the Council would utilise the commercial property reserve so there would be no impact on the base budget.  In terms of government funding, £424,927 COVID-19 grant funding had been received and, in addition to this, the Council would receive additional new burdens funding for its continuing administration of business grants.  It was noted that the level of funding was not yet known and the compensation claim for loss of sales, fees and charges had not been calculated or approved so a prudent estimate of £100,000 for new burdens and £70,000 for the compensation claim had been included within the projection.  Turning to business rates, the anticipated retention of income showed a gain of approximately £1.4m from the original budget - a saving of £250,000 which was a very good position for the quarter and showed that businesses were starting to bounce back from COVID-19.  The use of reserves and Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) highlighted the intended level of reserves being brought into the general fund during the year, less the cost of the repayment of borrowing.  In this case, additional reserve use related to new burdens funding already received for business grant administration and the use of the commercial property reserve to cover any deficit on that account.  Overall, the first quarter projection for the full financial year showed an anticipated surplus of £22,382 and more detail about each service area was included at Appendix 3 to the report.

39.8           The capital budget position as at quarter one was attached at Appendix 4 to the report.  This currently showed an underspend of £78,233 against the profiled budget of £286,658.  The capital programme estimated total expenditure for the year to be in the region of £3.9m which was a lot less than previous years as a result of the end of the acquisition phase of the commercial property investment strategy.  The main elements of this year’s forecast included Ashchurch Bridge; vehicle replacement; replacement of the heating system at the Council offices; and Disabled Facilities’ Grants (DFGs).   Whilst the DFG scheme had incurred an overspend, Members were reminded that all expenditure on DFGs was covered by grant funding provided by the County Council so none of that cost was borne by Tewkesbury Borough Council.  Appendix 5 to the report provided a summary of the current usage of available reserves and it was noted that £287,837 had been spent during quarter one against the £16.2m set aside by the Executive Committee in July.

39.9           A Member asked for some further clarification on the position in relation to Tewkesbury Leisure Centre.  In response, the Head of Finance and Asset Management explained that Members would recall that previous budgets and the contract with Places Leisure included a fee of £160,000 so, in a normal year, that was what would be expected in the Council’s base budget.  Due to the unforeseen circumstances brought about by the pandemic and changes to government legislation, for example, various lockdowns, the Council had been responsible for increased costs and had paid the Leisure Centre £430,000 to keep it running when it had been forced to close.  Since its re-opening in April, the number of customers through the door had exceeded expectations.  At the start of the year the Leisure Centre was a £280,000 cost to the Council but it was expected that the quarter two report would show it as being cost neutral in terms of monthly payments from the Council to the Leisure Centre and it was hoped that would continue to improve.  Another Member drew attention to Appendix 4 and questioned whether any of the vehicles that were expected to be purchased had been ordered.  In response, the Head of Community Services confirmed there was a backlog - one vehicle was waiting for an electronic chip to be inserted so it had been delayed.

39.10         Having considered the information provided, it was

RESOLVED          That the performance management information and COVID-19 recovery information for quarter one of 2021/22 be NOTED.

Supporting documents: