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DECLARATION OF INTERESTS BY COUNCILLORS
That the Minutes of the meeting held on 24 October 2017 be confirmed and signed as a correct record.
TO RECEIVE NOTIFICATION OF PETITIONS IN ACCORDANCE WITH COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULES
In accordance with Council Procedure Rule No. 10, the Chief Executive will report the receipt of any petitions. There can be no debate or comment upon these matters at the Council meeting.
QUESTIONS BY THE PUBLIC IN ACCORDANCE WITH COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULES
The Chairmen of Committees to answer any questions by the public of which notice has been given no later than midday three clear working days before the day of the meeting in accordance with Council Procedure Rule No. 11.
QUESTIONS BY COUNCILLORS IN ACCORDANCE WITH COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULES
The Chairman of the Council, the Chairmen of Committees and Sub-Committees and Portfolio Holders to answer any questions on any matters in relation to which the Council has powers or duties or which affect the District of which due notice has been given in accordance with Council Procedure Rule No. 12.
Councillor Cresswell to Councillor Jenkins, Leader of the Council
As part of the ongoing discussions about the creation of a single council, will the Councils be required to make a full disclosure of their financial positions to one another including any planned spending or borrowing which is not currently in the public domain, such as confidential land acquisitions?
Answer Yes, absolutely.
Does that apply to every Councillor?
Answer Yes, absolutely.
Councillor Hinton to Councillor Jenkins, Leader of the Council
When in 2011 Babergh and Mid Suffolk Councils agreed to join together their work forces to optimise potential savings from reduced staff numbers and costs there was an expectation of considerable savings for both councils, they would remain separate Constitutional bodies, and these savings would be divided between the councils, helping to support overall finances in the light of reducing Government grants and potential cost pressures.
Question - Part one.
What were the TOTAL costs of staff for Babergh (Full time, part time, contract employees, consultants, everyone) at the start of the process and what was the equivalent cost at Mid Suffolk?
(This TOTAL to include expenditure from all potential “pots” of money which seem to appear at regular intervals.)
The total cost for Babergh in 2011/12 was £8,514k made up of £8,440k people on the payroll and £74k off-payroll costs. The equivalent cost for Mid Suffolk was £9,071k, comprising £8,969k on payroll and £102k off-payroll costs.
Question - Part two.
What are the TOTAL staff costs now for both sections of the councils (we are still separate corporate bodies) and what proportion is allocated to Babergh as its TOTAL wages bill? (Again this figure should be a TOTAL figure of ALL staff costs including contract workers, consultants, interims, pregnancy stand ins, and all other nebulous categories utilised in recent years figures.)
These initial questions are asked to identify the ability of the Councils to actually achieve savings from proposed projects as no assessment of their validity has been conducted.
The total cost for Babergh in 2016/17 was £9,754k made up of £8,525k people on the payroll and £1,229k off-payroll costs. The equivalent cost for Mid Suffolk was £11,158k comprising £9,965k on payroll and £1,193k off-payroll costs.
There are several reasons why the payroll costs have changed over this period of time. I have received a summary analysis from our Section 151 Officer, which I will send to you after the meeting. The Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 18th December will be receiving an update on the latest position in relation to off-payroll costs.
Additional point in relation to statement above
I would also like to remind you that the Joint Scrutiny Committee kept the integration costs and savings position under review, with reports being received by them in January and October 2013, so your statement is untrue that the project was not assessed and integration did in fact deliver over £2m per annum of savings between the two councils.
RECOMMENDATION AND REPORT FROM JOINT AUDIT AND STANDARDS COMMITTEE
At its meeting on 13 November 2017, the Joint Audit and Standards Committee considered Paper JAC/17/10, the Mid Year Report on Treasury Management for 2017/18.
The deliberations of the Committee will be reported at the Council meeting together with any amendments requested by Members.
Note: It is a requirement of the Code of Practice on Treasury Management that full Council notes the Mid Year position.
RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL
That it be noted that Treasury Management activity for the first six months of 2017/18 was in accordance with the approved Treasury Management Strategy, and that, except for one occasion when Babergh District Council exceeded its daily bank account limit with Lloyds by £120k for one day, as mentioned in Appendix D, paragraph 1.1. of Paper JAC/17/10, both Councils have complied with all Treasury Management Indicators for this period.
Councillor Lawrenson, Babergh Chair of the Joint Audit and Standards Committee, introduced the Committee’s recommendation to note the Mid Year position.
The Assistant Director – Corporate Resources answered questions from Members as follows:-
Local Context (Page 11)
The table on page 11 shows the total borrowing requirements – it is not a balance sheet as would appear in the accounts.
The main difference between the figures shown for the two Councils as Working Capital relates to the difference in the amounts borrowed.
Combined Balance Sheet (Page 93)
Babergh has more assets and fewer liabilities in a straight comparison.
Other Investment Activity (Page 17)
Performance of Funding Circle – FC hasn’t delivered as hoped, but has still produced a better return than if investments had been made at Basic Rate.
No new investments will be made in FC and as repayments come in from existing investments, that money will instead be invested elsewhere. She confirmed that the position will continue to be reported to Members.
Borehamgate purchase is not shown as it is not a current Treasury Management requirement for this type of transaction but might have to be in future following the current consultation on Treasury Management Strategy.
Pooled Fund Investments
The decline in the value of the amount invested in CCLA relates to fluctuating property values but this is a longer-term investment, the purpose of which was to generate income for the Council.
Reference to Babergh exceeding its daily bank account limit with Lloyds by £120k was due to the timing of income received and related to too much money, not too little.
It is a requirement of the Code of Practice on Treasury Management that the full Council notes the Mid Year position.
That it be noted that Treasury Management activity for the first six months of 2017/18 was in accordance with the approved Treasury Management Strategy, and that, except for one occasion when Babergh District Council exceeded its daily ban account limit with Lloyds by £120k for one day, as mentioned in Appendix D, paragraph 1.1 of Paper JAC/17/10, both Councils have complied with all Treasury Management Indicators for this period.
Leader of the Council – Jennie Jenkins
Councillor Jennie Jenkins, Leader of the Council, introduced Paper BC/17/19 seeking member approval to submit the Council’s formal response to the Stage 2 Consultation as set out in the report, together with any further comments arising from the meeting.
During the course of the debate, Members put forward comments as referred to below for inclusion by the Chief Executive as part of the Council’s formal response.
· Councillor Arthey – reiterated the comments made by Cockfield Parish Council to avoid Cockfield being in a horseshoe-shaped ward with Long Melford.
· Councillor Davis and others – made reference to the lack of community or geographical connections between Bentley and Chelmondiston (incorrectly spelt by the LGBCE)
· Councillor Ward – referred to other errors in LGBCE report and to the prosaic nature of the ward names chosen which meant a loss of the sense of history on names such as ‘Berners’ – he will circulate his views
· Councillor Ferguson and others – could we ask LGBCE to look again at suggestions for two / three member wards and possible warding of eg Hadleigh.
· Councillors Bavington and Beer – it would be difficult to come up with an acceptable division into wards for Great Cornard, but the Parish Council will submit a proposed alteration about the Cats Lane boundary –
· Councillor Simon Barrett also referred to Sudbury Town Council’s view on Cats Lane
· Councillor Rose – Holbrook and Shotley in discussions about possibly becoming a single ward
· Councillor McCraw – will submit his comments on various models and suggestions. Other Members also indicated that they were making their own comments direct to LCBCE
In response to a query about the timing of the review, bearing in mind the current discussion about a possible merger of the two Councils, the Chief Executive explained that if any new authority accepted the numbers of Councillors agreed under the present review, there would be a more limited review. Mid Suffolk had a requirement to review prior to the 2019 elections because of the unequal electoral ratios and Babergh Council had agreed that it would be sensible to review at the same time. He also explained that the LGBCE position on growth was that electoral numbers, rather than house numbers, were taken into account, and that planning permissions granted, but not the draft Joint Local Plan projections, could be used in this context.
That the Chief Executive be authorised to submit the Council’s formal response to the stage two consultation on warding patterns, including the comments appended to Paper BC/17/19 at Appendix 2, together with the points made by Members at the meeting, as above.
Leader of the Council – Jennie Jenkins
Prior to inviting the Leader of the Council, Jennie Jenkins, to introduce Paper BC/17/20, the Chairman advised that initially, because of the anticipated level of interest in this item, he would let Members ask one question. If there was sufficient time, or if a completely separate point was being made, he would allow a further opportunity to speak.
Councillor Jenkins began by thanking the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for its careful consideration of the Cabinet decision on the original report, and referred Members to the financial case as set out in the revised Appendix C with tracked changes [circulated prior to the meeting] and details of the proposed engagement programme added as Appendix D.
Councillor Jenkins outlined the reasons behind the proposal to explore the merger option and emphasised the importance of the suggested public engagement process and the current debate. She also referred to what would happen, following the Council meeting, including the timetable for progressing public engagement and the business case, if Cabinet gave its approval to proceed. Members were advised by the Chairman that there was no recommendation for Council to vote on.
As a result of questions about whether Cabinet or Council should make decisions regarding merger, the Monitoring Officer advised that any decision around the option to dissolve a council and re-establish a new council were executive functions and were therefore reserved to Cabinet to make.
The Chief Executive added that the DCLG was very clear that the decision was for Council (ie not the electorate via a poll as was the case in 2011) but to be distinct in relation to that, not a full council decision but an executive cabinet decision and that was also the external legal advice that had been received.
A Motion without Notice was moved (a) to obtain external legal advice in writing from an independent firm as to whether Council or Cabinet should make the above decisions, and (b) to refer the legal advice for consideration by a Committee set up for that purpose. After discussion and further advice from the Monitoring Officer and the Chief Executive, the Motion was re-worded with the consent of the proposer and seconder, taking into account that Counsel’s oral advice had been received, and that the matter could not be referred to another Committee as the appropriate body in this case was the Cabinet.
Further queries were put to the officers in relation to the 2011 poll, the effectiveness of the proposed process of engagement, whether a unitary authority might be a future option and the effect of the ‘sunset clause’ in the Devolution Cities Act. Members were reassured that the telephone poll which had commenced in Mid Suffolk had been halted, once the Babergh call-in was made.
The re-worded Motion was carried on being put to the vote.
That the independent legal advice received by the Chief Executive as to whether Council or Cabinet should make decisions around merger be obtained in writing and made available to all Babergh ... view the full minutes text for item 53.
Members are asked to approve the draft Timetable (Paper BC/17/21) attached, prepared by the Corporate Manager - Democratic Services.
Cabinet Member for Organisational Delivery – Peter Patrick
Members had before them Paper BC/17/21 which was introduced by Councillor Peter Patrick, the Cabinet Member for Organisational Development.
Members commented on various matters and asked that the following be taken into account when finalising the timetable:-
It was requested that further thought be given to
· start times of meetings
· moving the Overview and Scrutiny meeting scheduled for Christmas Eve 2019
That the draft Timetable of Meetings for 2018/19 (Paper BC/17/21) be agreed, subject to any amendments as necessary arising from the comments made at the meeting, as set out above.
Members noted that the Monitoring Officer would action the changes to the membership of the Joint Audit and Standards Committee together with any consequential amendments as and when notified by the Group Leaders, and report the changes to the next available meeting of the Council.