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Venue: Virtual Meeting
Contact: Ann Holmes
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and those present introduced themselves.
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declaration of interest by any Member or Officer in respect of any item of business.
Councillor Dylan Rees declared a personal but not prejudicial interest with regard to item 6 on the agenda as a volunteer with Bwyd Da Môn to which reference was made in the report under item 6.
To present the minutes of the previous meeting of the Corporate Scrutiny Committee held on 16 November, 2021.
The minutes of the previous meeting of the Corporate Scrutiny Committee held on 16 November, 2021 were presented and were confirmed as correct subject to the following –
Arising thereon – Item 5 Transitional Plan
Councillor Gary Pritchard proposed that the minutes be amended to include a record of the exchange of views that took place at the end of the discussion on the item above on the subject of the Council’s Small Group Homes (Cartrefi Clyd) and be re-submitted to the next meeting.
At the request of the Chair who commented that he believed all the substantive matters were included in the minutes and that they were in accordance with the convention as regards other Council minutes, the Acting Director of Function (Council Business)/ Monitoring Officer advised that the matter be dealt with in two parts namely to approve the remainder of the minutes (excepting the proposed amendment), and separately the matter of accuracy in terms of amending them for the next meeting; this would allow this meeting to progress to the next business with that caveat.
On the basis of the above, it was resolved to approve the remainder of the minutes of the previous meeting held on 16 November, 2021.
To present the report of the Scrutiny Manager and the Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer.
The report of the Scrutiny Manager was presented for the Committee’s consideration. The report outlined the context to the 2022/23 Budget setting process along with the key issues and questions for Scrutiny in evaluating the Executive’s initial revenue budget proposals. The following documentation was appended to the report -
3.1 The detailed report of the Director of Function (Resources) and Section 151 Officer to be presented to the Executive on 24 January, 2022 on the preparation of the 2022/23 standstill budget, the provisional settlement and funding the budget gap.
Councillor Robin Williams, Portfolio Member for Finance in presenting the report referred to the tight timescale for developing the initial budget proposal from the announcement of Welsh Government’s provisional settlement on 23 December, 2021 and to the significant work in the background which this had involved. The provisional settlement for local government in Wales shows an increase of £456m in the overall level of funding for Wales equivalent to 9.8% increase in cash terms which when adjusted for grants transferred amounts to £437.4m which is a 9.4% increase. The increase for Anglesey in comparison to the 2021/22 adjusted AEF is £9.677m or 9.23% and is very much welcomed after many years of real term reduction in funding and provides the Council with an opportunity to address some of the service issues and risks that have arisen during that time and to reinvest in critical front line services after a long period of austerity and enforced cutbacks. Notwithstanding the more generous settlement there are still a number of budget risks that need to be borne in mind in moving into the 2022/23 financial year and these are documented in the report. However, the proposed 2% increase in Council Tax might potentially be the lowest increase in North Wales and will likely be among the lowest increases throughout Wales.
The Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer guided the Committee through the proposals in greater detail and highlighted the following issues and their implications for the 2022/23 budget -
· The major changes between the 2021/22 final budget and the 2022/23 initial budget for which provision has been made in the 2022/23 draft revenue budget. These include pay inflation (teaching and non-teaching staff) and other staffing pressures and non-pay inflation. At present, the non-teaching staff pay award effective from April, 2021 has yet to be agreed thereby creating additional uncertainty around the accuracy of the pay budget and whilst the teachers’ pay budget being set in September each year gives some certainty for part of 2022/23, there is significant uncertainty over the pay award from September, 2022 onwards. An increase of 1.25% in employer national insurance contributions increases the Council’s costs by approximately £500k. Taking all these aspects into consideration, it is estimated that the overall pay budget will increase by £4.053m in 2022/23.
· The Council’s non pay costs are made up of a number of different contracts and procurement methods all of which are affected by inflation in different ways as set out in ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
To present the report of the Scrutiny Manager and the Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer.
The report of the Scrutiny Manager was presented for the Committee’s consideration. The report outlined the context to the 2022/23 Capital Budget setting process along with the key issues and questions for Scrutiny in evaluating the Executive’s initial capital budget proposals. The following documentation was appended to the report –
4.1 The report of the Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer to be presented to the Executive on 24 January, 2022 on the initial proposals for the 2022/23 capital budget based on the principles of the capital strategy, including how the capital programme is to be funded and any consequent impact on the general balance and earmarked reserves.
Councillor Robin Williams, Portfolio Member for Finance in presenting the report and the proposed capital programme for 2022/23 of £35.961m, highlighted that it is proposed that a sum of £1.681m from General Balances be used to make up a shortfall in capital funding in 2022/23 with the General Capital Grant from Welsh Government having reduced by £677k for next year compared to the funding received in 2021/22.
The Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer guided the Committee in greater detail through the various elements of the Capital Programme with reference to the following –
· The principles of the capital strategy which help determine the Council’s capital programme and against which new bids are assessed.
· The anticipated funds available to finance the capital programme for 2022/23 as per Table 1 of the report (£35.961m to include £1.681m from General Balances) highlighting that there has been little increase in the general capital allocation received from Welsh Government for a number of years which if it continues at its present level will limit what can be done to refurbishing and replacing existing assets. It is proposed that the sums set out in section 4.2 of the report be allocated for this work in 2022/23.
· Schemes to the value of £1.322m that due to a number of reasons will not be completed in 2021/22 and will carry forward to 2022/23.
· Recommended one off capital projects to be funded in 2022/23 as per Table 3 of the report (£1.432m)
· Projects to be funded from earmarked reserves, service reserves and unsupported borrowing as per Table 4 of the report (£783k)
· The 21st Century Schools Programme to which the Council has made a commitment due to the significant amount of Welsh Government funding the schemes will attract and the need to modernise the existing school estate. The 2022/23 Capital Programme allows for the completion of the final Band A project (new Ysgol Corn Hir) and the commencement of Band B projects (extension to Ysgol Y Graig) at a cost in 2022/23 of £8.598m (net of any capital receipts) of which £2.169m will be made up of Welsh Government grant, £1.168m of supported borrowing and £5.61m of unsupported borrowing.
· The Housing Revenue Account which is ring-fenced to fund costs associated with the Council’s housing stock .The proposed programme for 2022/23 will see £9.55m being invested in existing ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Finance Scrutiny Panel - Progress Update
To receive a verbal report by the Chair of the Panel.
Councillor Dafydd Roberts, Chair of the Finance Scrutiny Panel updated the Committee on the Panel’s discussions from its meeting held on 20 January, 2022 and highlighted the following points –
· The Panel received a detailed verbal presentation summarising the draft proposed revenue budget for 2022/23 based on the report to be presented to the Executive on 24 January, 2022 (as under item 3 above). The Panel noted the funding position in terms of the settlement received, the main budget changes and adjustments from 2021/22, the service budget pressures, and the key financial risks and challenges that may impact on the Council’s financial plans for 2022/23. The Panel also noted the funding gap which it was proposed be bridged by a 2% increase in Council Tax. Having considered all these and the responses to matters raised at the meeting, the Panel resolved to put forward for the Corporate Scrutiny Committee’s consideration the initial draft revenue budget of £158.365m for 2022/23; the proposed 2% increase in Council Tax and that the Executive should seek the opinion of the public on the initial budget proposal and Council Tax rise for 2022/23.
· The Panel also received a detailed verbal presentation summarising the draft proposed capital budget for 2022/23 based on the report to be presented to the Executive on 24 January, 2022 (as under item 4 above). The Panel noted the schemes making up the proposed capital programme for 2022/23 including the ongoing refurbishment and/or replacement of existing assets in accordance with the Capital Strategy principles and additional one off projects, as well as the resources available to fund the capital programme noting that because of a £677k reduction in the General Capital Grant from Welsh Government for 2022/33 it was proposed that £1.681m of the General Reserve be utilised to fund a deficit in the capital budget. It was further noted that the 21stst Century Schools Programme will continue in 2022/23 and is partly supported by Welsh Government Grant funding and that the HRA capital programme includes works totalling £18.74m. Having considered all these and the further clarifications provided on matters raised at the meeting, the Panel resolved to put forward for the Corporate Scrutiny Committee’s consideration the draft proposed Capital Budget for 2022/23 as presented.
The Committee noted the Panel’s recommendations and thanked Councillor Dafydd Roberts for the feedback.
To present the report of the Head of Housing Services.
The report of the Head of Housing Services incorporating the Housing Strategy for 2022 to 2027 was presented for the Committee’s consideration.
Councillor Alun Mummery, Portfolio Member for Housing and Supporting Communities presented the report and Strategy and highlighted its overall strategic aim as being to ensure that the people of Anglesey have a place to call home, and are empowered and supported to contribute to the local community. He thanked the Housing Service staff for the work that had gone into drafting the strategy which he commended to the Committee as a positive document.
The Service Manager (Housing Strategy, Commissioning & Policy) said that the Strategy applies to many people on Anglesey as it will provide affordable housing which will include many different tenures, accommodation and assistance to vulnerable and specific client groups, young people who wish to purchase their own home, people who require adaptations due to ill-health and people at crisis points requiring immediate housing. This will be achieved by concentrating on six key themes which will provide a basis for identifying what the issues are and how the Strategy intends to address these in the short term of one to two years and medium to long term over the course of the Strategy. The Strategy has been out to public consultation the results of which are contained in Appendix 1 and has been adapted accordingly.
The Officer responded to points and questions raised by the Committee as follows –
· With regard to any new issues having emerged from the consultation, the Committee was advised that the Service had sought to consult as widely as possible on the strategy which involved making a number of presentations. In the year since work began on the draft strategy, the issue of second homes and property market pressures have come to the forefront of attention and these concerns are reflected in the responses to the strategy from members of the public and may not have been as prominent had the consultation been undertaken two years ago in the pre-Covid era.
· Whether the Service was disappointed with the fact that the online questionnaire only attracted 25 responses which then tends to skew the percentages despite its being regularly promoted through the Council’s Social media platforms throughout the six week consultation period. The Committee wanted to know what could be done to improve the response to this and other consultations to make them more meaningful. The Committee was advised that attempts had been made to reach as many people as possible through Zoom meetings and that the questions on the questionnaire were clear, short and easy to understand. Although the response was limited overall, the respondents consisted of a cross section of people/groups and included members of the public.
· With regard to establishing a Task and Finish Group on Second Homes to seek solutions which will mitigate the effect second homes have on communities and residents, whether the group will be able to achieve anything in practice given that the power to ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
To present the report of the Scrutiny Manager.
The report of the Scrutiny Manager incorporating the Committee’s updated Forward Work Programme to March, 2022 was presented for consideration.
It was resolved –
· To agree the current version of the forward work programme for 2021/22
· To note progress thus far in implementing the forward work programme.