Agenda and minutes

Venue: Virtual

Contact: Andrew Mossop 0151 691 8501  Principal Democratic Services Officer

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Items
No. Item

58.

Welcome and Introduction

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.

59.

Apologies

Additional documents:

Minutes:

No apologies for absence were received.

60.

Members' Code of Conduct - Declarations of Interest

Members are asked to consider whether they have any disclosable pecuniary interests and/or any other relevant interest in connection with any item(s) on this agenda and, if so, to declare them and state the nature of the interest.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members were asked to declare any disclosable pecuniary interests and any other relevant interest and to state the nature of the interest.

 

Councillor Anita Leech declared a personal interest in respect of agenda item 10, ‘Capital Programme 2021-26’ by virtue her being a governor of two schools referred to in the report.

 

Councillor Wendy Clements declared a personal interest in respect of agenda item 9, ‘Budget 2021/22 and Medium Term Financial Plan 2022/23 – 2025/26’ by virtue of her employment.

61.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 96 KB

To approve the accuracy of the minutes of the meeting held on 20 January, 2021.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved – That the minutes of the meeting held on 20 January, 2021, be approved and adopted as a correct record.

62.

Leader's Update

The Leader and Chief Executive will give a verbal update on the latest Covid-19 situation in the borough.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair gave an update on the latest Covid-19 situation in the Borough and informed the meeting that Wirral had the second lowest (of 9 Local Authorities) for 7-day rate of cases in Cheshire and Merseyside and was also lower than the average for Cheshire and Merseyside overall (146/100k versus 189/100k in C&M overall). Rates in all Cheshire and Merseyside Councils at the end of December 2020 and in early January 2021 exceeded those seen in both the April and October peaks. Pressure in the hospital was continuing to ease as cases in the community decreased hospital pressures managing patients with a positive COVID diagnosis would continue into March.

 

Wirral had a comprehensive testing offer for COVID-19 in the Borough with four testing sites operating in Liscard, Bebington, Birkenhead and Heswall, maintaining good access for residents to symptomatic testing. Additional symptomatic testing was also available through deployment of mobile testing units. As part of the Liverpool City Region community testing pilot, Wirral continued to operate four asymptomatic testing sites in New Brighton, Birkenhead, Eastham and Greasby.  Access to symptom-free testing was prioritised for key workers, unpaid carers, volunteers, those requiring a test in advance of a medical appointment, and others that were unable to stay at home during the national lockdown.

 

A dedicated contact tracing team had now been established within Wirral’s COVID-19 Hub, with over 15 new staff recruited in early 2021 and a comprehensive training programme based around the wider ‘Find, Test, Trace, Isolate, Support’ model to be delivered throughout February 2021.

 

Wirral had been granted £375,000 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Community Champions’ Fund to support people shown to be most at risk from COVID-19 including those from an ethnic minority background, disabled people and other high-risk groups. This funding was for 12 months, with the successful bid developed in collaboration with leaders across the borough as part of the BAME thematic group and would be used to support a number of schemes – including in-depth analysis and training relating to ‘health literacy’ levels, to improve the quality, translation and accessibility of COVID-19 restriction and vaccine information, and to help people to isolate.

 

Paul Satoor, Chief Executive, confirmed that the Council was awaiting the Prime Minister’s announcement on the roadmap out of lockdown, due on 22 February, and that it was anticipated that school’s would be first, although they had remained open throughout this lockdown period to support key workers. The vaccination programme was going well and the Council continued with its support of health colleagues in this. He thanked Council workers and Members for their continued support to residents in maintaining as much Covid safety as possible.

63.

Public Questions

Notice of question to be given in writing or by email by 12 noon, Friday, 12 February, 2021 to the Council’s Monitoring Officer (committeeservices@wirral.gov.uk) and to be dealt with in accordance with Standing Order 10.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair reported that three questions had been received from members of the public and invited Brian Donaldson to ask the first question in respect of the Wirral Evolution contract.

 

The Chair responded accordingly and informed the meeting that the contract was set and managed by the Adult Social Care and Public Health Committee and that Wirral Evolutions would be reporting regularly to that committee on its performance in delivering the contract. The company had said that it was confident that it could deliver the services required of it within the contract price without the benefit of any further financing and that it was a valued service.

 

The Chair responded to a supplementary question from Mr Donaldson and assured him that the Adult Social Care and Public Health Committee would continue to monitor the work of Wirral Evolutions with great sensitivity to the work it did.

 

The Chair then invited Keith Marsh, Secretary of Brackenwood Golf Club, to ask his question in respect of the narrative pertaining to golf courses in the public budget consultation document.

 

The Chair responded accordingly and informed the meeting that the information was derived from budget information and did not consider the most recent actual performance information which could affect figures to a greater or lesser extent.  The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was not considered as part of the information which could further increase any deficit within the service. The initial indicative budget figures considered the four principal courses at Brackenwood, Hoylake, Arrowe Park and The Warren. However, given the potential risk and legal implications associated with historic agreements at Hoylake, it was deemed appropriate to remove Hoylake from within the scope of budget options. This accounted for any change of position in the figures presented in the original budget documentation and should not therefore be considered misrepresentative.

 

The Chair stated that she would provide a written response with regard to Mr Marsh’s supplementary question on any guarantees from the Council on leases which golf clubs currently had for club houses, for booking times and Invigor8 schemes to enable them to plan for their futures.

 

The Chair then invited Jackie Watts to ask her question in respect of public golf courses and the use of land if they were closed.

 

The Chair responded accordingly and informed the meeting that the option considered referred to a review of golf which was consulted upon as part of the commitment to setting a balanced budget for 2021/22. Without a decision yet being taken by this committee or this option being considered at a future meeting of the Tourism, Communities, Culture and Leisure Committee, no further information could be provided.

64.

Statements and Petitions

Notice of representations to be given in writing or by email by 12 noon, Friday, 12 February, 2021 to the Council’s Monitoring Officer (committeeservices@wirral.gov.uk) and to be dealt with in accordance with Standing Order 11.

 

Petitions may be presented to the Committee. The person presenting the petition will be allowed to address the meeting briefly (not exceeding one minute) to outline the aims of the petition. The Chair will refer the matter to another appropriate body of the Council within whose terms of reference it falls without discussion, unless a relevant item appears elsewhere on the Agenda. Please give notice of petitions to committeeservices@wirral.gov.uk in advance of the meeting.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair reported that notice of one request to make a statement had been received. She then invited Mark Sopp to address the committee and he spoke against any proposed closure of Europa Pools.

 

The Chair stated that notice had been given of two petitions to be presented.

 

The first was presented by Mary Compton Rickett, Chair of the Williamson and Priory Friends Trustees. At the invitation of the Chair, Mary Rickett, introduced a petition of some 13,000 signatories against any closure of the Williamson Art Gallery.

 

The second was presented by Councillor Stuart Kelly on the subject of keeping green spaces usable. At the invitation of the Chair, Councillor Kelly spoke to his petition of some 580 signatories against the proposal to cease the maintenance of Oxton’s fields and grass verges.

 

The Chair thanked all those who had spoken to their petitions.

65.

Questions by Members

Questions by Members to dealt with in accordance with Standing Orders 12.3 to 12.8.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair reported that no questions had been submitted from Members.

66.

2020/21 Revenue Budget Monitoring for Quarter Three (APR - DEC) pdf icon PDF 267 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Shaer Halewood, Director of Resources introduced a report which provided a summary of the projected year-end revenue position as at the end of Quarter 3 (December 2020) of the 2020/21 financial year, including:

 

·  the financial risk profile presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and

·  a review of pressures and savings contained within the original budget position.

 

The year-end forecast recorded as part of December’s financial monitoring activity represented an adverse variance, net of exceptional financial support, from revenue budget of £8.948m; this comprised:

 

·  £16.378m adverse forecast variance in relation to revenue budget, stemming largely from matters arising through the Covid-19 pandemic. 

·  £3.3m forecast deficit on expected capital receipts, which support the revenue budget position via flexible use of capital receipts and

·  the above items being offset by £10.73m government funding to compensate for lost sales, fees and charges compensation due to the impact of Covid-19.

 

The change in the position from Quarter 2 to Quarter 3 forecast was mainly as a result of additional Covid-19 funding received by Government which was included in the Quarter 2 forecasts as being funded from Directorate budgets, additional temporary savings being found since Quarter 2 and a reduction in pressures, mainly in relation to Children and Families.

 

The Council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic continued to present financial risk due to uncertainty and fluidity in the external environment, however the ringfenced “tranche” funding, was forecast to a balanced position.

 

The overall financial position for the Council remained challenging, and a number of actions were in progress to mitigate the overall forecast position presented at quarter 3, including limiting spending to essential areas of service delivery only, with Corporate Directors supported to mitigate the risk of overspending.

 

In October 2020, the Committee had requested exceptional financial support (capitalisation directive) from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and an offer had recently been provided from MHCLG to enable a balanced budget to be reported for 2020/21 and 2021/22. The Ministry had indicated that they were able to offer a capitalisation direction up to a maximum value of £14.8m for 2020/21, subject to conditions. This value was based on the Quarter 2 forecast at the time of the offer. The Committee’s agenda included the 2021/22 Budget Report, which included a recommendation to Full Council that:

 

The Council proceeds with the request for exceptional financial support with the conditions outlined in the letter from the Minister of State for Regional Growth and Local Government dated 2 February, 2021.

 

It was assumed that the value of exceptional financial support would be provided at the level required, up to a maximum of £14.8m at the end of the 2020/21 financial year. Therefore a forecast balanced position for 2020/21 could now be reported.

 

Responding to a Member’s comment, Shaer Halewood confirmed the rigid processes in place for vacancy control through the Senior Leadership Team.

 

A.  Resolved - That this Committee:

 

(1)  notes the balanced year-end forecast position;

 

(2)  notes the impact of funding and expenditure as a direct consequence  ...  view the full minutes text for item 66.

67.

Capital Monitoring Quarter 3 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 124 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Shaer Halewood, Director of Resources, provided an update on the progress of the Capital Programme 2020/21 at the end of December 2020. The report recommended that the Committee agree the revised 2020/21 Capital Programme of £86.0 million which took account of re-profiling, virements, additional funding requirements and grant variations identified since the Capital Programme was formally agreed on 2 March 2020.

 

Shaer Halewood reported upon one change to paragraph 3.8.3 in the report, in that the Capital Receipts flexibilities had now been extended until 31 March 2025 which could be used to support expenditure that was ‘Transformational’ in nature.

 

In response to a Member’s comment, Shaer Halewood stated that she would need to investigate further in respect of the virement of funds from Beechwood Leisure Centre to West Kirby Sailing School.

 

On a motion by the Chair seconded by Councillor Anita Leech, it was -

 

A.  RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)  to Council the approval of additional funding for the schemes referred to in section 3.5 in the report, as follows:

 

·  Birkenhead Park World Heritage Project Team - £0.085m (over a three year period)

·  Connecting Wirral Waters - Detailed Design - £0.610m (over a two year period)

 

(2)  to Council the approval of the revised Capital Programme of £86.0million for 2020-21, including the virements referred to in Appendix 3 in the report.

 

B.  Resolved – That this Committee agrees that the outcome of the on-going review and reprofiling of the Capital Programme is reported to Members in the next quarterly capital monitoring report.

 

 

 

68.

Budget 2021/22 and Medium Term Financial Plan 2022/23-2025/26 pdf icon PDF 210 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Shaer Halewood, Director of Resources, introduced a report which was part of the Council’s formal annual budget process, as set out in the constitution and in accordance with the legal requirements to set a balanced budget. The report presented details of the annual budget for 2021/22 and the key elements contributing towards the preparation of the budget and set out recommendations on the budget and council tax for 2021/22. The report provided an update on the Medium-Term Financial Plan (MTFP) covering the period from 2022/23 to 2025/26 previously reported to the Committee on 18 December 2020.

 

The report contained several appendices, some of which were required to be published as part of the statutory annual budget process and others which provided the Committee with relevant financial information relating to next year’s budget and future years’ financial assumptions. These assumptions would change, and any changes would be reported through the usual governance process for budget monitoring within the Committee system.

 

Included with the appendices was also the detailed Schools Budget for 2021/22.

 

The 2021/22 budget had been compiled using the figures in the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement for 2021/22 as the final figures had not, at the time of the agenda publication, been received. Shaer Halewood confirmed that there had been no changes to the final settlement figures.

 

Shaer Halewood drew the Committee’s attention to two errors within the report, the first being in appendix 1, ‘Pressures’, in that under the ‘Neighbourhoods’ heading, the ‘Waste Development Fund’ should refer to pressures on the waste service. The second was at paragraph 3.75 in the report, in that the level of Earmarked reserves were expected to be £29m and not £57m.

 

With regard to the precepts from other precepting bodies, referred to in appendix 9, Shaer Halewood confirmed that the vote to be taken at Council would be on the Wirral Council Tax element only.

 

Shaer Halewood then responded to a number of comments from Members and clarified that there was now a forecast surplus of £1m for the 2021/22 budget, which was included within the body of the report and gave a breakdown of this amount. The £4m for potential EVR’s was included within the £29m earmarked reserves figure. Fees and charges had a total increase of £230,000, for cemeteries and crematorium charges to offset some of the cost of the introduction of webcasting at the crematoria and music licences. She had taken a prudent approach with the budget formulation as there were no guarantees that the government compensation scheme would be extended beyond June, even though social distancing measure could be in place for some time affecting the Council’s income, including from leisure related activities, gyms etc.

 

The Chair then invited Councillor Wendy Clements to comment on the Schools Budget. Councillor Clements welcomed the proposed budget of £299.487m Dedicated Schools Grant, an increase of some £24.5m over the previous year’s, and which the Schools Forum had agreed to. Councillor Clements responded to a number of comments from Members and welcomed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 68.

69.

Capital Programme 2021-26 pdf icon PDF 154 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Shaer Halewood, Director of Resources, introduced a report on the draft Capital Programme 2021/26 for consideration and referral to Council for approval. The report also included information regarding the revenue implications of this Programme and an update on the latest forecast for capital receipts.

 

The 2021/26 Capital Programme represented a combination of schemes originally approved as part of the 2020/25 Programme, updated through the Capital Monitoring reports in 2020/21 and new bids for inclusion as detailed in this report.

 

Shaer Halewood confirmed (see minute 68 ante) that the scheme for Beechwood had now been completed and was therefore no longer required to be in the Capital Programme.

 

On a motion by the Chair, seconded by Councillor Anita Leech, it was -

 

RECOMMENDED – To Council -

 

(1)  the approval of the new bids as detailed in Appendix 2 to this report requiring £12.133 million borrowing for inclusion in the Capital Programme;

 

(2)  the approval of any new bids supported by grant funding do not commence until written confirmation has been received from the granting authority;

 

(3)  the approval of the Capital Programme 2021/26 (as detailed in Appendix 3 to the report);

 

(4)  the approval that progress on delivering the Capital Programme will be presented in accordance within the agreed Capital Monitoring arrangements.

 

70.

Capital Financing Strategy 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 227 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Shaer Halewood, Director of Resources, introduced a report on the Capital Financing Strategy. The Authority’s treasury management activity was underpinned by CIPFA’s 2017 Code of Practice on Treasury Management (“the Code”), in which there was the requirement for Council to approve an annual Capital Strategy. The report fulfilled the Authority’s legal obligation under the Local Government Act 2003 to have regard to the CIPFA Code.

 

On a motion by the Chair, seconded by Councillor Anita Leech, it was –

 

RECOMMENDED – To Council -

 

(1)  the approval of the Capital Strategy for 2021/22;

 

(2)  the approval of the associated Prudential Indicators to be adopted;

 

(3) the approval of the Council’s Minimum Revenue Provision policy.

71.

Treasury Management Strategy 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 210 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Shaer Halewood, Director of Resources, introduced a report on the Treasury Management Strategy. The Authority’s treasury management activity was underpinned by CIPFA’s 2017 Code of Practice on Treasury Management (“the Code”), which required the production of annual Treasury Management Indicators and a Treasury Management Strategy Statement on likely financing and investment activity. The Code also recommended that Members were informed of treasury management activities at least twice a year.

 

The report fulfilled the Authority’s legal obligation under the Local Government Act 2003 to have regard to the CIPFA Code.  It did not cover the requirements of the 2018 Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Investment Guidance, which mostly referred to non-treasury investments and was the subject of a separate report.

 

Members welcomed the use of Ethical, Social and Governance investment criteria for the future investment strategy.

 

Shaer Halewood, in response to a Member’s comment confirmed that she would provide an updated version of Appendix 5 to the report, which referred to possible implications of a ‘no deal Brexit’.

 

On a motion by the Chair, seconded by Councillor Anita Leech, it was –

 

RECOMMENDED – To Council -

 

(1)   the approval of the Treasury Management and Investment Strategy for 2021/2022;

 

(2)  the approval of the Treasury Management Indicators.

 

 

72.

Investment Strategy 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 134 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Shaer Halewood, Director of Resources, introduced a report on the Investment Strategy. In February 2018, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published updated ‘Guidance on Local Government Investments’. The previous edition covered only Treasury Management investments. In recent years local authorities had had an increasing focus on commercial activities including but not exclusive to property. Such activity had the potential to bring both increased returns and increased positive and negative risk. The revised Guidance on Local Authority Investments required that a separate Investment Strategy focusing on non-treasury investments was produced and approved annually by Council.

 

This report fulfilled the requirement of the MHCLG to produce an investment strategy that covered non-treasury activities.

 

Shaer Halewood responded to comments from Members, including on the work of the New Commercial Ideas Panel and the Investment and Change Board and confirmed that an update would be provided on the investment strategy to the Committee. She also confirmed that she would respond in writing with regard to the current value of the Vue Cinema in Birkenhead.

 

On a motion by the Chair, seconded by Councillor Anita Leech, it was –

 

RECOMMENDED - To Council, the approval of the Investment Strategy for 2021/2022 which includes potential investment in the following activity areas:

 

1.  Commercial Property

2.  Service Investments: Loans

3.  Service Investment: Shares (non-currently held)

4.  Loan Commitments and financial Guarantees

73.

Budget Meeting Procedure pdf icon PDF 117 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Philip McCourt, Director of Law and Governance, introduced a report on a proposed process for the Budget decision making meeting of Council.

 

In response to Members’ comments he confirmed that a positive vote in favour of a budget proposal would be required of the Budget Council meeting.

 

RECOMMENDED – To Council, that for the duration of the extraordinary meeting of 1 March 2021 (Budget Council):

 

(a)  the procedure attached as Appendix A to the report, be followed in respect of the meeting; and

 

(b)  Council Standing Order 15.4 (timing of speeches) be suspended together with such other standing orders as may conflict with the Budget Council procedure or the Mayor’s administration of the meeting, in such a manner as the Mayor in his or her absolute discretion dictates, to ensure the objective of Council setting a lawful budget and council tax requirement prevails.

 

74.

Work Programme Update pdf icon PDF 78 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A report by the Director of Law and Governance advised how the Committee, in co-operation with the other Policy and Service Committees, was responsible for proposing and delivering an annual committee work programme. This work programme should align with the corporate priorities of the Council, in particular the delivery of the key decisions which were within the remit of the Committee.

 

It was envisaged that the work programme would be formed from a combination of key decisions, standing items and requested officer reports. The report provided the Committee with an opportunity to plan and regularly review its work across the municipal year. The work programme for the Policy and Resources Committee was attached as an appendix to the report.

 

Resolved – That the proposed Policy and Resources Committee work programme for the remainder of the 2020/21 municipal year, be noted.