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To receive any apologies for absence.
There were no apologies for absence.
To receive any announcements from the Leader of the Council.
The Leader welcomed everyone to the meeting and reminded them to use the microphones to be heard on the webcast.
To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 28 November 2023.
Councillor Goldspink proposed, and Councillor Wilson seconded a motion that the Minutes of the meeting held on 28 November 2023 be approved as a correct record and be signed by the Leader. On being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.
RESOLVED – that the Minutes of the meeting held on 28 November 2023 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Leader.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any Member(s) declaration(s) of interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
Agree that the proposed budget should make use of
the flexibility from Government to increase Council Tax by 2.99%,
which will increase Council Tax revenue by £366k a year and
will result in a Band D Council Tax increase of £5.65 to
£195.52 per year;
Request Audit & Governance Committee to consider
the savings proposals and advise Executive of any significant
issues they believe may arise;
c) Agree to present proposed savings requirements, that will need to be delivered to balance the budget in the medium term, the delivery profile of which without any smoothing is as follows:
Agree to propose the use of the General Reserve and
the Interest Equalisation Reserve in order to smooth the delivery
of the substantial proposed savings targets over the Medium Term Financial Plan;
e) Agree to propose an amended Capital Programme so as to reduce revenue costs of Minimum Revenue Provision and interest by £1,514k per annum on current interest rates, a total saving of £7.442 million of over the MTFP period. Expenditure will be prioritised for:
i. essential property maintenance to meet statutory requirements or to prevent loss or damage to neighbouring properties;
ii. investment in ICT to continue but that the budget carry forward that has not been used for two years is deleted;
iii. invest to save initiatives where the business case indicates that the cost of the investment will be recovered in under 10 years;
iv. to allow pausing of construction of the Arts Centre at Old River Lane until such time as debt levels have fallen sufficiently to make the revenue impacts of new borrowing affordable while at the same time undertaking landscaping works on the arts centre site so that it is an attractive site rather than an undeveloped area blighting the retail and commercial units in the City Heart scheme;
v. provide up to £170k for essential maintenance works for the URC Church Hall in Bishop’s Stortford;
vi. completion of Hertford Theatre, at as low a cost as possible, so that the entire venue is opened and run on a strictly commercial basis to maximise income; and
investment in depot works and waste containers for
the new waste and recycling contract.
f) Delegate to the Head of Strategic Finance & Property, in consultation with the Executive Member for Financial Sustainability, the authority to amend the proposed budget and Medium-Term Financial Plan to be put to the Audit & Governance Committee on 30 January 2024 in order to reflect the Local Government Finance Settlement and other emerging information, so that the committee can consider the must complete and up to date information.
The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability presented the Budget 2024/25 and the Medium Term Financial Plan 2024-2034. He said that this was the first budget of the new joint administration and that the paper set out the current financial position of the council. He said that this was not the final budget but an important step to help shape the final version.
The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability said that the Medium Term Financial Plan in March 2023 stated that significant changes needed to be made over the next four years and the council was not in a good position to absorb external shocks as recent years had seen high inflation, government support reducing and any Council Tax increases capped at 2.99%. He explained that one of the biggest issues was the council’s level of debt as the last five years had seen significant capital spending by the previous administration, with the four big projects in the district costing over £90 million, which was more than the council could finance without substantial borrowing.
The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability said the proposed capital programme was provided at Appendix B which sought to change spending at the Old River Lane site, which would be paused until borrowing was down to sustainable level. He warned that was not likely to happen in the next four years unless government policy changed significantly, and that . another proposal was the selling of non-essential assets.
The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability said that further savings needed to be achieved in the budget for 2024/25 and the Leadership Team were working on implementing savings proposals and a further £996,000 of savings had been incorporated. He said that the latest estimate of additional savings needed was just £183,000 and he was confident that this would be identified. He said that 2025/26 was going to be a challenging year with £3.37 million of savings needing to be made which represented 15% of the council’s current expenditure.
The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability concluded by saying that the council’s single largest source of revenue was Council Tax which was restricted to 2.99% increase without a referendum. He said that this restriction impacted the revenue budget and a Council Tax increase of 2.99% was absolutely necessary and likely to be normal for all district councils in England.
Councillor Brittain proposed that the recommendations in the report be supported. Councillor Glover-Ward seconded the proposal.
Councillor Wilson thanked the Executive Member and the Head of Strategic Finance and Property for their hard work on preparing the budget. He said that he spoke for all of the Executive in saying that they would welcome any saving suggestions from any Members. He said he agreed that it was very unfortunate that the council had the level of debt it did and said that his group had pointed out over the last four years that undertaking four capital projects at once would affect the council’s finances.
Councillor Goldspink said she agreed with Councillor Wilson and ... view the full minutes text for item 271.
a) That the Executive agrees that the service changes described in 3.2 c) of the report relating to the three-weekly collection of separated paper and cardboard predominantly in bins and the three weekly collection of the remaining dry mixed recycling (A 3,3,3 cycle as described in Appendix 3) be implemented as part of the new waste recycling and street cleansing contract which commences in 2025, the implementation date confirmation shall be delegated to the Head of Operations in consultation with Project Board, but shall be within four months of contract commencement.
b) That the Executive agrees that in the event that the Council is required to make a decision to provide fortnightly collection of residual waste that the dry recycling service shall be fully commingled.
c) That the Executive agrees to the service changes described in 3.2 d) of the report relating to the removal of the requirement for a continuous street cleansing presence in town centres and moving the back to standard time to 9am be implemented as part of the new waste recycling and street cleansing contract in 2025.
d) That the Executive agrees to the service changes described in 3.2 e) relating to a removal of approximately 30% of litter bins from predominantly outside the town centres be implemented as part of the new waste recycling and street cleansing contract in 2025.
e) That the Executive agrees to the service changes described in 3.2 f) relating to a change to an input specification for high-speed road cleansing to once per year be implemented as part of the new waste recycling and street cleansing contract in 2025.
f) That the Executive agrees to the service changes described in 3.2 h) relating to an extension of the bin delivery/repair Service Level Agreement (SLA) from 5 days to 9 days being implemented as part of the new waste recycling and street cleansing contract in 2025.
g) That the Executive agrees to the service changes described in 3.2 i) relating to an extension of the missed bin rectification SLA from 5pm the next working day to 72 hours except for missed whole streets which will remain 5pm the next working day, being implemented as part of the new waste recycling and street cleansing contract in 2025.
h) That the Executive agrees to the service changes described in 3.2 j) relating to a change in street cleansing SLAs being implemented as part of the new waste recycling and street cleansing contract in 2025.
i) That the Executive agrees to the service changes described in 3.2 k) relating to reducing the number of items collected as part of bulky waste services from six to three being implemented as part of the new waste recycling and street cleansing contract in 2025.
The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability presented the waste, recycling and street cleansing service design report. He said that the waste service represented the largest spend for the council and it was a high-profile service and impacted on residents every week.
The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that the Executive agreed the service design in October 2022 along with the new aims and principles of the shared service. Competitive dialogue was ongoing and had allowed officers to explore service design options. He said that the proposals had been presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in November and their comments were presented at Appendix B.
The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that Officers and himself were confident that the changes to the contract would provide high performing services with greater opportunities for recycling. He said that a final decision was required to progress the procurement and time scales were tight with a decision needed so not to delay the implementation for a further three months.
Councillor Hoskin proposed that the recommendations in the report be supported. Councillor Brittain seconded the proposal.
Councillor Crystall recognised the hard work from officers and said this project had been years in the making and thanked them for their work.
Councillor Brittain said that the Executive had heard previously that 2025/26 was going to be a challenging year for the budget and said it was key that the waste service was affordable and that the recommendations were a good step forward.
Councillor Daar referred to the consultation carried out under the previous administration. She said she was impressed that there was such high support for recycling and that 78% of respondents wanted to recycle more.
Councillor Goldspink said she supported the proposals and felt it would be excellent in encouraging recycling.
Councillor Hoskin said that the contract would be in place by May 2025 and said that between now and then there would be a huge amount of work to do to communicate the details to residents. He said the contract was a huge step forward and collecting food waste alone had a huge impact on the carbon footprint.
Councillor Glover-Ward noted that food waste would be collected weekly. She said that residents were often unhappy with fortnightly residual waste collections in the summer and the weekly food waste collections would provide a better service to residents.
Councillor Dumont asked what reassurances Members could give residents about what service levels would look like and what they could expect.
Councillor Hoskin said the new contract had been designed to improve services and the set standards in the contract would not erode standards but would give operational flexibility to use vehicles and staff more efficiently. He said that the bidders for the contract have agreed that the changes would encourage savings and efficiencies.
The Waste, Recycling and Street Cleaning Manager reassured Members that during the mobilisation of the contract, there had been agreement for additional contract monitoring resources. She said the client team would be ... view the full minutes text for item 272.
To consider such other business as, in the opinion of the Chairman of the meeting, is of sufficient urgency to warrant consideration and is not likely to involve the disclosure of exempt information.
There was no urgent business.