Ian Coleman said report 4 (Council Tax Base 2012/2013) was an annual update and the basis for the grant settlement. Cllr Foulkes asked if the Cabinet were happy to endorse it and it was agreed.
Ian Coleman then introduced the report on Council Tax discounts. He said there were a range of discounts in line with legislation, some they had the power to vary. Cllr Foulkes asked about the second home issue and his opinions on that. Ian Coleman said it was too soon to say although he wasn’t suggesting any changes to it. Cllr Foulkes said he was happy to accept it and it was agreed.
Ian Coleman introduced agenda item 6 (Council Tax Discounts – Consultation on Technical Reform) as a Department of Communities and Local Government consultation paper. He said it didn’t cover the Single Person Discount which was not included in the consultation. However second homes, empty homes, solar panels and annexes were included. There was a proposed response attached as an appendix.
Cllr Foulkes asked the Cabinet if they were happy to agree the response. It was agreed.
Ian Coleman introduced the report on Insolvency and Charging Orders Policy. He said there were minor amendments which was being updated because of legislation changes. Cllr Foulkes asked if Cabinet were happy to agree the policy, so it was agreed.
Ian Coleman then introduced the Capital Program and Financing for 2012-2015 which was to be sent to the Department for Communities and Local Government who would decide the final grant at the beginning of February. There had been a review because of slippage in 2010/2011 which had a knock on effect on 2011/2012, there had also been some delays to projects in 2011/12 and 2012/13. Projects had made bids for money with the weightings agreed by Cabinet and those that scored highest went ahead. Cllr Foulkes said he was happy to endorse it and it was agreed.
There were three motions to Wirral Council’s Cabinet meeting. For each motion you can click on the images for a larger version. The motion on libraries strategy is below, which will mean libraries will be open on Wednesdays and at lunchtimes after the merge with the One Stop Shops is complete.
The second motion is on the Chancellors’ Autumn Statement.
The third motion was on the Budget and is across two pages. It signals the minority Labour administration’s desire to have a 0% Council Tax increase for 2012/2013.
Cllr Simon Mountney also asked about the processes in place.
David Taylor-Smith said it was a decision of the administration, they were provided with the information which was then discussed. The Budget would be set by the statutory deadline.
Cllr Simon Mountney asked about actions taken by officers.
David Taylor-Smith said that there were a number of processes. There was the Budget Simulator which was running to the 30th November. The administration was making deliberations.
Cllr Simon Mountney said the decisions were based on a game?
David Taylor-Smith said there were assumptions and the report was a projection. It had been quickly revised over the 1% in 2013. There were also implications for Housing Benefit. He asked if Cllr Simon Mountney wanted him to share such matters with the Chair and spokespersons? He said the Budget Projections was a regular report to Cabinet and the latest projections would be in the next report. There had been announcements today but the next meeting would be mid January.
Cllr Ron Abbey asked if there was signficant movement then it should be shared with the Chair, Deputy Chair and spokespersons, as the longer it was delayed the less time they had.
Cllr Alan Brighouse asked if there were enough resources to fulfill the requirements of the Budget process?
David Taylor-Smith said it was kept under regular review.
Cllr Jim Crabtree asked what officers were doing to stay within projected budget spends?
David Taylor-Smith said that was up to individual Chief Officers. The budget allocations went to Cabinet along with assurances. He was happy to take specific instances to Chief Officers.
Cllr Jim Crabtree and the committee agreed the report and moved to item 4 (Internal Audit Update).
Cllr Jim Crabtree (Chair)
Cllr Darren Dodd (Vice-Chair)
Cllr Irene Williams
Cllr Ron Abbey
Cllr Simon Mountney (Spokesperson)
Cllr James Keeley
Cllr Sue Taylor (deputy for Cllr Jeff Green)
Cllr Alan Brighouse (Spokesperson)
Surjit Tour (Legal adviser)
Mark Delap (Committee Clerk)
Mike Thomas (District Auditor)
Liz Temple-Murray (Audit Commission)
Surjit Tour after talking with the Chair Cllr Jim Crabtree left the room. Mike Thomas said that agenda item 9 (Audit Commission) HESPE Follow Up Report would not be dealt with tonight.
Cllr Jim Crabtree said he would like to make a start and welcomed people to the meeting. He asked for any declarations of interest. None was declared. The minutes of the meeting held on the 28th September 2011 were agreed.
David Taylor-Smith introduced the Budget Projections 2012-2015 report. He said it was a regular report to Cabinet and referred to page nineteen, which dealt with the shortfall in each of the next three financial years. There were processes to address the issues rather than debate over how the shortfall would be found. He asked for any questions.
Cllr Jim Crabtree invited Cllr Darren Dodd to speak.
Cllr Darren Dodd asked him to “tell us more about the processes in place”?
David Taylor-Smith said the Director of Finance reported to the Cabinet meetings. He said the Cabinet and the Executive behind the scenes had regular debates over planning and how the [Labour] administration responded to the reports was up to them.
Ian Coleman, Director of Finance said he agreed with the comments except the last comment. They had closed the accounts on the 4th July. Complying with International Financial Reporting Standards had been a lot of work. He said that 75% in the North West had not achieved the 30th September deadline. He said it had been a battle to the last-minute regarding the auditors’ requirements. The auditors had commented on the level of resources and he said they will be acting on that. Ian Coleman said they will look at the whole process and what can be improved. However, he said many problems shouldn’t re-occur as they now know what to do. There would not be restating of the previous year’s accounts to International Financial Reporting Standards standards.
Cllr Steve Foulkes said that he and Jim would sign them.
Ian Coleman, Director of Finance then introduced the Audit Commission’s Annual Governance Report. He said this was another statutory report which covered two areas. He said the Audit and Risk Management Committee had put on record its views on the Value for Money analysis which was qualified for the first time. He said he would look at the reasons why.
Cllr Phil Davies said on the last point, there was a clear and damning comment on page 21 about the HESPE contract and its operation for the last two and a half years. He said there was no performance management information which was a basic issue, he asked for suggestions?
The Cabinet then considered a referral from the Council Excellence Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the Local Government Resource Review following its meeting of the 12th July 2011. Cllr Phil Davies said it was a committee referral and the minute from that meeting was included. The response was that Cabinet agreed with all actions, proposed comments and supporting the SIGOMA response about authorities with lower levels of income from business rates. His concern about business rates was that it left Wirral in a difficult position. Ian Coleman reported to Cabinet about the localising of business rates. Mr. Coleman said there had been a consultation in July but eight annexes had not arrived. There would be a report to Cabinet on the 22nd September. A consultation response was required by early October. Cllr Phil Davies asked if they were active through SIGOMA. Cllr George Davies said he sits on SIGOMA, the facts had been resolved so that no-one would be adversely affected in the first year. It would be in the second year that Wirral would be the loser. Ian Coleman confirmed this was correct. Cllr George Davies thanked him. Cllr Phil Davies pointed out the meeting with the Minister on Tuesday and that details would come back to the next Cabinet.
The minutes of the meeting held on the 21st July 2011 were agreed. The next item was Budget Projections 2012-15 introduced by the Director of Finance Ian Coleman. Mr. Coleman said there had been minor changes from July, Parliament had been in recess so there had only been consultation papers. Cllr Davies (Phil) said it was a standard report to note and review. He noted that the shortfall of £25.3 million continued to bear down on the budget [for 2012/2013]. He said there were “big challenges”. He referred to section 4.2.1 of the report and stated the Formula Grant had been decreased by £41 million [Ed - the actual figure in the report was £14 million not £41 million]. He said the issues in the next item regarding business rates “could be a challenge”. He referred to the meeting next Tuesday with a government minister in which councillors would explain Wirral’s case and hopefully get a sympathetic hearing. There would be a report back next time.
At this point the mobile of Cllr Chris Meaden (Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism and Leisure) started ringing loudly which drowned out what her colleague Cllr Ann McLachlan was trying to say. Once Cllr Chris Meaden had found the mobile in her bag and switched it off, Cllr McLachlan finished by saying that £14 million was a lot of money and she encouraged the representation from Wirral Council. The report was noted.