Menu

Agenda and minutes

Strategic Policy and Resources Committee
Friday, 20th November, 2009 10.00 am

Venue: Lavery Room (Room G05), City Hall

Contact: Mr Jim Hanna, Senior Committee Administrator 

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes

Minutes:

            The minutes of the meetings of 9th and 23rd October were taken as read and signed as correct.  It was reported that those minutes had been adopted by the Council at its meeting on 2nd November, subject to the rejection of the minute of 23rd October under the heading “Plaques in the City Hall”; the Council agreed that the various plaques which had previously been located on the East Staircase of the City Hall be replaced on a temporary basis and that the Memorabilia Working Group give consideration to their location on a permanent basis.

 

Councillor Hartley

 

            The Committee congratulated its Chairman, Councillor Hartley, on being named at the Aisling Awards the previous night as “Person of the Year”.

2.

Transition Committee Business

2a

Review of Public Administration Update pdf icon PDF 781 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Review of Public Administration Update

 

            The Committee considered the undernoted report:

 

“1.0       Relevant Background Information

 

1.1       The Review of Public Administration (RPA) is now entering into a critical stage in the process whereby key decisions need to be taken over the next month so as to ensure that the reform programme remains on track and meets the already tight legislative timetable which is in place.

 

2.0Key Issues

 

2.1Critical Path

 

2.1.1    Members will be aware that there still remains some concerns with regard to how the RPA programme will progress given the uncertainties which exist around the Local Government Boundaries Order (which will determine the boundaries for the 11 new councils) and the progress of the Local Government Reorganisation Bill (which will bring into effect to the reorganisation of local government), both of which need to be cleared by the NI Assembly before the Christmas recess on 9th December, 2009.

 

2.1.2    If no political agreement around these critical issues is secured, then the already tight legislative timetable would be unachievable and the local reform programme (e.g. rationalisation from 26 to 11 councils) would be deferred.  This would result in elections to the existing 26 Councils in May 2010 as the Secretary of State would not be minded to further extend the current term of councils.   This position was echoed by the Environment Minister during his recent visit to the Council on 6th November.

 

2.1.3    Within this context there is an associated risk that the NI Executive may implement a plan B which could involve taking forward some elements of modernisation.  It is important to note that the majority of legislation brought forward to date (including the Miscellaneous Provisions Bill and Finance Bill) are not RPA dependant (i.e. linked to the reorganisation of councils) but rather, are pertaining to the modernisation of local government.  The transfer of functions proposals, however, may be reorganisation dependant and could be deferred as a result.

 

2.1.4    Notwithstanding political agreement on the local government boundaries and Reorganisation Bill, the timetable, as  we currently understand it, is as follows:

 

·         A final decision will be made by Christmas on the Local Government Boundary Order which will set out the boundaries for the new Councils.

 

·         Decision on funding for RPA reform programme needs to be made in early 2010 and negotiations with DFP are ongoing

 

·         Statutory Transition Committees come into effect by February 2010

 

·         Members severance scheme agreed -  February/March 2010

 

·         Staff severance scheme agreed -  February/March 2010

 

·         Appointment of Senior posts (designate) for new Councils by March-May 2010

 

·         Agreed staff transfer scheme by June 2010

 

·         Initial indicators of the level of funding to be made available through the Comprehensive Spending Review for those functions to transfer to local government – October 2010

 

·         Elections to new Councils – May 2011

 

2.2       Engagement with Lisburn and Castlereagh

 

2.2.1    Discussions are ongoing between representatives from the Lisburn/Castlereagh Transition Committee and the Belfast Transition Committee with two constructive meetings held to date, including a meeting on the 27th October, 2009.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2a

2b

Review of Public Administration - PricewaterhouseCoopers Economic Appraisal pdf icon PDF 249 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee considered the undernoted report:

 

“1.0  Relevant Background Information 

 

1.1    Members will be aware that the Department of Environment commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to assess possible options for future local government service delivery within Northern Ireland (as a Phase I) and to undertake a ‘full Economic Appraisal of Local Government Service Delivery in its Entirety’ (as a Phase II).

 

1.2    PwC has just recently released its Phase II for initial consideration of relevant stakeholders (including councils), with comments requested in advance of the next Strategic Leadership Board meeting scheduled for 9th December 2009, at which the PwC report will be considered. 

 

1.3    A copy of the Executive Summary of the draft PwC Phase II report has been circulated.  A copy of the full detailed report has been placed in the Members’ Library for reference  and can be accessed at the following link: http://www.doeni.gov.uk/index/local_government/local_government_service_delivery-2.htm

 

1.4    Over the past number of weeks PwC has been undertaking a series of Party Group briefings, at a regional level, on the emerging proposals contained within their report and providing an opportunity for elected Members to comment.

 

2.0    Key Issues 

 

2.1    Whilst the PwC report considers 5 options in relation to a combination of both the level of transformation undertaken by councils as part of the RPA transition process as well as potential future service delivery models, Option 5 ‘Transformation with Regional Collaboration’ emerges as the preferred option within the report. The key characteristics of Option 5 include:

 

·         the establishment of a Targeting Operating Model (i.e. structure) for the new councils

 

·         the establishment of a Business Support Organisation (i.e. Shared Service) which will deliver a range of functions including, for example, ICT, Procurement (by 2011);  Legal Services , Finance, Property Services (by 2015)

 

·         the BSO will be established as a Joint Committee (comprising of Elected Members from across the 11 Councils) and be operated  by an executive officer team

 

·         the BSO will house a number of the central government functions proposed to transfer to local government which, as the report suggest, cannot be disaggregated e.g.   DSD Large Capital Projects; Parking enforcement; Planning specialists

 

·         the creation of a single Waste Disposal Authority (WDA)

 

·         the creation of a new Local Government Association (LGA)

 

·         will cost £118m to implement

 

·         will realise a reduction in Net Present Cost of £438m over a 25year period

 

2.2    In reviewing the draft PwC Phase II report, the following key areas of concern are highlighted for Members consideration:

 

·         the unspecified and unsupported nature of the cost and saving estimates and assumptions presented within the report upon which the recommendations are based

·         limited consideration given to the level of capacity required to bring affect to the transformation proposals alongside the complex transition /convergence process which councils will need to undertake

·         detailed consideration needs to be given to the potential impact upon the Council of the proposed establishment of the Business Support Organisation (BSO) and, in particular, the future of ISB

·         clarity required as to the governance arrangements and legal status of the BSO  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2b

2c

Filling of Casual Vacancies on District Councils pdf icon PDF 95 KB

Minutes:

            The Committee considered the undernoted report:

 

“Purpose of Report

 

      To submit for the consideration of the Committee a report regarding the consultation paper which has been issued by the Northern Ireland Office entitled ‘Filling Casual Vacancies on District Councils’.

 

Summary of the Consultation Document

 

      The consultation paper seeks to examine proposals for reforming the process used currently in Northern Ireland for the filling of casual vacancies arising on District Councils in light of the implementation of the Review of Public Administration in 2011 and the reduction in the number of Councils from 26 to 11. In addition, the paper also looks at the impact of the possible introduction of a Severance Scheme for Members in advance of the next Local Government elections and how co-options should be dealt with in this context.

 

 

Key Issues

 

      Introduction

 

      Casual vacancies arising in District Councils in Northern Ireland can be filled by means of co-option.  In most circumstances, District Councils have generally acted within the spirit of the legislation and co-opted a replacement from the same Political Party as the vacating Member, thereby maintaining the Party balance on the Council. However, there have been recent occasions when failure to agree on co-option has led to by-elections, which have resulted in costs accruing to the ratepayer.  Because proportional representation is the method used to count votes polled in Local Government in Northern Ireland, by-elections are likely to be won by a candidate from the strongest Party within an Electoral Area and not necessarily by the Party which had won the seat in the original electoral contest.

 

      These two issues – cost and maintaining political balance as determined by the electorate – will be even more important following the Review of Public Administration and the Northern Ireland Office has put forward a number of alternatives and options for change.

 

Other Methods for Filling Vacancies

Identified in the Consultation Paper

 

      Amend Requirement for Unanimous Agreement to Co-option

 

      Although strictly speaking not an alternative to co-option, this method would involve relaxing the requirement for unanimous agreement to be achieved before a co-option can take place. Instead, a percentage threshold for agreement could be introduced to ensure that a relatively small number of dissenting Members could not prevent a co-option. However, it must be borne in mind that even with this change to the current procedures there would remain scope for a dominant Party to manipulate this rule to its advantage. 

 

      Party Nomination

 

      In February 2009, changes were made to the method of filling vacancies arising in the Northern Ireland Assembly. The new method provides for the Nominating Officer of the Political Party to which the vacating Member belonged at the time of the original election to nominate a replacement to fill the vacant seat. Independent Members may provide the Chief Electoral Officer with a list of up to six substitutes who will be asked, in ranked order, to fill the seat in the event that it is a position held by an Independent Member which becomes vacant.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2c

2d

Review of Public Administration - Transition Committee pdf icon PDF 72 KB

Minutes:

            The Committee considered the undernoted report:

 

“Relevant Background Information

 

      Transition Committees have been established and are operating on a voluntary basis.

 

      The previous Environment Minister, Sammy Wilson, gave approval for the Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee to be designated as Belfast’s Review of Public Administration Transition Committee.

 

      There has been engagement by officers and Members from Belfast with the Castlereagh/Lisburn Transition Committee to discuss issues of mutual concern in relation to the run up to the implementation of the Review of Public Administration.

 

Key Issues

 

      The draft Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill makes provision for the setting up of Statutory Transition Committees.  Emerging from this Bill, the new Environment Minister, Edwin Poots, will have the power to make directions in regard to the establishment and membership of the Statutory Transition Committees.

 

      While the Council has already submitted a response to the Bill, there are a number of points which it would be important to make at this stage of the process.

 

1)   In considering the Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, the Committee for the Environment agreed that there must be direct political representation from Castlereagh and Lisburn Councils on the incoming Belfast ‘Statutory’ Transition Committee.  Department of the Environment officials have been tasked with working up the mechanism and model through which this representation will be secured and the Minister will be issuing instructions in this regard.

 

2)   Since the proposed areas to be transferred do not consist of complete Electoral Areas and in some cases include only portions of existing Wards, there is no clear means to identify the political make-up of these areas.  It is important that Councillors from Castlereagh and Lisburn appointed to the Belfast Transition Committee should represent, as far as possible, the political makeup of the areas to be transferred.  Such representation would have to be determined by the two Councils concerned.

 

3)   All Members of the Transition Committee will enjoy full voting rights.

 

4)   There should be no dual membership of Transition Committees.

 

5)   To date, the Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee has acted as the Belfast Transition Committee but the legislative requirements for the appointment of the Statutory Transition Committee are likely to require that the Committee will have to be reconstituted on a one-off basis and for a period to run until the Local Government Elections currently scheduled to be held in May, 2011.

 

Options for Representation on the

Belfast Statutory Transition Committee

 

      The Boundaries Commission recommendations (which have yet to be confirmed) would result in an anticipated change in electorate which would see Belfast increase from approximately 158,000 (currently) to 190,400 (post RPA).  This represents an increase in the Council’s electorate of approximately 17%.

 

      Early indications from Department of the Environment officials are that Belfast would be permitted to retain its current number of representatives on the Transition Committee (that is, twenty Members) and that the representation from Castlereagh and Lisburn Councils would be additional to this.  It has been suggested that the additional representation from  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2d

3.

Democratic Services and Governance

3a

Requests for the Use of the City Hall and the Provision of Hospitality pdf icon PDF 64 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee was informed that the undernoted requests for the use of the City Hall and the provision of hospitality had been received:

 

Organisation/ Body

 

Event/Date – Number of Delegates/Guests

 

Request

 

Comments

 

Recommendation

 

Northern Ireland Tourist Board

Northern Ireland Business Tourism Expo Gala Dinner

 

15th January, 2010

 

Approximately 120 attending

 

The use of the City Hall and the provision of hospitality in the form of a pre?dinner drinks reception.

Delegates will be staying in accommodation in Belfast and the conference will take place within the city.

 

This event would contribute to the Council’s Key Theme of ‘City Leadership – Strong, Fair, Together’ and ‘Better opportunities for success across the city’.

 

The use of the City Hall and the  provision of hospitality in the form of red/white wine and soft drinks.

 

Approximate cost £480

Business and Professional Women UK Ltd

Annual National Conference Dinner

 

24th April, 2010

 

Approximately 75 attending

The use of the City Hall and the  provision of hospitality in the form of a pre?dinner drinks reception.

Delegates will be staying in accommodation in Belfast and the conference will take place within the city.

 

This event would contribute to the Council’s Key Theme of ‘City Leadership – Strong, Fair, Together’.

 

The use of the City Hall and the  provision of hospitality in the form of red/white wine and soft drinks.

 

Approximate cost £300

Belfast District of the Methodist Church in Ireland

Methodist Conference Reception

 

10th June, 2010

 

Approximately 250 attending

The provision of hospitality in the form of a finger buffet reception.

Delegates will be staying in accommodation in Belfast and the conference will take place within the city.

 

This event would contribute to the Council’s Key Theme of ‘City Leadership – Strong, Fair, Together’.

The provision of a finger buffet reception.

 

Approximate cost £2,500

 

Organisation/ Body

 

Event/Date – Number of Delegates/Guests

 

Request

 

Comments

 

Recommendation

 

University of Ulster School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy

6th Irish Criminology Conference Dinner

 

21st June, 2010

 

Approximately 150 attending

The use of the City Hall and the  provision of hospitality in the form of a pre?dinner drinks reception.

Delegates will be staying in accommodation in Belfast and the conference will take place within the city.

 

This event would contribute to the Council’s Key Theme of ‘City Leadership – Strong, Fair, Together’.

 

The use of the City Hall and the  provision of hospitality in the form of red/white wine and soft drinks.

 

Approximate cost £600

Queen’s University Belfast

Society for Social Medicine Conference Dinner

 

7th September, 2010

 

Approximately 180 attending

The use of the City Hall and the  provision of hospitality in the form of a pre?dinner drinks reception.

Delegates will be staying in accommodation in Belfast and the conference will take place within the city.

 

This event would contribute to the Council’s Key Theme of ‘City Leadership – Strong, Fair, Together’.

 

The use of the City Hall and the  provision of hospitality in the form of red/white wine and soft drinks.

 

Approximate cost £720

University  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3a

3b

Request for the Use of the City Hall to Hold the Westminster Counts pdf icon PDF 66 KB

Minutes:

            The Head of Committee and Members’ Services informed the Committee that the Belfast Area Electoral Officer had submitted a request for the use of accommodation in the City Hall in respect of the Westminster Counts for two of the four Belfast Constituencies, namely Belfast South and Belfast West.  He pointed out that the Chief Electoral Officer had stated that the Westminster Counts would take place through the night following the close of poll and that, while no definite announcement had been made, it was widely anticipated that the General Election would be held in the Spring of 2010.

 

            The Head of Committee and Members’ Services reminded the Committee that in 2001 it had decided not to permit the Westminster Counts to be held in the building on the grounds that, if the Local Government Elections were to be scheduled on the same date, it would be doubtful whether the building would be able to cope with the large numbers of people who would be expected to attend.  However, in 2005 the Westminster Counts for the four Belfast Constituencies had been held in the City Hall.

 

            The Head of Committee and Members’ Services pointed out that, following the reopening of the City Hall and the expressed desire of the Council to make the building more open to the public and to encourage its use by voluntary and community-based organisations, permission had been granted for more than forty organisations to use the City Hall during April and May next year, which were the likely months during which the Westminster Elections would be held.  He explained, given that the Council might receive as little as three weeks notice of a General Election date, that it would not reflect well on the Council if it had to advise groups - many of whom were holding functions in the City Hall for charitable purposes - at short notice that their bookings could no longer be honoured.  He reminded the Committee that the situation was different for Local Government Counts as these dates were known well in advance and the City Hall therefore was not made available for booking by outside bodies.

 

            The Committee accepted that the emphasis placed on the usage of the City Hall had changed considerably and that its efforts to make the building available to a wider range of groups had inevitably led to increased usage with the result that it would not be possible to accede to the request to hold the two 2010 Westminster election counts in the City Hall.  The Committee recognised also, given its desire to encourage enhanced use of the building by the public, that this situation would be likely to pertain in the future since notice of Westminster elections was not normally received until a relatively late stage.

 

3c

Review of Staff Travel Policy - Attendance of Members at Conferences pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Minutes:

            The Head of Committee and Members’ Services reminded the Committee that, at its meeting on 24th October, 2008, it had approved a Policy for Staff Attending Events.  The Policy had been developed to ensure that the approval and control processes for staff attending training events, conferences, study visits, etc., were robust and that attendance at such events provided value for money for the ratepayers of Belfast.  However, when approving the Policy, the Committee had agreed to the inclusion of the following at paragraph 2.7:

 

·         Any event which is also to be attended by a Councillor must have Committee and Council approval prior to the event.

 

This had caused difficulties in recent months in that on a number of occasions Chief Officers had been unable to recommend the attendance of Members at conferences/awards ceremonies since notification of the events had not been received in sufficient time for both Committee approval and Council ratification to be obtained.

 

            The Council, at its meeting on 2nd November, had agreed that, since the current Policy governing the attendance of Members at Conferences could in certain circumstances prove unduly restrictive, the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee be requested to review that Policy at an early date.

 

            The Head of Committee and Members’ Services pointed out that, whilst it was the intention to devise a robust Policy governing the attendance of staff at events, it was the Elected Members who had been curtailed in their attendance at events.  He pointed out that, if a Chief Officer received an invitation at short notice to attend a ceremony at which a Council Service was due to receive an award and there was insufficient time for both Committee and Council approval to be obtained for the attendance of Elected Members and appropriate officers, the Policy still permitted the Chief Officer to authorise the attendance at the event of up to three officers.  It was frequently the case that awards ceremonies, by their very nature, involved the judging of entries and decisions being reached at a late stage and therefore there might not always be time to comply with the current terms of the Policy as set out in point 2.7.  It would be inappropriate in the circumstances for the Council not to be represented by the Elected Members who authorised and oversaw all work carried out by the Council, which was an anomaly which he suggested should be rectified.  He reminded the Members that, prior to the introduction of the new Policy, the Council had delegated authority to both the Chief Executive, in consultation with the appropriate Committee Chairman, and to all Committees to approve attendance at certain events.

 

            Following discussion, the Committee agreed that, with effect from 2nd December, authority be delegated to:

 

(i)   the Chief Executive, in consultation with the appropriate Committee Chairman, to approve the attendance of the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman (or their nominees) at any conference, seminar or similar events held in Northern Ireland where there was insufficient time for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3c

3d

Policy and Procedures for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults pdf icon PDF 220 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            (Ms. B. Thompson, Play Development Officer, attended in connection with this item.)

 

            The Committee considered the undernoted report:

 

“Purpose of the Report

 

      To provide further information to the Strategic Policy & Resources Committee in relation to certain matters affecting Members pursuant to the Council Policy and Procedures for the Protection of Children & Vulnerable Adults.

 

Relevant Background Information

 

      The Strategic Policy & Resources Committee, at its meeting of 18 September 2009, considered a report concerning the provision of training for Elected Members on the Council’s revised Policy & Procedures for the Protection of Child and Vulnerable Adults.  The Committee adopted the recommendation to include in the Members’ Training Plan the provision of awareness sessions on the protection of children and vulnerable adults, and also agreed that a further report on whether Elected Members were required to be screened under the Council’s Child Protection Policy be submitted to a future meeting.

 

      Current Position

 

      The policy and procedures for the protection of children and vulnerable adults were adopted by the Council on 3 June 2002.  The policy was subsequently reviewed and the revised version was agreed by Council on 1 September 2009.

 

      The policy and procedures provide information and guidelines on:

 

1.   what is abuse;

 

2.   recognising signs and symptoms;

 

3.   recording and reporting procedures; and

 

4.   training for staff.

 

      Leisurewatch

 

      The Council agreed at its meeting on 1st September, 2009 to become a member of the Leisurewatch scheme. This will involve awareness training for staff regarding adults who may potentially use public facilities such as leisure centres to gain access to children and young people. A site audit is undertaken, which examines physical, design and security issues and ensures that materials (including signage) are provided in order to confirm that the premises comply with Leisurewatch criteria.

 

      The main difference between Leisurewatch and Child Protection is that the former is about perpetrator awareness. Under this initiative, staff are trained to be aware of potential sex offenders who may come onto the premises to gain access to children. This may include a person hanging around a centre or park specifically at times when children are about. Concerns are fed to the police at an early stage as a precautionary measure. Child Protection deals specifically with the situation where a child or young person may have been harmed or exposed to harm.

 

      Vetting

 

      Following the recommendations of the Bichard Inquiry which reviewed vetting procedures in the United Kingdom, two new systems were introduced replacing the former criminal convictions checks scheme and DHSS checks scheme regarding the Disqualification Lists.

 

A.   AccessNI

 

      Became operational from 1st April, 2008. It provides a more comprehensive system for carrying out checks on the suitability of staff and volunteers to work directly with children and young people.

 

B.  Vetting and Barring Scheme

 

      Launched in October 2009 and to be rolled out from July, 2010. This scheme involves the establishment of a register under the Independent Safeguarding Authority – (ISA). The ISA register will provide a minimum standard and will  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3d

4.

Finance

4a

Update on Financial Estimates Process for 2010-11 pdf icon PDF 89 KB

Minutes:

            The Committee considered the undernoted report:

 

“Purpose

 

      At the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee and the Budget and Transformation Panel in October, 2009, Members were informed that the setting of the district rate 2010/11 would be difficult given the current economic climate and the number of factors which would need to be considered. The purpose of this report, as requested by Members, is to outline the process for identifying savings and agreeing the revenue and capital budgets for 2010/11 and to highlight the key issues which Members will need to address as part of this process.

 

Key Issues

 

      The following are the key issues which Members will need to consider when setting the rate for 2010/11. More detail will follow on each of these for the December Strategic Policy and Resources meeting.

 

      Reserves – at the start of 2009/10 district fund reserves amount to £5.3m. However, during 2009/10 these reserves are planned to fall by £2.4m to subsidise the rate, as was agreed when the rate was set last year. Also, £0.3m has been specified for use on projects which were carried over from 2008/09.  We further need to consider the voluntary redundancy exercise in relation to how this will be funded, the payback to the Council and the implications for reserves. Therefore, a key element of the rate setting process will be to agree a strategy to secure the Council’s reserves position over the next few years. Members will need to consider the implications for the rates of increasing the level of reserves to a more sustainable level.

 

      City Investment Strategy – this was developed by the Council to help deliver Members’ aspirations by supporting major iconic projects in the city and to act as a mechanism for the Council to help lever additional money into the city.

 

      To date, the Council has committed funding to four key iconic projects across the city:

 

(i)   Titanic Signature Project - £10m committed;

 

(ii)  The Mac - £550,000 committed;

 

(iii)The Lyric - £1.25m committed; and

 

(iv)  The Connswater Community Greenway –

      £4.2m committed.

 

      Together these 4 projects have levered in over £153million of investment in the city. The committed cost for the Council (up to 2013) for these four projects is £16m of which nearly £4.5m has so far been raised by 1 April 2009.  In December 2007, it was agreed by the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee that the City Investment Strategy would be funded through a 1% increase in the rate over a three period. 2010/11 is the third year of this arrangement and therefore a 1% increase in the rate to cover city investment strategy funding will be required.

 

      Capital Programme – this already has 57 committed schemes which will require financing of up to £56m. Up to now the affordability in terms of borrowing is £45m. In addition, a detailed paper on the capital programme will be presented to Members at today’s meeting which will discuss further capital schemes with a potential further  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4a

4b

Update on City Investment Framework pdf icon PDF 186 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee considered the undernoted report:

 

“Purpose

 

      Members will recall that a paper was taken to the September meeting of the Strategic Policy & Resources Committee on the proposed development of an overall City Investment Framework within the context of what investment the Council could currently support given the existing budget, people and political constraints.

 

      At this meeting it was agreed that the Director of Improvement would bring an update report back to Committee in November. The purpose of this report is to present –

 

1.      a first cut of a prioritised Capital Programme for political discussion and direction which will need, in due course, to be subject to affordability considerations

 

2.      seek approval to explore options for how the ongoing maintenance backlog is dealt with in the council

 

3.      an update on the current position with regard to the City Investment Strategy

 

4.      an update on sources of funding for investment (loans, grants and alternative sources of financing) which will be further explored in a Capital Financing Strategy being prepared for December.

 

      Members will acknowledge that these are serious and complicated issues for the Council and will involve some difficult decisions over the coming months.

 

Background

 

      Why Belfast needs a City Investment Framework

 

      BelfastCity Council has repeatedly stated its ambitions to take a leadership role in the city to help improve the quality of life of its citizens through place shaping and a number of other measures which are set out in our Corporate Plan 2008/11. The physical aspects of place shaping are contained in some of the projects within the council’s Capital Programme; the commitments by the council to a City Investment Strategy; the emerging priorities from the North, South, East, West debates and the various discussions ongoing with other agencies both within, and outside of, the ongoing RPA discussions relating to assets and projects.

 

      As Members are aware however, resources, particularly money, are in short supply and this situation is unlikely to ease over the next few years. This situation is also likely to be further compounded over the coming years as public sector spending is further squeezed at a time when the Council will be assuming wider roles and responsibilities under the RPA. 

 

      This financial situation is no different to many Cities in Great Britain where as a result government is encouraging Councils to take a more proactive approach to working with the private sector and taking on more risk. 

 

      In addition as a result of the departmental shake-up resulting from the RPA there have been calls for various delivery vehicles to be set up outside the role of the Council with responsibility for development and regeneration.  In this situation it is important that Members reflecting on their political mandate set out a clear agenda for the investment in the City that others can buy into so that Belfast optimises all potential resources and sets clear focus and goals against which delivery can be targeted.  

 

Key Issues

 

      1. Update on Capital Programme and first draft  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4b

4c

Minutes of the Meeting of Budget and Transformation Panel pdf icon PDF 78 KB

Minutes:

            The Committee approved and adopted the minutes of the meeting of the Budget and Transformation Panel of 13th November and, in particular, the decision that a deputation of Elected Members should meet with the Minister for Finance and Personnel in order to discuss the role and performance of Land and Property Services.

 

4d

Framework Agreement for Information Technology Security Services pdf icon PDF 222 KB

Minutes:

            (Ms. R. Crozier, Head of Information Services Belfast, attended in connection with this item.)

 

            The Head of Information Services Belfast informed the Committee that infrastructure security protection dealt with minimising the risk to the Council’s business operations from external and internal threats by protecting its information technology infrastructure, applications and data.  The threats to the Council’s information technology infrastructure were changing rapidly, as were the approaches, applications and technologies which were used to mitigate these threats.  The infrastructure security protection covered protection strategies, technology selection and deployment and best practice and affected the following areas:

 

1.   Network security

2.   Messaging security

3.   Mobile security

4.   Data security

5.   Vulnerability management

6.   Application security

7.   Endpoint security

 

            She pointed out that the Information Services/Information Technology Strategy required the Council to have independent information technology security services to support and provide assurance for the above areas and that the existing framework agreement covering such protection strategies was due for renewal.  She indicated that the cost of acquiring this service would be in the region of £25,000 per annum and that the evaluation criteria would be based on both cost and quality.

 

            Following discussion, the Committee agreed that tenders be invited to establish a new framework agreement for the supply of information technology security services for a three year period, with an option to renew for a further one year.

 

5.

Human Resources

5a

Absence Management - Second Quarter 2009/10 pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee was advised that absenteeism for the period from July till September was showing an average of 3.26 days lost per employee, which represented an increase of 0.47 days per employee when compared to the same period in the previous year, when the figure had been 2.79 days.  This represented an increase also of 0.54 days over Quarter 1 in the current year, which meant that the Council was not on target to reduce overall sickness absence to 10.50 days by 2010/11.  It was pointed out that 72.09% of staff had had no absences during Quarter 2, with the number of staff on long-term sickness absence having increased from 5.10% at the same time last year to 6.04% this year.

 

            The Head of Human Resources advised the Committee that the Council had made substantial progress in reducing absence by an average of four days over the last three years and she believed that it was essential for this progress to be maintained.  She reported that the Human Resources Section had analysed the reasons for absence, had undertaken a compliance audit of those Sections where absence was increasing and had identified areas for improvement for them.  Every section which had increasing absence figures had developed an improvement plan.  However, in order that progress be maintained, she recommended that the issue of absence management be referred to the Audit Panel for further detailed scrutiny to ensure that the necessary appropriate action was being taken.

 

            The Committee noted the information which had been provided and agreed that the Audit Panel be requested to consider the issue of the increasing absence management figures.

 

5b

Rightsizing Exercise pdf icon PDF 77 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee considered the undernoted report:

 

“Purpose

 

      The purpose of this report is to update Members on the three elements of the organisational rightsizing exercise, i.e. voluntary redundancy; vacancy control; and the management of supernumerary employees. 

 

Relevant Background Information

 

      Members agreed an approach to organisational rightsizing at its meeting on 21 August 2009 and asked for further information on vacancy control at its meeting in October 2009. 

 

Key Issues

 

      Voluntary redundancy (VR)

 

1.      The Council initiated a trawl for expressions of interest in voluntary redundancy. This trawl related only to those staff in areas that are potentially affected by the review of centre, ongoing structural reviews, and/or significant revenue losses.

 

2.      64 formal applications for VR have been received.  

 

3.      A pro-forma is being used to assess every application. Members will note that the pro-forma sets out the criteria and principles which members agreed in relation to the implementation of the VR exercise – i.e. the decision to release anyone on VR is dependent on the needs of the council and we retain the right to decide whether or not to accept an employee's application for VR in accordance with the following principles:

 

·         Prioritisation of VR requests will be based on available finance and the level of savings which may be delivered

·         The VR will avoid the need for compulsory redundancy

·         The employee’s post must be redundant or a one to one transferred redundancy can be identified with a clear audit trail linking the person to be redundant with the post to be deleted.

·         The potential for redeployment

·         The need to ensure that essential skills and expertise are maintained

·         All other relevant options have been considered.

 

4.   In addition, departments have been asked to identify any vacant posts in their staffing establishment as this is a crucial element of both managing supernumerary staff and assessing whether or not employees may be released on the grounds of VR. 

 

5.   Consultation with TUs is ongoing throughout the process. Individual redundancy consultation is ongoing with supernumerary employees.

 

      Vacancy control

 

1.      In conjunction with the VR exercise we must consider filling posts on a permanent basis in the context of the organisation’s need to ‘right-size’ and/or create an effective corporate centre. 

2.      Consequently, any vacancy in an area affected by the VR exercise will be held until such times as the outcome of the VR exercise / resultant structural changes are clearer;

3.      If the vacant post is unaffected by the VR exercise it will be considered as a potential redeployment opportunity for supernumerary employees or whether or not it could be internally trawled to mitigate against potential redundancy.

4.      Only if none of these mechanisms are appropriate, will consideration be given to filling the post via public advertisement.  

5.      We are also required to implement the RPA vacancy control system, i.e. the Council now has to consider trawling some posts in the most appropriate RPA ‘restricted pool’. 

6.      The Council’s TUs are consulted throughout the Council’s approach to vacancy control.   

7.      Since  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5b

5c

Review of Building Control Service pdf icon PDF 82 KB

Minutes:

            At the request of the Director of Finance and Resources, the Committee agreed to defer until its next monthly meeting consideration of the decision by the Health and Environmental Services Committee to adopt the recommendations contained within a report from the Business Improvement Service regarding staffing levels within the Building Control Service, to permit the Committee to consider the matter alongside the report on the Council-wide voluntary redundancy scheme.

 

6.

Asset Management

6a

Disposal of Land at Glen Road pdf icon PDF 175 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee considered the undernoted report:

 

“Relevant Background Information

 

      The Strategic Policy & Resources Committee, at their meeting on 19 June 2009, agreed to the proposed disposal of a 1.54 acre site at Glen Road (adj. St Teresa's GAC) to Oaklee Housing Association for £750,000.  Oaklee Housing Association propose to develop a social housing scheme of 18 units.  A portion (0.696 acre) of the lands being sold is currently held by St Teresa's GAC under a 99 year lease from the Council, as part of a lease of other lands.  The sale to Oaklee Housing Association and the development of the proposed social housing scheme is dependent upon St Teresa's GAC surrendering this portion of their leased site back to the Council, who would then dispose of the larger 1.54 acre site to Oaklee Housing Association.

 

      The Strategic Policy & Resources Committee had previously agreed (at their meeting on 19 June 2009) to the payment of a premium of £103,000 to St.Teresa's GAC in return for the surrender of this leased portion.  St Teresa's GAC have however requested a longer term rental agreement in lieu of the £103,000 premium, and in order that they can have more certainty in terms of future financial commitments, they wish to offset the £103,000 in lieu of a fixed rent for the remaining leased site.  In this instance the Council would have the benefit of the full capital receipt including the £103,000.

 

      St Teresa's GAC currently pay a rent of £4250 p.a. although there is an outstanding rent review which was to be settled as part of the surrender agreement.  At the time these lands were leased to St Teresa's GAC they were undeveloped and all works to develop playing pitches etc were undertaken by St Teresa's GAC at their expense.  The user clause in the lease is restricted to playing field purposes.

 

      Provisional agreement has subsequently been made with St Teresa's GAC, subject to Committee approval, to fix the rent at the equivalent of the current passing rent of £4,250 p.a. over the remaining lease term, on the basis of £2,250 p.a. for the first 25 years and £5,112 p.a. for the remainder of the lease term thereafter.  No premium is payable to St Teresa's GAC in this instance, and from the Council's perspective, in valuation terms the benefit of the £103,000 capital sum now as against a future (uncertain) rental uplift is supportable.

 

      It should also be noted that as a result of the proposed disposal to Oaklee the existing car parking area serving the Travellers’ Liaison Office and the Portacabin Facility leased to An Munia Tober (both of which are located on the Council's adjoining retained lands) will require some realignment, and it is proposed that the cost of these fairly minor works is covered from the sale proceeds.   It is unlikely that the cost of these works will exceed £5,000.

 

Key Issues

 

·         St Teresa's GAC will surrender a portion of their leased site to facilitate the proposed disposal of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6a

6b

Disposal of Land at Templemore Avenue pdf icon PDF 172 KB

Minutes:

            The Committee was reminded that, at its meeting on 20th March, it had agreed that discussions be held with other public sector bodies regarding the disposal of land at Templemore Avenue, the site of public conveniences which had subsequently been demolished, and that a report thereon be submitted to the Committee in due course.

 

            The Director of Improvement reported that discussions had been held with the Libraries Authority and the Department of Education and Learning as both organisations had buildings which adjoined the site but neither had expressed an interest in acquiring the land.  However, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive had confirmed that there was a need for social housing in this area and a Housing Association had expressed an interest in acquiring the site.  Accordingly, he recommended that the land be placed on the open market with an agent which would enable the Housing Association and any other interested buyers to make a bid.  He pointed out that the proposed disposal terms would be reported to the Committee in due course for approval.

 

            The Committee adopted the recommendation.

 

6c

Consumer Advice Centre - Renewal of Lease pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Minutes:

            The Director of Improvement advised the Committee that the Council’s Consumer Advice Centre occupied premises in Wellington Place by virtue of a ten year lease, which had commenced on 1st August, 1999 and was subject to rent reviews every five years.  The rent payable for the five years from 1st August, 2004 was £35,200 per annum.

 

            He pointed out that the Centre had occupied the premises from 16th May, 2006, following its vacation by the former Belfast First Stop Shop which had previously held the lease.  The lease for the premises had been the subject of protracted negotiations between the landlord’s agent and the Estates Management Unit since August.  Originally the agent had been seeking a further rental period of ten years at an amount of £66,000 per annum with rent reviews every five years.  However, following negotiation, a rental of £42,300 per annum on a five year term with break options at the end of years 1, 2 and 3 had been provisionally agreed, which provided the Council with greater flexibility.

 

            After discussion, the Committee granted approval to the renewal of the lease for the Consumer Advice Centre in Wellington Place on the terms as outlined above, subject to the completion of a suitable agreement to be prepared by the Director of Legal Services.

 

6d

Proposed Lease Variation and Easement at Woodlands Playing Fields pdf icon PDF 81 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee was advised that, by way of a lease dated 11th December, 1998, the Council had disposed of land at Woodlands Playing Fields to the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education.  As part of this legal arrangement, the site and the access road could be used for school purposes only.

 

            The Director of Improvement reported that the school had been approached by Northern Ireland Water which was seeking to use the school’s access road in order to gain admittance to a pumping station which was situated on adjoining land and had offered to pay a small premium for the grant of a right-of-way over the access road.  He indicated that the Council’s agreement to the grant of the right?of?way was required as it was contrary to the terms of the 1998 lease.  He reported that outline terms had now been agreed between the school, Northern Ireland Water and the Council which would permit Northern Ireland Water use of the access road provided that such use was restricted to the operational necessities associated with the inspection and maintenance of the pumping station.  Accordingly, he recommended that the Committee approve the variation of the lease dated 11th December, 1998 in order to allow the grant of a right?of-way to Northern Ireland Water along the access road to the school, subject to the payment of the fee of £750 to the Council and incorporation of the arrangements into a suitable legal agreement to be approved by the Director of Legal Services.

 

            The Committee adopted the recommendation.

 

7.

Modernisation and Improvement

Minutes:

            (Ms. R. Crozier, Head of Information Services Belfast, attended in connection with these items.)

 

7a

Approval to Use the Northern Ireland Regional Area Network for Internet Service Provision pdf icon PDF 239 KB

Minutes:

            The Head of Information Services Belfast informed the Committee that the contract for the provision of an internet service for the Council was due for renewal and that the Council currently paid £20,000 per year for the service.  She reported that a new public sector framework agreement had been established by the Queen’s University of Belfast for the provision of internet services.  The Northern Ireland Regional Area Network, as it was known, had been developed as a broadband computer network for the tertiary education and public sectors in Northern Ireland.  It delivered high-speed cost effective internet access to some thirty institutions across Northern Ireland and compared favourably to larger internet service providers.  The service from the Northern Ireland Regional Area Network provided 100Mbits service, which was ten times the capacity of the current service.

 

            She reminded the Committee that the Council had a second internet connection, known as a point of presence, at the Duncrue Complex in order to have a contingency for external access to the internet should the Gloucester Street site be lost for any reason.  The low cost of the system being offered by the Northern Ireland Regional Area Network would enable Information Services Belfast to implement the second point of presence, thereby improving resilience and increasing capacity and performance, for the same annual cost as the current arrangement which only provided one point of presence.  She pointed out that it would be necessary to provide an additional firewall to secure the second point of presence at Duncrue, which would cost £20,000 plus an annual support cost of £2,000.  She explained that, since a public sector framework was already in place, the Council would not have to seek tenders for the provision of this service.  Accordingly, she recommended that the Council procure two circuits for internet service provision from the Northern Ireland Regional Area Network Framework to enable a second point of presence to be implemented at Duncrue and to increase internet bandwidth from 10Mbits to 100Mbits and that a firewall be procured to provide security at the second site, at an overall cost of £30,000 plus annual costs of £21,000 over a three year period.

 

            The Committee adopted the recommendation.

 

7b

The Council's Connection to Network Northern Ireland pdf icon PDF 76 KB

Minutes:

            The Head of Information Services Belfast informed the Committee that, currently, each of the 26 councils in Northern Ireland had its own network and telecommunications systems.  These networks were independent of each other and provided no interconnectivity outside an individual council area.  Due to the forthcoming reorganisation of Local Government and the transfer of functions from Central Government, this approach would not be sustainable post 2011.

 

            She informed the Committee that Network Northern Ireland was the regional communications “backbone” infrastructure which had been procured by the Northern Ireland Civil Service and was operational across the Province.  Connection to this “backbone” would provide the required connectivity within new council areas, across councils and to centrally delivered services.  She pointed out that, by connecting to Network Northern Ireland, the requirements for connectivity to transferring functions and inter-council connectivity would be met at a price which would be significantly less than the Council would pay to buy and implement the necessary new infrastructure itself.  The Council would be required to pay a one-off sum of £39,000 to the Network and an annual recurring licence cost of £25,000.  The installation costs had been provided for in the Capital Programme and the annual costs would be met from within Information Services Belfast’s Revenue Budget and she recommended that the Committee agree to proceed on this basis.

 

            Following discussion, the Committee adopted the recommendation.

 

7c

Infrastructure to Deliver Housing Benefit Services for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive pdf icon PDF 82 KB

Minutes:

            The Committee agreed to defer to a future meeting consideration of a report regarding the above-mentioned matter to enable further information to be obtained.

 

8.

Good Relations and Equality

Minutes:

            (Mrs. H. Francey, Good Relations Manager, attended in connection with this item.)

 

8a

Minutes of Good Relations Partnership pdf icon PDF 125 KB

Minutes:

            In considering the minutes of the meeting of the Good Relations Partnership of 13th November, a Member requested information concerning the total amount of money which the Partnership had awarded under the Peace III Small Grants scheme, which the Good Relations Manager undertook to provide directly to the Member who had raised the issue.  The Member advised the Committee that she understood that the Special European Union’s Programmes Body required both the group in receipt of small grant funding and the Council to expend funds in order to evaluate the project which had received financial assistance.  She pointed out that, since the Small Grants scheme was designed to help communities, this double evaluation could be a waste of resources.  In response, the Good Relations Manager confirmed that the Council was acting in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Programmes Body and undertook to provide details of the evaluation process directly to the Member.

 

            Following further discussion, the Committee approved the minutes of the meeting of the Good Relations Partnership of 13th November and adopted the recommendations contained therein, including:

 

            Peace IIII Small Grants

 

            The approval of the issue of a Letter of Offer of funding up to a maximum of £25,000 to South Belfast MaleCare which had achieved the necessary minimum score, subject to the satisfactory completion of pre-contractual checks and a site visit and the agreement of the budget with the Peace III Programme staff.

 

8b

Minutes of Memorabilia Working Group pdf icon PDF 80 KB

Minutes:

            In considering the minutes of the meeting of the Memorabilia Working Group of 5th November, a Member drew the Committee’s attention to a decision of the Group that exhibitions on the United Irishmen, Reflections and Images and the Orange Order be held in that order in the City Hall.  The Member expressed concern that the exhibition on the Orange Order had been introduced into the Working Group’s discussion without prior warning.

 

            Following a lengthy debate it was

 

Moved by Councillor C. Maskey,

Seconded by Councillor McCann,

 

      That the minutes of the meeting of the Memorabilia Working Group of 5th November be approved and adopted, subject to the decision regarding the exhibitions to be held within the City Hall being amended to provide that the United Irishmen exhibition be installed first, followed by the Images and Reflections photographic exhibition, then the Unkindest Cut and finally the exhibition entitled Celebrated Literary Belfast and that a process as to how an exhibition concerning the Orange Order might be held in the City Hall should be considered as part of the Members’ brain-storming session on memorabilia issues which was to be held on 30th November.

 

            On a vote by show of hands nine Members voted for the proposal and ten against and it was accordingly declared lost.

 

            Accordingly, the minutes of the meeting of the Memorabilia Working Group of 5th November were approved and adopted.

 

 

Contact us
Democratic Services
028 9027 0549
Democratic Services
Belfast City Hall
Belfast
BT1 5GS