Agenda and minutes
Strategic Policy and Resources Committee
Friday, 4th November, 2011 10.00 am
Venue: Lavery Room (Room G05), City Hall
Contact: Mr Jim Hanna, Senior Democratic Services Officer 028 9027 0549
An apology for inability to attend was reported from Councillor Mac Giolla Mhín.
The minutes of the meetings of 7th and 21st 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 1st November, subject to:
(i) the omission of the minute of the meeting of 21st October under the heading “Former Grove Leisure Centre” which, at the request of Alderman Browne, was taken back to the Committee for further consideration; and
(ii) to a report being submitted to the Committee in relation to the minutes of Working Groups and how proposals contained therein could be reflected in the minutes of Committees.
Mr. J. Huish
The Committee was advised that Mr. J. Huish, Peer Elected Member from the Local Government Authority, had requested to be in attendance. The Committee acceded to the request and he was welcomed by the Chairman.
Head of Information Services Belfast
The Committee was reminded that, at its meeting on 17th June, it had approved the recruitment process for the appointment of Head of Information Services Belfast. It was reported that, in accordance with the authority delegated to him, the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Selection Panel, had approved the appointment of Mr. Paul Gribben.
Democratic Services and Governance
The Committee submitted the undernoted report:
“1.0 Relevant Background Information
1.1 Over the last few years the Council has been putting in place the frameworks and structures needed to make it a ‘fit for purpose’ local authority which can deliver the effective, value for money services that our citizens deserve. An important element of this has been the review of those key governance documents which underpin how the Council operates and makes its decisions.
1.2 As agreed previously by Members, work has been ongoing over recent months to develop a draft Council Constitution which would bring together into one document the key governance instruments which explain and govern how the Council operates; and to do so in a presentable and accessible way.
1.3 Members will note that the DoE issued a consultation document, on 30 November 2010, setting out local government reform policy proposals including the requirement for each council within Northern Ireland to prepare and publish a constitution. Whilst this legislative requirement does not currently exist, it is considered that the work underway will enable the Council to be more transparent and democratic, and will encourage and foster more efficient working practices.
1.4 The purpose of this report is to update Members on the current status of the Constitution and to set out a clear timetable scheduling when key strands of work will be submitted for the consideration of Committee.
2.0 Key Issues
2.1 Council Constitution - This is a key governance document which covers ‘Who we are’, ‘What we do’, ‘How we do it’ and ‘Our Values’. It will be a living document and, once in place it, along with its supporting documents will be reviewed, on a regular basis to ensure they remain up-to-date.
2.2 There is a number of supporting governance documents which will form an integral part of the Council’s Constitution, and which are currently under review to ensure they remain fit-for-purpose. These include:
1. Corporate Plan The Council’s key strategic planning document setting out the vision and strategic objectives of the Council. As Members are aware work is progressing on the development of the new Corporate Plan 2012?2015.
2. Standing Orders The rules which regulate the transaction of the business of the Council and its Committees and should be read in conjunction with the Council’s Financial Regulations and Scheme of Delegation.
3. Financial Regulations Provides the framework and processes for managing the council’s financial affairs. Currently being updated to take account of the requirements emerging from recent legislative changes including the ‘Local Government (Capital Finance and Accounting) Regulations (NI) 2011’ - need for capital financing and treasury management strategies and a medium term financial plan.
4. Scheme of Delegation Sets out the types of decisions, with a key focus on operational /routine matters, which designated officers can take on behalf of the Council.
The scheme is being reviewed to update it to take account of organisational change that has taken place over the last number of years. There are no ... view the full minutes text for item 4a
The Committee was advised that correspondence had been received from Mr. J. Allister, MLA, QC, seeking the Council’s views on his proposal to introduce to the Assembly a Private Members’ Bill on the subject of the appointment of Special Advisors.
The Democratic Services Manager explained that the appointment of Special Advisors to a Minister in the Assembly was not a matter over which the Council had any responsibility. He pointed out that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to reach a consensus on this matter where there was likely to be different or opposing views taken by the various Parties. The Council’s accepted practice in such circumstances was not to make a corporate response but rather leave it to the Political Parties to respond.
The Committee agreed that the consultation document be referred to the individual Political Parties on the Council.
The Committee was advised that the Northern Ireland Local Government Association would be holding its Annual Conference and Exhibition on 23rd February, 2012 in the Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick. The event would incorporate also the Local Government Awards. The theme for the Conference was “2012 – Positively Local” which would be aimed at showcasing and advocating the future role of efficient, effective and innovative Councils in Northern Ireland. The Council was normally represented at the Annual Conference by Association representatives and the Chief Officers. This year, the Lord Mayor would also be invited by the Association to attend the event as their guest. The approximate cost per delegate was £170.
The Committee authorised the attendance at the Northern Ireland Local Government Association Annual Conference and Exhibition of the Chairman, the Deputy Chairman, the Council’s representatives on the Association and the Chief Officers (or their nominees).
The Director of Finance and Resources submitted for the Committee’s consideration the undernoted report:
“1 Relevant Background Information
1.1 Members will be aware that to date the corporate efficiency programme has delivered savings of some £12m across the Council. At the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on the 15 April 2011, it was agreed that a further indicative efficiency target of £2m per year for 2012-13 and 2013-14. In June 2011 Members agreed the areas where the efficiency savings should be targeted for 2012-13.
1.2 The purpose of this report is to present to Members the cash savings which have been identified and captured and to seek agreement on including them in the departmental budgets as part of the estimate setting for 2012-13.
2 Key Issues
2.1 Members should be aware that the programme has been developed in consultation with all departments and the Trade Union Efficiency Consultative Forum. We have used the same efficiency theme headings as previously agreed by SP&R Committee in May 2010. These cover the areas suggested by the HM Treasury as the fundamental key drivers for developing successful efficiency programmes.
2.2 These themes are:
· Assets and Land
· Budgetary Challenge
· Service Reviews
· Income Generation
2.3 A total of £2.3m of cash savings have been identified and captured for 2012-13. The proposed split of the £2.38m efficiency target across the efficiency themes is set out in Table One below.
2.4 A summary of the savings under each theme within the proposed 2012-13 programme is provided at Appendix One.
2.5 2013/14 Efficiency Programme
The Strategic Policy and Resources Committee in June 2011 agreed a £2m efficiency target for both 2012-13 and 2013-14. Table Two below shows that the council will have delivered £14m cash savings for the period 2006-07 to 2012-13.
This means that cash savings for 2013-14 will become more difficult to identify and take longer to realise. For these reasons work has already started to identify potential cash savings for delivery in 2013-14. This includes:
· A review of vacant posts, agency work and overtime;
· The development of a terms of reference for a review of senior management arrangements;
· A review of Fleet Management by an independent expert is near completion;
· The implementation of recommendations emanating from an independent review of procurement;
· The development of a programme to deliver further energy savings;
· The development of terms of reference to review the council’s internal marketing arrangements;
· The further development of an asset management efficiency programme; and
· The further development of an ICT efficiency programme;
2.6 Further information on the development of the 2013-14 efficiency programme will be brought back to Members once the rate for 2012-13 has been set.
3 Recommendations ... view the full minutes text for item 5a
The Committee considered the undernoted report:
“1.0 Relevant Background Information
1.1 The purpose of this report is to provide Members with an overview of the implications of the introduction of the new Local Government Finance Act 2011.
1.2 The Act modernises the legislative framework relating to Local Government Finance and Councillors’ remuneration. It introduces a new capital finance system and sets out the legislative framework within which the council may manage its finances. It allows the council greater freedom to manage its own finances without having to obtain consent from the Department of the Environment.
2.0 Key Issues
2.1 Annual Budget
The full council is still required to set an annual budget, however, the Act now requires the Director of Finance and Resources to submit to the council a report on the robustness of the estimates and the council must have regard to this report when considering the estimates for the next financial year. The first report of this kind with be presented to the council as part of the rates setting process for 2012/13.
The Director of Finance and Resources is now required to provide the council with a report on the accuracy of its reserves when Members are considering the estimates and setting the rate. The first report of this kind with be presented to the council as part of the rates setting process for 2012/13.
2.3 Borrowing Powers
The new Act retains the power to borrow but removes the requirement for prior approval being sought from the Department of the Environment. Instead the council must now comply with a regulatory framework, known as the Prudential Code, which is already being used by local authorities in the rest of the UK. The Code requires the council to demonstrate that its borrowings are prudent, affordable and sustainable. In order to comply with the Code the council must now agree a set of Prudential indicators which include the following:
1. The impact of borrowing decisions on the level of the district rate;
2. The balance between capital financing and the revenue estimates;
3. The maximum amount of borrowing the council can take on.
The council will also be required to agree a Treasury Management Strategy which will set the boundaries for how the council borrows and invests its money.
2.4 In summary, the Act reflects the need for the finances of the council to be aligned to the delivery of its priorities in an affordable, prudent and sustainable manner. In future, the current rates setting process will be supplemented by the agreement of the Prudential indicators and Treasury Management Strategy. To support Members in implementing these new requirements officers have been working with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) on developing a draft set of Prudential indicators and the Treasury Management Strategy. It is intended to present these to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee in December for consideration and to present them for formal agreement at the January meeting.
2.5 Capital Programme
One of ... view the full minutes text for item 5b
Update on the Review of Future Use and Management of the City Hall
The Committee agreed to defer consideration of a report providing an Update on the Review of Future Use and Management of the City Hall to enable it to be considered by the Political Parties on the Council.
Review of Council Catering Service
Arising out of discussion of the previous matter, the Committee granted authority for a review to be undertaken of the Council’s Catering Service, with a report thereon to be submitted to the Committee in due course.
The Committee considered the undernoted report, together with the revised response which incorporated the comments made by Members at the Party Briefings:
“1.0Relevant Background Information
1.1To bring to the attention of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee a draft response to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) consultation document ‘Establishment of a Belfast City Centre Waiting List attached at Appendix one. The closing date for consultation responses is Monday 7th November 2011. A copy of the consultation document is attached at Appendix two.
1.2A report summarising the consultation document for Members and outlining some of the key issues that the Council may wish to consider in relation to the consultation document, was presented to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on Friday 23rd September. Members agreed to defer consideration of a response to enable Political Party briefings to be undertaken by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
1.3Following communication with Party Leaders, offering all parties briefing sessions, the following party briefings were organised:
· Monday 31st October at 10.30 a.m. – Ulster Unionist Party
· Thursday 3rd November at 2.00 p.m. – Sinn Féin
2.0Summary of the Consultation Document
Documentation issued by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive recommends the establishment of a new Common Landlord Area (CLA), which would be used to manage a waiting list of applicants seeking housing in the Belfast city centre area. The document states that the four main objectives of a city centre waiting list would be:
1. To take advantage of development opportunities for social housing to address housing need
2. To contribute to Planning Services and DSD policies and strategies aimed at regenerating the city centre
3. To support the wider Good Relations agenda
4. To ensure that city centre living is an option for everyone in the wider Belfast area. The document outlines that the establishment of a city centre waiting list would allow the option of city centre living to be accessible to everyone on the waiting list for Belfast and the wider urban area.
The Housing Executive administers and maintains a Common Waiting List which is the ‘gateway’ into all social housing in Northern Ireland. Applicants applying for housing or requesting a transfer normally select two locations, known as Common Landlord Areas (CLAs), where they wish to be housed.
The area which includes Belfast city centre is currently covered by eight district CLAs which were created in 2001 and are based on inner city single identity communities. These eight CLAs are:
· Cromac/Markets, South Belfast
· Sandy Row, South Belfast
· Donegall Pass, South Belfast
· Carlisle New Lodge, North Belfast
· Carrick Hill, North Belfast
· Brown Square, Shankill
· Hamill/John Street, West Belfast
· Bridge End, East Belfast.
2.3Housing Market Context
The document advises that recent research by the Housing Executive has identified potential for 11,500 apartments to be located in the city centre of which 3,900 are completed (3,000 private and 900 social), and 1,048 are under construction with a further 6,400 apartments ... view the full minutes text for item 8a