Agenda and minutes

Venue: Lavery Room - City Hall

Contact: Mr Jim Hanna, Senior Democratic Services Officer  028 9027 0549

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Minutes:

No apologies were reported.

2.

Minutes

Minutes:

            The minutes of the meeting of 20th November, omitting those matters in respect of which the Council had delegated its powers to the Committee, 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 December, subject to the omission of the minute under the heading “Commercial and Procurement Service - Pricing Policy”, which had been referred back to the Committee for further consideration.

 

3.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

            Alderman Sandford and Councillors Garrett and Groogan declared an interest in relation to item 4c – Northern Ireland Local Government Association Consultation – Transformation and Driving Practical Change in Local Government, on the basis that they represented the Council on the Association, but were not required to leave the meeting whilst the item was under consideration. 

 

            Alderman Kingston declared an interest in respect of item 7a – Minutes of the Meeting of the Shared City Partnership, in that he worked on a part-time basis for the Forward South Partnership, which had been recommended for funding, and left the meeting whilst the item was being considered.

 

            Councillors Beattie and McLaughlin declared an interest in relation to item 7b – Equality and Diversity – Five Year Review of the Equality Scheme 2015 – 20 and Annual Report 2019 – 20, on the basis that they represented the Council on the West Belfast Partnership, one of the Council’s consultees on the revised Equality Scheme, but were not required to leave the meeting whilst the item was under consideration.

 

4.

Restricted Items

Minutes:

The information contained in the reports associated with the following six items is restricted in accordance with Part 1 of Schedule 6 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014.

 

      Resolved – That the Committee agrees to exclude the members of the Press and public from the meeting during discussion of these items as, due to the nature of the items, there would be a disclosure of exempt information as described in Section 42(4) and Section 6 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014.

 

5.

Medium Term Financial Plan and Efficiency Programme

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Director of Finance and Resources submitted for the Committee’s consideration a report which provided an update on the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan for 2021/22 - 2023/24 and the rate setting process for 2021/22.

 

            He reported that the business as usual cost pressures and growth proposals set out within the report would require additional Council funding of £4,565,990 for the next financial year. Based on the assumption that the Estimated Penny Product would remain the same as this year, a 1.98% increase in the District Rate would yield an additional £3,312,943 of rates income. Council officers had identified efficiency savings of £1,253,000 which could be delivered without impacting significantly upon the quality of services and the delivery of Council priorities.

 

            He explained that the validity of this assumption was dependent upon work which was being carried out by the University of Ulster on the modelling projections to identify the potential impact of Covid-19 upon district rates income. It was dependent also on the Northern Ireland Executive guaranteeing rates income for 2021/22, based on the Estimated Penny Product for 2020/21. The Committee, at its meeting in January, would receive an update on these and on the Estimated Penny Product position and Party Briefings would take place over the course of that month.

 

            The Director reported further that the 2021/22 District Rate process would, at best, secure the Council’s current position and that, next year, it would not be possible to provide additional investment in priority areas such as inclusive growth and climate. Members had also indicated that they had further ambitions for capital investment. In addition, existing budgets for repairs and renewals/maintenance and the progression of the Waste Plan were under pressure. For those reasons, it would be necessary to review the Council’s overall financial strategy at the beginning of the next financial year.  

 

            After discussion, the Committee:

 

                    i.           noted the information which had been provided; and

 

                   ii.          agreed, in principle, to a District Rate increase of 1.98%, subject to a further report on the outcome of the analysis by the University of Ulster of the Estimated Penny Product being submitted to the Committee meeting in January.

 

6.

Finance Update

Minutes:

            The Committee was reminded that, at its meeting on 20th November, it had received an update on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic upon the Council’s financial position and on a strategy to address the forecast deficit and the mitigation measures which had and would be taken as the situation evolved.  Accordingly, the Director of Finance and Resources submitted a further report which provided details of the latest forecast update, the Council’s reserves and cash flow and the additional support which had been provided by the Northern Ireland Executive in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

            The Committee noted the information which had been provided.

 

7.

Update on the Operational Recovery of Council Services

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee considered a report which provided an update on the recovery of Council services and the response to and ongoing management of Covid-19 restrictions. It provided also details of compliance checks which were being conducted across Council sites and on specific services, such as community centres, Belfast Castle and Malone House, waste collection, including Christmas arrangements, recycling centres and fly-tipping enforcement.

 

            The Director of City Services reminded the Committee that the Northern Ireland Executive had, on the previous evening, announced that a second lockdown would come into effect on 26th December. She confirmed that this would again have implications for the Council and that officers had sought clarification from the Executive on a number of issues and would be reviewing the updated legislation.

 

            After discussion, the Committee noted the information which had been provided and that it would receive regular updates as the lockdown progressed.

 

8.

Neighbourhood Regeneration Fund

Minutes:

            The Director of Physical Programmes reminded the Committee that, at its meeting on 17th December, 2019, it had agreed to establish a Neighbourhood Regeneration Fund of £8m, which would form an integral part of the Council’s Recovery Framework document for the City. Work on the development of the new fund had, until now, been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

            She reviewed the key elements of the Fund and the proposed timeline for its implementation and, accordingly, requested the Committee to adopt the following recommendations:

 

                                 i.     Underpinning Principles

 

a.      only capital projects would be supported;

 

b.     there would be no ongoing revenue implications for the Council;

 

c.      projects must be located within the Belfast City Council area;

 

d.     projects must be within the vires of the Council;

 

e.     the project proposer must not be an individual, sole trader or profit-making organisation;

 

f.       the project must not be placed on a Council asset, unless the Council has leased the asset to a third party on a long-term basis; and

 

g.     applications would be invited by way of an open call process.

 

                               ii.     Minimum Threshold for Investment

 

That, given the ambition of Members and in order to ensure that projects being delivered are substantial and transformational, the minimum threshold level for projects be set at £250k.

 

                              iii.     Thematic Areas

 

That the Neighbourhood Regeneration Fund should focus upon a number of key thematic areas and reflect the priorities agreed within the City Recovery Framework, that is, environmental/sustainable projects, neighbourhood tourism and social enterprise.

 

                              iv.     Funding Allocation Model

 

            That the Committee adopts either option 1 or option 2, as set out below:

 

Option 1 – Allocation based on Population

 

Area

Allocation

£8m/10 (10 DEAs) x numbers of DEAs per Area Working Group

North - Castle and Oldpark DEAs

 

 

£1,600,000

South – Balmoral and Botanic DEAs

 

 

£1,600,000

East – Lisnasharragh, Titanic and Ormiston DEAs

 

 

£2,400,000

West * 

Black Mountain, Collin and Court DEAs

 

 

£2,400,000

 

 

*   (Proportional allocation to Shankill from the overall West area:

West - £1,894,800        Shankill - £505,200)

 

Option 2 – Allocation based on % Population

and % Multiple Deprivation Measure

 

 

 

Population

Multiple Deprivation (Top 20% in NI)

Budget allocation (£8m) -50/50 proportion

Population

%

£

%

£

£

NORTH

63,807

19.1

£764,783

29.58

£1,183,200

£1,947,983

SOUTH

68,597

20.6

£822,195

17.94

£717,600

£1,539,795

EAST

98,249

29.4

£1,177,601

16.31

£652,400

£1,830,001

WEST *

103,073

30.9

£1,235,421

36.17

£1,446,800

£2,682,221

TOTAL

333,726

£4,000,000

£4,000,000

£8,000,000

 

*   (Proportional allocation to Shankill from the overall West area:

West - £2,117,613        Shankill - £564,608)

 

After discussion, it was

 

            Moved by Alderman Dorrian,

            Seconded by Councillor Beattie,

 

      That the Committee agrees to adopt recommendations i., ii., iii. and option 2 of recommendation iv., as set out above.


 

 

Amendment

 

Moved by Councillor Lyons,

Seconded by Councillor Groogan,

 

      That the Committee agrees to defer consideration of the report to enable Members to consider it in greater detail.

 

            On a vote, seven Members voted for the amendment and thirteen against and it was declared lost.

 

Amendment

 

Moved by Councillor Long,

Seconded  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Recruitment of Inclusive Growth Posts and Establishment of Poverty Commission

Minutes:

            The Committee approved the creation and recruitment of the following posts:

 

                                 i.     Inclusive Growth/Poverty Champion (Chief Officer) – City and Organisational Strategy Department;

 

                               ii.     Inclusive Growth Policy and Programme Officer - City and Organisational Strategy Department;

 

                              iii.     Inclusive Growth Development Officer – Place and Economy Department;

 

                              iv.     Inclusive Growth Capacity Building and Engagement Officer – Place and Economy Department; and

 

                               v.     Inclusive Growth HR Post (Employability and Skills) - Corporate HR Section.

 

The Committee agreed to amend the title of the Chief Officer post to Inclusive Growth/Anti-Poverty Champion and noted that a report would be submitted to a future meeting providing details of the role and remit of the proposed Poverty Commission. 

 

10.

Update on DfC Covid-19 Revitalisation Programme pdf icon PDF 358 KB

Minutes:

            The Committee:

 

                            i.          noted that £3.585m had been received to date through the Department for Communities’ Covid-19 Programme, with work packages put in place to roll out Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 work streams, on the basis of previous Committee approvals;

 

                          ii.          noted that a further Letter of Offer for £454k for additional business grant support had on 8th December been received from the Department for Communities;

 

                         iii.          agreed, given that Department’s requirement for in-year capital spend, to align the aforementioned funding to grant schemes already in operation and, in so doing:

 

a)     extended the Covid-19 Business Support Grant by up to £154k to meet the demand already in the system; and

 

b)     extended the Business Cluster and Community Grants scheme by up to £300k, with £150k to be made available to business clusters within the City centre and £150k to clusters on arterial routes, subject to completion of the eligibility assessment set out within the conditions of the scheme.

 

                            i.          noted that the Council would seek from the Department for Communities clarification on the potential for extending the length of time required for capital spend, in light of the latest Covid-19 restrictions which had been announced by the Northern Ireland Executive on the previous day; and

 

                          ii.          agreed, in accordance with Standing Order 47 (a) (2) (c), that the foregoing decisions would not be subject to call-in, on the basis that an unreasonable delay could be prejudicial to the Council’s or the public’s interest.

 

11.

Matters referred back from Council/Motions

12.

Motion – World Environment Day pdf icon PDF 497 KB

Minutes:

            The Committee was reminded that, at the Council meeting on 1st December, the following motion on World Environment Day had been proposed by Councillor Garrett and seconded by Councillor McLaughlin:

 

“We commend the progressive steps and actions which this Council, its partners and community have begun to take in challenging the existential threat facing the planet through what we recognise as the climate emergency.

 

In recognising this crisis, it is our duty as a Council to take proactive steps in educating, supporting and resourcing our communities to do whatever we can to face down the emergency.

 

The United Nations World Environment day takes place on 5th June 2021, with the theme this year focused on Biodiversity. The United Nations has also proclaimed 22nd May as International Day for Biological Diversity, to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.

 

To support biodiversity and positive actions in tackling the climate emergency, we call on the Council, working with partners to develop a similar initiative to that which other authorities have successfully developed, to freely distribute wildflower seed packs for city residents, schools and community and voluntary organisations.

 

In building on this initiative, the Council will also mark World Environment Day on June 5th by illuminating the City Hall green, animating our social media channels with awareness raising content and developing a programme of digital or physical events within health guidance to support our citizens in challenging climate change.”

 

            In accordance with Standing Order 13(f), the motion had been referred without discussion to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee.

 

            In response to a request from a Member, Councillor Garrett agreed to amend his motion to the effect that Translink would be invited to give consideration to planting wild flowers on top of its bus shelters. He agreed also, at the request of another Member, to amend his motion further to provide that, in line with the approach taken by the Council in supporting the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour initiative, all lighting in the City Hall would be turned off for the entire night on World Environment Day.

 

            The Committee adopted the motion, as amended, and agreed that a report be submitted to a future meeting providing details on how it would be progressed.

 

13.

Motion - Clean Air Strategy for Northern Ireland - Response from Minister of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs pdf icon PDF 245 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee was reminded that the Council, at its meeting on 2nd November, had passed the following motion on a Clean Air Strategy for Northern Ireland, which had been proposed by Councillor O’Hara and seconded by Councillor Groogan:

 

“This Council recognises our failure to meet European Union legal limits on air pollution values despite significant progress made over recent years. The World Health Organisation and the UK Government recognise that air pollution is the largest environmental health risk we face today. The Council recognises that air pollution leads to between 28,000 and 36,000 early deaths each year in the UK. The Council also recognises that medical evidence is mounting around the dangerous link between Covid-19 and air pollution.

 

The Belfast Agenda aims for Belfast to be a city which is vibrant, attractive, connected and environmentally sustainable, where everyone experiences good health and wellbeing. In order to achieve that vision, we must address air pollution. This Council already supports adopting the more stringent World Health Organisation air pollution limits where appropriate and has moved ahead with the first detailed assessment of air pollution sources across this city since 2010 with the welcome support from the Department. Our ambition for Clean Air Zones in the city cannot be achieved without enabling legislation from the Assembly. This Council passed a motion supporting more stringent targets and ambition for Clean Air Zones in September 2019 and has included addressing air pollution in our corporate priorities. The Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has committed to bringing forward a ‘Clean Air Strategy discussion document’ which is a roll back from previous commitments in response to Assembly questions. Further delay will lead to continuing early deaths and ongoing breaches of the EU legal limits.

 

The Council also recognises that deprived communities are more likely to suffer from the impact of air pollution, and accordingly also recognises this issue as a class issue, impacted by socioeconomic inequalities.

 

The Council, therefore, agrees to write to the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs requesting the immediate development of a Clean Air Strategy for Northern Ireland, rather than a discussion document which further delays progress on addressing harmful air pollution in the City.”

 

            The City Solicitor informed the Committee that a response had now been received from the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

 

            The Minister had welcomed the Council’s interest in the development of the first Clean Air Strategy for Northern Ireland and its commitment to protecting public health. He had pointed out that both he and his officials shared the Council’s concerns around the environmental health risks created by air pollution and that they were working to develop an effective strategy which would deliver meaningful improvements in air quality across Northern Ireland. They also supported the Council’s detailed assessment of Nitrogen Oxide and particulate matter within Belfast and had offered £125,000 in this financial year to assist with that project.

 

            He had then addressed the call within the Council motion for the immediate development of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.

14.

Motion - Access to Maternity Wards for Birthing Partners – Response from Minister of Health pdf icon PDF 312 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee was reminded that the Council, at its meeting on 2nd November, had passed the following motion on Access to Maternity Wards for Birthing Partners, which had been proposed by Councillor T. Kelly and seconded by Councillor Bunting:

 

“This Council notes with concern the current restrictions placed around access to maternity wards for birthing partners due to COVID-19. Furthermore, it recognises the varying measures across the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust area and the additional availability of 15 minute COVID-19 testing, agrees to write to the Health Minister asking that further consideration is given to a consistent approach thus allowing birthing partners to be afforded increased access to antenatal, maternity and neonatal services.”

 

            The City Solicitor informed the Committee that a response had now been received from the Minister of Health.

 

            The Minister had explained that the restriction of visitors to hospitals had been a key strategic component of managing the Covid-19 pandemic and that it had been introduced to protect patients, visitors and staff from the risk of infection.

 

            As a result of the Executive’s decision to invoke limited additional restrictions across Northern Ireland, in response to increasing Covid-19 transmissions, updated visiting guidance for maternity services had been published and had taken effect from 23rd September. The guidance had confirmed that the specific restrictions for each care setting were aligned to the pandemic alert levels/R value and were based on the best scientific advice available, with restrictions applying in line with the current regional alert level position. The Minister had pointed out that the alert level was currently at Level 4, which was defined as “a high or rising level of transmission – enforced social distancing”. This had meant that, for expectant mothers:

 

“Birth partners will be facilitated to accompany the pregnant women to dating scan, early pregnancy clinic, anomaly scan, in the event of pregnancy loss and bereavement, Foetal Medicine Department, when admitted to individual room for active labour (to be determined by midwife) and birth and, to visit in antenatal and postnatal wards for up to one hour once a week.”

 

            The Minister had referred to the fact that the motion had stated that varying measures were being applied across the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust area. He pointed out that these restrictions applied equally to all Health and Social Care Trust maternity settings across Northern Ireland. However, it should be noted that the decision to permit visitors into a facility on a day-to-day basis still rested with the midwife in charge and that it would be based on a risk assessment of that specific setting and was dependent upon the ability to ensure the safety of patients, staff and visitors.

 

            The Minister had then addressed the request for clarification on whether an additional availability of fifteen minute Covid-19 testing would allow for further consideration to be given to the restrictions. He explained that one of the key priorities of the Department of Health was to ensure that there was sufficient capacity to test  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.

15.

Commercial and Procurement Service - Pricing Policy pdf icon PDF 315 KB

To consider further the minute of the meeting of 20th November which was referred back to the Committee by the Council on 1st December (minute attached).

Minutes:

            The Committee considered further the minute of the meeting of 20th November which had been referred back to the Committee by the Council at its meeting on 1st December. An extract of the minute is set out hereunder:

 

Extract from minutes of:-

 

MEETING OF STRATEGIC POLICY AND

RESOURCES COMMITTEE

 

20th November, 2020

___

 

 

Commercial and Procurement Service - Pricing Policy

 

            The Committee considered the following report:

 

“1.0     Purpose of Report or summary of Main Issues

 

            The 3-year Transformational Strategy prepared by the Commercial and Procurement Service (CPS) is due to be presented to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee in November.

 

1.2       This Strategy includes details of our first Commercial Plan, which formalises our future ambitions relating to commercialisation and income generation.

 

1.3       To support our specific ambition to generate additional income, the Commercial team within the CPS has developed:


 

 

·        A corporate Pricing Policy; and

 

·        A framework document, 'Setting Prices - Getting it Right', to guide Council officers when introducing pricing or increasing/decreasing prices.

 

1.4       The above policy and framework was presented to the SP&R Committee on 23rd October.

 

1.5       At that meeting, the Committee agreed to defer any decisions relating to the above in order to allow the policy and framework to be considered alongside the Commercial Plan.

 

1.6       The purpose of this report is to:

 

·        provide members with an update on the pricing policy and framework;

 

·        provide further details on the rationale for selecting the four priority projects in order to support the decision-making process; and

 

·        obtain approval on related actions (detailed below).

 

2.0       Recommendations

 

2.1       The Committee is asked to:

 

1.     approve the Commercial Plan and Pricing Policy, as detailed in the appendices; and

 

2.     agree that the  following priority areas be researched in line with the above policy and framework (all findings and proposals to come back to the SP and R Committee).

 

a.     Malone House - explore possible alternative commercial uses for the building to maximise asset and reduce annual operating costs;

 

b.     Events - develop a Council-wide events policy & procedures to include establishing transparent, fair and consistent pricing options;

 

c.     Bulky Waste - explore potential pricing options for the bulky waste service to reduce annual operating costs; and

 

d.     Pest Control - explore potential pricing options for the pest control service to reduce annual operating costs.

 

3.0       Main Report

 

            Introduction

 

3.1       The Commercial Plan formalises our future ambitions relating to commercialisation and income generation.

 

3.2       Fundamentally, this is about integrating commercial activities and a commercial mind set into the core of how we operate as an organisation.

 

3.3       The overarching aim of our Commercial Plan is to generate a greater financial return that contributes to the Council’s investment plans and its efficiency programme, and assists to safeguard services that are delivered in our local communities.

 

3.4       To support our specific ambition to generate additional income, the Commercial team, in partnership with relevant individuals/departments, has commenced a strategic programme of work that includes (amongst other things):

 

·        Preparing a Corporate Pricing Policy and associated  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.

16.

Belfast Agenda/Strategic Issues

17.

Update on City Region Growth Deal pdf icon PDF 435 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee considered the following report:

 

“1.0      Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues

 

1.1       This report is to provide an update to Committee on the progress of the Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD), including an update on the development of Outline Business Cases (OBCs) and progress on agreeing a phased deal with the NI and UK Governments.

 

1.2       The Committee receives regular reports on projects within the BRCD which are led by Belfast City Council and considered a report last month on the OBC for the Belfast Destination Hub. The Committee will also be separately considering a report on the Belfast Digital Innovation Partnership, which will play a key role in supporting the delivery of the Belfast Innovation/Smart district, the delivery of which is dependent on BRCD funding for global centres of innovation excellence and for next generation digital infrastructure to support testbeds within the district.

 

1.3       A summary is also attached to this report which provides a brief overview of key regional innovation and digital projects funded through the BRCD that will transform the region’s economy, including Belfast’s economy, tackling fundamental barriers to inclusive growth, driving increased productivity and helping to drive economic recovery.

 

2.0       Recommendations

 

2.1       The Committee is asked:

 

·        note the programme overview and the progress that has been made in Outline Business Case (OBC) development for all projects and on the development of an agreed approach with the UK and NI Governments to the delivery of a phased deal; and

 

·        note the summary attached which includes an overview of the regional innovation and digital projects that will transform the region’s economy including Belfast.

 

3.0       Main Report

 

            Programme Overview

 

3.1       In November, the Committee was advised that OBCs were progressing towards completion with work continuing on resolving key issues and challenges particularly in respect of budget profiling and scalability.  Detailed engagement has also been taking place with Finance Directors to ensure that financial information within the OBCs has been subject to appropriate levels of assurance and that financial plans are in place in relation to capital investments and revenue financing, so that the transformative investments included within the BRCD can proceed with confidence. 

 

3.2       A full list of projects and the current position in relation to OBC completion have been circulated. The table confirms that OBCs will have been completed for all projects by the end of December, though as outlined below it is recognised that further revision of OBCs may still be required for projects that are an earlier stage of development. Once these are considered by the relevant BRCD Advisory Board they will be submitted to the BRCD Executive Board. In addition to ensuring that projects are delivering on the priority outcomes for the BRCD, a key role of the Advisory Boards and the Executive Board will be ensuring that the projects which are being recommended for inclusion in the Deal are capable of being delivered within the agreed budget envelopes for each pillar. Significant progress has been made in this regard with,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.

18.

Belfast Innovation District pdf icon PDF 173 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee approved the following corporate response to the Northern Ireland Local Government Association’s consultation on ‘Transformation and Driving Practical Change in Local Government’:

 

 

COUNCIL RESPONSE

 

NORTHERN IRELAND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION

TRANSFORMATION AND DRIVING PRACTICAL CHANGE IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT

 

Belfast City Council (the Council) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the NILGA consultation on Transformation and Driving Practical Change in Local Government.

 

GENERAL COMMENTS

 

The Council believe that this is an important and timely piece of work given that five years has passed since the 2015 local government reform programme. We have also experienced the impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic, and the unprecedented impacts that this has placed on society as a whole, and on local government and the future sustainability of local councils.

 

This engagement exercise presents a real opportunity for local government, as a cohesive sector, to coalesce and create a common agenda which will help inform, influence and establish a strong collegiate position.

 

Local government reforms that came into effect in April 2015 significantly shifted the role of local government towards one of active place-shaping. These arrangements provided councils with greater responsibility for important powers such as spatial and land-use planning, off-street car parks, local economic development and tourism. However, a residual sense exists across local government that the powers which transferred to councils did not go far enough. It is our position that this could be addressed by implementation of a second tranche of reform.

 

Further devolution of core place-shaping functions will allow for a more responsive approach to communities’ needs and aspirations.  Councils have a greater understanding of, and engagement with, their local communities enabling the tailoring of services, improved decision-making and the delivery of local outcomes.

 

However, given the previous experience of the 2015 reform programme, we must emphasise the importance that if there is to be any further devolution of powers to local government this must be supported by greater resource, clarity of purpose and occur in a planned and phased manner to ensure continuity and certainty for all stakeholders.

 

In summary the main issues relating to the future role of local government that the Council wish to highlight include:

 

·        Central government commitment to work in partnership with local councils, by providing the necessary funding and policy backdrop, from which councils can play a leading role in the sustainable recovery of their local areas;

·        enhanced devolution to local government including regeneration, planning, skills investment and planning, and local transport planning;

 

·        greater powers regarding local taxation measures and enhanced local investment powers, to ensure that that councils have the fiscal levers to tackle issues at community and city level; and

 

·        the introduction of legislation/measures that strengthen the relationship between central and local government, including a duty to collaborate to provide for responsive and integrated service delivery at regional, city and community level.

 

These issues are discussed in detail in this our submission and our responses to the questions posed.

 

1.      Covid 19 to date – please highlight the biggest sustainability, strategic and operational issues  ...  view the full minutes text for item 18.

19.

Northern Ireland Local Government Association Consultation – Transformation and Driving Practical Change in Local Government pdf icon PDF 253 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee approved the following corporate response to the Northern Ireland Local Government Association’s consultation on ‘Transformation and Driving Practical Change in Local Government’:

 

 

COUNCIL RESPONSE

 

NORTHERN IRELAND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION

TRANSFORMATION AND DRIVING PRACTICAL CHANGE IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT

 

Belfast City Council (the Council) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the NILGA consultation on Transformation and Driving Practical Change in Local Government.

 

GENERAL COMMENTS

 

The Council believe that this is an important and timely piece of work given that five years has passed since the 2015 local government reform programme. We have also experienced the impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic, and the unprecedented impacts that this has placed on society as a whole, and on local government and the future sustainability of local councils.

 

This engagement exercise presents a real opportunity for local government, as a cohesive sector, to coalesce and create a common agenda which will help inform, influence and establish a strong collegiate position.

 

Local government reforms that came into effect in April 2015 significantly shifted the role of local government towards one of active place-shaping. These arrangements provided councils with greater responsibility for important powers such as spatial and land-use planning, off-street car parks, local economic development and tourism. However, a residual sense exists across local government that the powers which transferred to councils did not go far enough. It is our position that this could be addressed by implementation of a second tranche of reform.

 

Further devolution of core place-shaping functions will allow for a more responsive approach to communities’ needs and aspirations.  Councils have a greater understanding of, and engagement with, their local communities enabling the tailoring of services, improved decision-making and the delivery of local outcomes.

 

However, given the previous experience of the 2015 reform programme, we must emphasise the importance that if there is to be any further devolution of powers to local government this must be supported by greater resource, clarity of purpose and occur in a planned and phased manner to ensure continuity and certainty for all stakeholders.

 

In summary the main issues relating to the future role of local government that the Council wish to highlight include:

 

·        Central government commitment to work in partnership with local councils, by providing the necessary funding and policy backdrop, from which councils can play a leading role in the sustainable recovery of their local areas;

·        enhanced devolution to local government including regeneration, planning, skills investment and planning, and local transport planning;

 

·        greater powers regarding local taxation measures and enhanced local investment powers, to ensure that that councils have the fiscal levers to tackle issues at community and city level; and

 

·        the introduction of legislation/measures that strengthen the relationship between central and local government, including a duty to collaborate to provide for responsive and integrated service delivery at regional, city and community level.

 

These issues are discussed in detail in this our submission and our responses to the questions posed.

 

1.      Covid 19 to date – please highlight the biggest sustainability, strategic and operational issues  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.

20.

Physical Programme and Asset Management

21.

Update on Physical Programme pdf icon PDF 435 KB

Minutes:

            The Committee considered the following report:

 

“1.0      Purpose of Report or Summary of Main Issues

 

1.1       The Council’s Capital Programme is a rolling programme of investment which either improves the existing Council facilities or provides new Council facilities. This report provides an update on the New Crematorium project and seeks approval from the Committee for the Council to act as the delivery agent for any capital projects as required under the DfC Covid19 Revitalisation Programme including necessary procurement processes.

 

2.0       Recommendations

 

2.1       The Committee is asked –

 

                           i.                Capital Programme - New Crematorium Project – To agree the recommendations emerging from the Strategic Cemeteries and Crematoria Working Group and the People and Communities Committee in relation to the design options for the new Crematorium as outlined in 3.3 below; and

 

                          ii.                DfC Covid19 Revitalisation Programme – To agree that the Council acts as the delivery agent for a range of projects proposed under the Revitalisation funding. Members are further asked to agree that any necessary procurement processes for these projects be initiated as required with contracts to be awarded on the basis of most economically advantageous tenders received and full commitment to deliver.

 

3.0       Main Report

 

3.1       Update on New Crematorium Capital Project

 

            Members are asked to agree the recommendations from the Special Strategic Cemeteries and Crematorium Development Working Group meeting held on 25th November 2020 to update Members on the design options for the new crematorium. These recommendations were agreed by People and Communities Committee at its meeting on 8 December 2020 where it was recommended that they should be presented to SP&R to be endorsed.

 

3.2       The £18m new Crematorium Project is at Stage 3 – Committed within the Capital Programme. Planning and design stages are underway. An Integrated Design Team presented options of the design development to Members of the Working Group on 25th November. Three options were presented as to how to accommodate 200 people in each of the two chapels, whilst providing a more sympathetic space for the regular smaller services of around 50 people with the three options being - 

 

·        Option 1 – partitioned; provision of 200 seat capacity on ground level with the possibility to partition the space with a moveable wall and curtain;

 

·        Option 2 – use of entrance hall: provision of 150 seat capacity in main hall with the possibility to include the entrance hall through moveable acoustic screen to provide 200 seat capacity;

 

·        Option 3 – mezzanine: provision of 160 ground floor seat capacity and 40 seat mezzanine

 

            After considering the options the Strategic Cemeteries and Crematorium Development Working Group noted that the preferred option was Option 3 – mezzanine: provision of 160 ground floor seat capacity and 40 seat mezzanine from both a design and operational perspective.  This Option was agreed by the People and Committee on 8th December from an operational and client perspective.  In addition, the removal of the function room from the new building development and the potential of the offer of this facility  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.

22.

Asset Management pdf icon PDF 432 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee:

 

                       i.     Finvoy Street – Licence from Walkway Community Association

 

-        approved the entering into a Licence for works, access and use of lands at Finvoy Street/Upper Newtownards Road from Walkway Community Association, to facilitate the removal of its former community centre modular building and the subsequent construction of a new centre funded by the Social Investment Fund.

 

                   ii.        Proposed Temporary Occupancy of International Conference Centre Waterfront Hall for use as a Nightingale Court

 

-        noted the arrangements for a temporary use of the International Conference Centre as a Nightingale Court to assist with the backlog of cases within the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service and provide adequate social distancing measures. 

 

                  iii.       Little Victoria Street, Belfast – Licence Agreement 

 

-       approved the grant of a Licence to Clear Channel NI Ltd. at Little Victoria Street Car Park for an advertising site.

 

23.

Update on Area Working pdf icon PDF 407 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee approved and adopted the minutes of the meetings of the North Belfast Area Working Group of 25th November, the West Belfast Area Working Group of 26th November and the East Belfast Area Working Group of 3rd December, including the following recommendations from the North Belfast Area Working Group:

 

            BIF Programme

 

i.          Marrowbone Millennium Park Project – the reallocation of £250,000 of the anticipated underspend of £305,183 from Cancer Lifeline and Grace Family Centre; and

 

ii.         Love Works – that a scoping exercise be undertaken in relation to potential capital works for the Love Works Co-operative in Duncairn Gardens.

 

24.

Finance, Resources and Procurement

25.

Belfast City Council Statement of Accounts 2019-20 pdf icon PDF 273 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee considered the following report:

 

“1.0      Purpose of Report or Summary of Main Issues

 

1.1       The purpose of this report is to present to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee the Statement of Accounts of the Council, including the Annual Governance Statement, for the period ending 31st March 2020.

 

1.2       The Statement of Accounts are an important element of the council’s overall corporate governance framework as they provide assurance to Members and ratepayers on the stewardship of the council’s finances and its financial position.

 

1.3       The Statement of Accounts for the year ended 31st March 2020 have been prepared in line with the Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting in the United Kingdom 2019/20 based on International Financial Reporting Standards and the Department for Communities Accounts Direction, Circular LG 03/20 dated 17 February 2020.

 

1.4            I can confirm that the Statement of Accounts for the year ended 31st March 2020 has been prepared in the form directed by the Department for Communities and in my opinion the Statement of Accounts give a true and fair view of the income and expenditure and cash flows for the financial year and the financial position as at the end of the financial year.

 

2.0       Recommendations

 

2.1       The Committee is asked to

 

·        approve the Council’s Statement of Accounts and incorporated Annual Governance Statement for the year ended 31 March 2020; and

 

·        agree that the decision should not be subject to call-in (as indicated above) because it would cause an unreasonable delay which would be prejudicial to the Council’s and the public’s interests given that the statement of accounts must be published by 31st December, 2020.

 

3.0       Main Report

 

            Key Issues

           

            Audit Opinion

 

3.1       It is the Local government Auditors’ opinion that:

 

·        the financial statements give a true and fair view, in accordance with relevant legal and statutory requirements and the Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting in the United Kingdom 2019-20, of the financial position of Belfast City Council as at 31 March 2020 and its income and expenditure for the year then ended; and

 

·        the statement of accounts have been properly prepared in accordance with the Local Government (Accounts and Audit) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 and the Department for Communities directions issued thereunder; and

 

·        the part of the Remuneration Report to be audited has been properly prepared in accordance with the Department for Communities directions made under the Local Government (Accounts and Audit) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015; and

 

·        the information given in the Narrative Report for the financial year ended 31 March 2020 is consistent with the financial statements.

           

            Reserves

 

3.2       General Fund

 

            The credit balance on the General Fund has increased to £28,692,673 (of which £15,791,541 relates to specified reserves).  The movement on the reserves balance is summarised in Table 1 below:


 

 

            Table 1: Summary of Reserves Position

 

Opening Balance

£25.8m

 

 

In year movement in reserves

£ 2.9m

 

 

Closing Balance

£28.7m

 

 

Specified Reserves at year end

£15.8m

 

 

Balance Available

£12.9m

 

 

3.3       Capital Fund            £19,369,748

 

            The  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.

26.

Update on Contracts pdf icon PDF 167 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee:

 

·        approved the public advertisement of tenders, as per Standing Order 37a, detailed in Table 1 below;

 

·        approved the award of Single Tender Actions, in line with Standing Order 55 exceptions, as detailed in Table 2 below;

 

·        approved the modification of the contract term, as per Standing Order 37a, detailed in Table 3 below; and

 

·        noted the award of retrospective Single Tender Actions, in line with Standing Order 55 exceptions, as detailed in Table 4 below.


 

 

Table 1 – Competitive Tenders

 

Title of Tender

Proposed Contract Duration

Estimated Total Contract Value

SRO

Short description of goods/ services

Tender for the delivery of Belfast District PCSP’s Primary School Aged Cyber Safety Project (fully funded) (T2122)

Up to 45 months

£60,000

S Toland /

R Black

Project designed to help keep children safe online

Delivery of PCSP’s Adult/Young Person Cyber Safety Project in Belfast (fully funded) (T2130)

Up to 45 months

£75,000

S Toland /

R Black

Approval granted in Oct 2020; approval sought for increase in contract duration by 9 months

Tender for the delivery of PCSP’s Adults at Risk of Harm Project (T2125)

Up to 42 months

£45,000

S Toland /

R Black

Approval granted in Oct 2020; approval sought for increase in contract duration by 6 months

Tender for Educational Awareness Programme (Fully Funded) (T2129)

Up to 45 months

£90,000

S Toland /

R Black

Approval granted in Oct 2020; approval sought for increase in contract duration by 9 months

Tender for the provision of West Belfast DPSPC’s Community Safety Initiative (T2124)

Up to 45 months

£132,000

S Toland /

R Black

Approval granted in Oct 2020; approval sought for increase in contract duration by 9 months

Support to deliver A Bolder Vision) (part funded by DfC & DfI)

Up to 1 year

£120,000

A Reid

Work will include development of delivery scenarios, options for delivery & implementation plan

Tender for the Hire of up to and over 7.5T & Glass Collection Vehicles

Up to 5 years

£550,000

S Toland /

R Black

Hire of vehicles to support frontline workers and operations.


 

Capacity Building Programme for Belfast’s Culture & Tourism sector as part of the A City Imagined programme

Up to 2 years

£70,000

A Reid

Development of evidence based projects aligned to the Cultural Strategy Implementation Plan

 

Table 2 - Single Tender Actions

 

Title of Contract

Supplier

Value

SRO

GPS fleet system – support and maintenance

Masternaut

£120,000

R Cregan

 

Table 3 - Modification to Contract term

 

Title of Contract

Supplier

Modification

SRO

Provision of continental markets at City Hall (T1677)

Marketplace Europe

12 month extension. Concession contract – projected £100k income.

A Reid

 

Table 4 - Retrospective Single Tender Actions

 

Title of Contract

Supplier

Value

SRO

BREXIT support for businesses in the Belfast City Council area (retrospective reporting)

Oxford Innovation

£46,000

A Reid

Removal of Unauthorised Street Signs

(retrospective reporting)

Confidential

£19,500

S Toland / R Black

Hardware replacement & engineer time to Housing Benefit system server

(retrospective reporting)

Greenblade Solutions Ltd

£7,000

R Cregan

 

27.

The Five C's Public Realm Catalyst Project pdf icon PDF 421 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee considered the following report:

 

“1.0      Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues

 

1.1       To seek approval to commit developer contributions secured through the planning process in order to enable delivery of a public realm scheme known as ‘The Five Cs Public Realm’ catalyst project, which covers Chichester Street, Callender Street, College Avenue, College Court and College Street.

 

2.0       Recommendations

 

2.1       The Committee is asked to

 

·        note the update in respect of the use of developer contributions for a proposed public realm project known as ‘The Five C’s Public Realm Project’ in Belfast City Centre.

 

·        grant approval for the commitment of £3,150 secured as a developer contribution following receipt of amended information regarding planning approval at No. 78 College Avenue (LA04/2015/0419/F) to part-fund the Five Cs public realm catalyst project; and

 

·        grant approval for the commitment of an additional £243,310 secured as developer contributions from The Paper Exchange (LA04/2019/0909/F) and Chichester House (LA04/2016/0548F) to part-fund the Five Cs public realm catalyst project, with a further £42,500 to be committed from the Chichester House scheme on receipt of payment which will be triggered by occupation. 

 

3.0       Main Report

 

            Background

 

3.1       As agreed at the SP and R meeting in November 2018 and the CG and R meeting in December 2018, officers have been working with the Department for Communities (DfC) to develop a programme of public realm catalyst projects utilising historical developer contributions.

 

3.2       These contributions are legally defined by planning agreements and are designed to mitigate the impacts of new development. They can only be required where they are necessary to make the development acceptable and, once secured, are ring-fenced for an agreed purpose.  The agreements through which all contributions referred to in this report have been secured specify that they may only be used for public realm improvements to mitigate the impact of increased footfall and to improve connectivity. The contributions may only be used within a defined geographical area, and must be ‘committed’ by Council within a specified time period of receipt, or risk being returned to the developer.

 

3.3       Governance arrangements for developer contributions were agreed by the SP and R Committee on 17th December 2019.The commitment of developer contributions requires authorisation by Planning Service and Legal Services for the spending service area (in this case City Regeneration & Development) to proceed, with financial oversight provided by the Business Support Manager. No monies will be paid until all services have provided authorisation.

 

3.4       At its meeting on 23rd November 2018, the SP and R Committee agreed to commit £475,650 of developer contributions from two developments (including No. 78 College Avenue -LA04/2015/0419/F) to part fund (with DfC) a public realm catalyst project in the College Street/College Avenue area. It was also noted that there would be an opportunity for Members and local stakeholders, including traders and residents, to engage in the development of proposals.

 

3.5       Following receipt of amended information in relation to No. 78 College Avenue (LA04/2015/0419/F), a further agreement secured an additional contribution of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.

28.

Equality and Good Relations

29.

Minutes of Meeting of Shared City Shared City Partnership pdf icon PDF 183 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee approved and adopted the minutes of the meeting of the Shared City Partnership held on 7th December, including the recommendations:

 

                            i.          that Councillor O’Hara be elected to serve as Deputy Chairperson for the Shared City Partnership until May, 2021;

 

                          ii.          to note the Revised Action Plan 20/21 which was submitted to The Executive Office summarising the subsequent changes that have been approved after the previous submission;

 

                         iii.          to note that 5k has been awarded under delegated authority to The Hubb, as previously agreed, as part of the North Belfast Diversionary Project;

 

                         iv.          to recommend to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee that the contribution to the Clean Green Inclusive and Safe Initiative from the Good Relations Action budget be increased to £7,550, so that the project can progress in year;

 

                          v.          that Forward South be offered additional support of up to £7k for the Roma helpline, until 31st March 2021, to allow a continuation of service and ensure a smooth transition to the Peace IV project;

 

                         vi.          to note the opening of the two funding programmes under the Council’s Community Recovery Support Grants Scheme and to forward the information to their contacts as widely as possible;

 

                        vii.          to approve the re-profiling request from Duncairn Community Partnership to upgrade their current technology capability to accommodate the on-line delivery of good relations programmes targeting young people and new communities;

 

                      viii.          to invite representatives from the IFI Programme to present on their work at a future meeting of the Partnership;

 

                         ix.          to recommend that the Council engages in social media and other relevant communication mediums to provide a message of support to EU nationals living in the city, acknowledging their contribution to Belfast and stipulating that the Council wishes them to stay and would encourage them to apply to the EU settlement scheme; and

 

                          x.          to also call on all employers and civic society organisations across the greater Belfast area to issue a similar statement to that above, acknowledging the contributions of EU citizens to Belfast, stipulating that they should stay and encouraging them to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

 

            Peace IV

 

                            i.          to note the report in relation to the PEACE IV Secretariat and agree that further clarification from SEUPB in terms of modifications be sought;

 

                          ii.          following a presentation by MDL on Dialogue and Engagement of Forth Meadow Community Greenway, to note the next steps of developing the management model and further engagement with the West Area Working Group;

 

                         iii.          to note the report and progress on the Shared Spaces and Services theme;

 

                         iv.          to note the report and update in relation to projects within the Children and Young People’s theme;

 

                          v.          in terms of the Building Positive Relations theme, to agree:

 

a.      that costs (£4,500) and time for the BPR3 NICVA researcher be permitted under the current contract;

 

b.      BPR3 - the Resource Allocation for Year 1 area cluster projects (£4k) be realigned into the Year 2 cluster area in instances where there is low/no take up  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.

30.

Equality and Diversity - Five Year Review of the Equality Scheme 2015-20 and Annual Report 2019-20 pdf icon PDF 168 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee approved the following documents for submission to the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland:

 

                            i.          a five-year review of the Council’s Equality Scheme;

 

                          ii.          an updated Equality Scheme, which reflected a number of minor structural/functional changes; and

 

                         iii.          an annual report for 2019/20 on the progress made by the Council on implementing the arrangements set out within the Equality Scheme to discharge its Section 75 duties. 

 

31.

Operational Issues

32.

Minutes of Meeting of Party Group Leaders' Consultative Forum pdf icon PDF 399 KB

Minutes:

The Committee approved and adopted the minutes of the meeting of the Party Group Leaders’ Consultative Forum of 10th December.

 

33.

Minutes of Meeting of Audit and Risk Panel pdf icon PDF 250 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee approved and adopted the minutes of the meeting of the Audit and Risk Panel of 8th December.

 

34.

Request for Donation - Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice pdf icon PDF 580 KB

Minutes:

            The Committee was informed that the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice Support Group had, in November, written to the Council seeking sponsorship towards the hosting of an online gala concert entitled “Northern Ireland’s Big Night in 2020” which would be taking place on 4th December. 

 

            The Chief Executive reported that the Children’s Hospice, like many charities, had struggled to raise funds since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and that the support group had stressed that any donation from the Council would be welcomed. She pointed out that it was within the gift of the Council to accede to such a request and, accordingly, she recommended that £1,000 be donated to the Hospice.

 

            The Committee adopted the recommendation and agreed that a report be submitted to a future meeting providing information on:

 

                       i.          the savings to be derived from ceasing the production of Members’ corporate diaries and Christmas cards and the process for donating those savings to a chosen local charity each Christmas;

 

                     ii.          the potential for distributing surplus food from Committee and other meetings to organisations providing food support in the City; and

 

                    iii.          the Lord Mayor’s annual hospitality budget.

 

35.

Requests for the use of the City Hall and the Provision of Hospitality pdf icon PDF 147 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee approved the recommendations made in respect of applications received up to 5th December, as set out below:

 

NAME OF ORGANISATION

FUNCTION DATE

FUNCTION DESCRIPTION

CRITERIA MET

ROOM CHARGE

HOSPITALITY

OFFERED

CIVIC HQ RECOMMEND

2021 EVENTS

British Council of Northern Ireland

On Date to be agreed

 

Dependent on City Hall recovery and COVID guidelines 

Mock Council of the European Union

Schools event to encourage debating skills and participation in democracy now in 15th year.

 

Numbers attending – 90

 

* Numbers and room layout will be reviewed and revised in line with COVID19 social distancing guidelines at the time of this event.

 

B & D

No (Charity)

No

Recommend to approve,

No charge,

No hospitality

 

 

 

 

36.

Minutes of Meeting of Active Belfast Limited Board pdf icon PDF 479 KB

Minutes:

            The Committee approved and adopted the minutes of the meeting of the Active Belfast Limited Board of 14th December.

 

37.

Other Business

38.

Bilingual Street Signage – Counsel Opinion on Call-in pdf icon PDF 222 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The City Solicitor reminded the Committee that, at its meeting on 23rd October, it had agreed to adopt a new policy position for the erection of bilingual street signage to the effect that an expression of interest by a resident/residents/Elected Member would trigger a consultation and that 15% of residents responding positively would be sufficient to approve an application. That decision had subsequently been called-in, on both procedural and adverse community impact grounds.

 

            He explained that, in line with the requirements of the Local Government Act 2014 and the Council’s Standing Orders, Counsel opinion had been sought on the call-in. Counsel had determined that it did not have merit on either ground and that there had been no failure to take into account relevant considerations, including resources. It had been pointed out that the policy, when drafted, would be subject to equality screening and consultation and that the operation of residual discretion would allow for appropriate consideration of any potentially sensitive decisions.

 

            The Committee noted the Counsel opinion and that the minute would now be placed before the Council on 7th January for ratification.

 

39.

Briefing Session

Minutes:

The Committee agreed that a briefing session be held, on a date to be determined in consultation with the Chairperson, to brief Members on emerging proposals for future kerbside sort collections in inner City areas, in advance of a composite report being presented to the Committee early in the New Year.

 

40.

Issues Raised in Advance by Members

41.

Procurement - Employment Academy Framework

(Councillor Beattie to raise)

Minutes:

The Committee agreed that a briefing session be held, on a date to be determined in consultation with the Chairperson, to brief Members on emerging proposals for future kerbside sort collections in inner City areas, in advance of a composite report being presented to the Committee early in the New Year.