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Apologies For Absence
Apologies for absence were received form Councillors S Inch, T Inch, Johns, Mr Harper and Mr Rice.
Confirmation of the minutes held on 7 August 2018.
It was proposed by Councillor James, seconded by Councillor Pennington and –
That the minutes of the meeting held on 7 August 2018 be agreed and signed as a correct record, subject to the following amendment:
List of those present
Addition of Mr Harper and Mr Dengate to the list of those present
(Vote: For 5, Abstentions 2)
The Action List was reviewed and updated.
Minute 97 – Cornwall County Council Rolling Investment Fund / Community Land Trusts
The Head of Paid Service advised that this action would now be preceded by Project Initiation and Business Case documents and a Capital Budget bid proposal.
Minute 18 – Compulsory Purchase Policy
The Head of Paid Service advised that the legalities of the policy were being scrutinised by the Council’s Legal officers and a press release would be prepared by the communications team.
Declaration Of Interests
Members with interests should refer to the agenda item and describe the nature of their interest when the item is considered.
Members were reminded that declarations of interest should be made as and when the specific agenda item to which they related was under discussion.
Urgent Matters Brought Forward With The Permission Of The Chair
The Chair agreed to hear feedback requested by Mr Dengate on meetings with officers regarding Planning S106 Agreements.
The Planning and Economy Manager reported on a useful meeting between Mr Dengate and officers. He advised that there had been a significant number of applications where the planning decision had been made last year but planning permission had not been issued as S106 agreements had not been finalised. This has been a priority for officers and 12 or so had now been issued. Only 2 are left outstanding but these are also in hand.
Only about £50K of S106 money is earmarked for communities. Councillor Simmons requested that ward members be involved and kept informed of potential allocations or agreed allocations for their wards. The Affordable Housing Officer advised that details of existing arrangements can be found on the Council’s website but an updated list would be circulated to Committee Members following the meeting. The Planning and Economy Manager advised that it had also been agreed that when future draft terms are drawn up Members would be informed.
The Planning improvement plan has been temporarily delayed due to a key staff member leaving, but will be restarted following the appointment of a new officer.
The Chair agreed to keep further updates on these issues on the forward plan.
Agreement of Agenda Items Part I And II
There were no Part II items. Agreement was reached to place agenda item 7 – The QBR for Q1 at item 9 and bring Council Tax Discretionary Discount and Affordable Housing items forward to items 7 & 8 respectively.
Council Tax Discretionary Discount
To receive a verbal update from the Customer Services Manager.
The Customer Support Manager outlined proposals contained in Central Government’s “Rating and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill” that will allow Councils to apply additional charges to long term empty properties in the district. As of Sept 2018 there were 72 properties that had been empty for 2 years or more to which the new charges might be applicable if passed. Potential additional income for the Council may be around £10K maximum. Councillors were presented with details as to what level of charges would be applicable over increasing periods of time.
Specific questions were asked and answered about how the new rules might apply to an annex and what makes a property habitable. Councillor Langmead advised that he knew of some habitable properties that existed but Council tax had not yet been applied, as utility services had been disconnected again. He agreed to let officers have details of these and officers indicated that they would follow up on this information.
The Customer Support Officer outlined additional work being carried out by a third party to identify further long term empty properties. 12 additional properties had so far been identified through this process.
The Customer Support Officer suggested that members might wish to timetable further discussion of empty property charges and at the same time review the full range of discretionary discounts operated by the Council. A working group was proposed although it was recognised that any final decisions for change would have to be taken at a meeting of the Full Council.
It was proposed by Councillor Simmons, seconded by Councillor James and –
That a working group be set up to review Council Tax Discretionary Discount Schemes.
(Vote: For – unanimous)
The Customer Support Manager and Council Tax and Benefits Team Leader left the meeting.
To receive an update from the Planning & Economy Manager/Strategic Enabling Officer.
The Affordable Housing Officer updated the committee on the current status across the district. It was reported that only 18 affordable units had been delivered last year but 251 units over the last five years in total. The needs assessment is for 250 units to be built every year and so supply is falling significantly short of need. Challenges in Torridge were much the same as for other parts of the Country but specifically in Torridge the following were applicable:
1. The lack of an adopted local plan has made it harder to enforce affordable units on sites.
2. The build out rate is low and there is only 1 site being built at present where affordable housing has been secured. (Atlantic Village development 15% affordable secured expected in early 2019).
3. Developers are not being attracted to build in Torridge due to low house prices, skilled labour shortages, and unrealistic land prices.
4. Investment in infrastructure is still lacking.
Registered providers (RP’s) are another way of delivering affordable housing but most are based in South Devon and are looking for sites of 10 units and above and not too rural which is a problem for Torridge provision.
There followed a general discussion about various wards and recent developments. The officer explained current and future demand. She went on to explain how this was accessed in rural environments through additional surveys to demonstrate a need for departing from the local plan.
Councillor Simmons highlighted the need in Torrington. Officers agreed that community led schemes were a way forward.
Councillor James highlighted new funding available for infrastructure and a hope that the Council could tap into that to promote development. Community Land Trusts (CLT’s) were also discussed and the officer pointed out that Torridge had 5 CLT’s which was cited as exceptional for such a small authority.
The Planning and Economy Officer explained that resource has also been a limiting factor in moving things forward in this area. However, now that the Planning Team had reorganised, the Affordable Housing Officer was already reviewing an agenda for future work. The Council hopes to be proactive in thinking about different ways in which affordable housing can be provided and to engage more closely with Parishes and Towns. Packages of available funding including support for officer posts would also be explored.
Development of the Torrington dairy site was also discussed and it was reported that meetings with a potential developer had been scheduled.
The Planning and Economy Manager agreed to provide an update to Torrington ward members following these meetings.
The Chair thanked the officer for the presentation and the Affordable Housing Officer left the meeting.
To receive the report of the Finance Manager.
The Finance Manager highlighted some of the main cost pressures on the Council and an explanation of both positive and negative key variances to budget.
· The key areas of rising costs mostly related to homelessness and temporary accommodation costs and the inability to reclaim all of these costs under current Central Government legislation.
· Two posts in planning via agency exceed savings from vacant posts.
· Planning income is down despite a 20% increase in fees. However, the number of applications received did increase ahead of the local plan adoption in Q2 and so figures may improve in the next report.
· Professional legal fees have increased for example in relation to the Agri Business Centre and recent employment tribunal.
· Refuse and Recycling service projections should be clarified in Q2. It is expected that Recycling credits and income should improve in Q2 in addition to shared income from DCC for diverting waste from landfill. However, the Council is also experiencing difficulty in retaining HGV drivers and have been forced to employ more expensive contractors that also cost more in overtime.
· Business Pilot benefits budgeted at £190K now expected to realise £320K.
· Bank of England base rate increase means that investments are paying more. Current projections are for a return that will be £36K ahead of budget.
Projected overspend of £189K will be met by:
· £90K transferred from the unused Local Plan reserve.
· £48K from unused Housing Benefit New Burdens Grant.
· £38K set aside to meet homelessness costs will be utilised.
Capital Project Spending – total £13.8M:
· Refuse depot money not yet spent as a site has not yet been identified.
· Caddsdown Phase 2 & 3 sites have not yet progressed to build.
· Gypsy and Traveller site not yet identified
In total £8.4M cannot proceed at the moment. The accountancy team are trying with the assistance of managers to make delivery dates more realistic and an adjustment for inflation will also need to be made.
Councillor James asked what the homeless cost was for Holsworthy and officers agreed to provide a response by email.
Councillor Simmons asked for modular unit options for temporary accommodation to be reconsidered but also reemphasised support for the Affordable Housing Officer to facilitate more units to reduce pressures on costs and take people out of temporary accommodation. Councillor Simmons stated that Towns are the key and results are unlikely to be delivered by RP’s.
Mr Dengate echoed a need to focus on affordable housing as well as economic growth. The Planning and Economic Development Officer highlighted Government pressure to have housing led economic regeneration but that the difficulty would be where to allow this over and above the local plan. North Devon have looked at different options and are looking at garden village models as well as other models. It was emphasised that it was better for the Council to plan for growth themselves rather than have growth imposed.
The Head of Paid Service suggested and it was agreed that Torridge should consider a similar review. Assistance from the LGA ... view the full minutes text for item 33.
To receive an update from the Head of Paid Service.
The Head of Paid Service reported that following the departure of the Council’s Senior Solicitor the Human Resources Manager had taken on an interim responsibility for the project. The position of Senior Solicitor has been advertised.
The project is being supported by the Devon Audit Partnership (DAP) and they have been speaking to services and reviewing all data held. Further training is also planned.
An Information Security Policy update will be sent to all staff next week.
An action plan for the remaining work is being produced and will be supplied to DAP who will be returning later in the year to complete an audit of GDPR.
Mr Dengate queried whether joint working with other authorities had delayed our implementation?
The Head of Paid Service reported that this was not the case and that deficiencies were identified earlier in the year and extra resource (DAP etc) had been pulled in to address this.
Key public facing services and risk areas such as revenues and benefits, and housing have been addressed but pockets of further work still exist. The DAP report will advise what work remains to be done and which areas should be concentrated on.
There was further discussion on how Councillors should handle data. The issue of what should be done following elections in May next year was discussed. It was agreed that guidance for Councillors standing down or not re-elected should be produced and distributed as well as guidance for new members.
Consideration Of The Forward Plan PDF 56 KB
To review the Forward Plan.
Items for the Forward Plan were discussed and it was agreed to add the following to the scheduled 18th December Meeting:
Section 106 Agreements
The Planning and Economy Manager and Affordable Housing Officer will provide an update on the affordable housing situation and Council Policies review.
The Planning and Economy Manager and Affordable Housing Officer will provide an update on grants related to affordable housing work and report on the PID.