To receive the report of the Strategic Manager (Resources).
The QBR was the end of year report for 2018/2019. The intention was not to go into the details in the report but to answer any questions. The Strategic Manager (Resources) drew attention to the main highlights of the year and the financial position at the close of the year.
A report will be presented to the Community & Resources Committee on 15 July showing the draft 2018-19 outturn with recommendations of how to allocate the surplus achieved. The accounts remained in draft as they had not yet been audited due to significant resourcing issues nationally being experienced by auditing firms. It was anticipated that the audit will start in August. There will be a delay in publishing the accounts but they can be published unaudited by 31 July 2019 as long as reasons for the lack of audit are stated.
The Strategic Manager answered questions raised and gave clarification, where required, on answers provided in the supplement document “QBR4 Responses”.
Northam Leisure Centre – cleanliness, management and cashless payment
The Planning & Economy Manager advised that:
· The 1610 contract expires February 2022.
· A TDC employee was regularly inspecting the leisure centres
· The issue of cashless payment was difficult to enforce as TDC no longer took cash either. However 1610 did offer the facility of a payment card, which could be topped up.
· Poolside safety was a very high priority for 1610. Any incidents of lifeguards not carrying out their duties properly should be immediately reported.
Farmers Burying Plastic
In response to Councillor Hames’ call for farmers to be more informed about recycling plastics, Councillor Boughton advised the Committee that the practice of burying plastics was illegal and all farmers had to have a waste management plan in place.
External Overview & Scrutiny have a presentation from the NFU scheduled for the meeting 17 July.
Housing Benefit Shortfall - Homelessness
Councillor Pennington spoke about the link between debt and homelessness and felt this should be examined by the Lead Member for Homelessness and Housing Need. It was noted that this probably fell more within the remit of the Lead Member for Customer Services and Internal Resources.
The Strategic Manager (Resources) said that TDC was looking to acquire a range of properties to address homelessness. He also spoke about the Local Housing Allowance and the fact that if this were increased it would involve further significant costs nationally; could result in landlords increasing rents and therefore was unlikely to be implemented due to current national finances
Bideford Harbour / Harbour Income
The Planning and Economy Manager told the Committee that the deficit was due to the lack of shipping activity in the harbour. The port no longer met the needs of the bigger shipping companies – the drafts were not big enough and the tidal range hindered access. The Harbour Master had been working very hard to seek business. Consideration was now being given to a change of activity centred on leisure.
The Planning and Economy Manager suggested any new ideas be brought to the Harbour Board.
The Strategic Manager (Resources) explained that the harbour costs (£90,000) were for support services and capital charges. If there were no harbour, these costs would still have to be distributed across other services.
Councillor Newton initiated a debate on the viability of the harbour and the following points were made:
· The Community & Resources Committee was ultimately responsible for challenging the viability
· In commercial terms, the harbour was struggling
· The harbour performed more than just a financial function – there was a cultural link to the town and it was part of the heritage tourism asset
· At the Member visioning day it had been suggested that small heritage vessels could be linked in with Bideford’s heritage and other cultural activities in the town.
· Bideford’s association with the slave trade could be a heritage link
Burton Art Gallery & Museum
It was noted that the contract was coming up for review. There had been little indication that the Burton would be self sufficient at the end of the 5 year period. The Planning & Economy Manager reported that this was never envisaged and it was unlikely such a position would be achieved, although in-roads into fundraising should have been made. The discussion about the next service funding agreement had commenced and heads of terms were being drawn up.
The Head of Paid Service reminded Members of the invitation to go along to the Burton to meet the new principal.
There were plans to take exhibits out to the wider Torridge area and there was an opportunity to acquire the James Ravilious collection.
Appreciation for the asset was expressed.
There was a recommendation that alternative areas for investment be revisited. To be added to the Forward Plan.
Councillor Hodson suggested a dedicated officer be employed to address this.
The Strategic Manager (Resources) responded that, whilst there had been resource issues within the Environmental Health and Community Safety Team, these were partly driven by the continued increase in cash resources allocated through the Better Care Fund, which the team have been striving to utilise as they are clawed back if not used. Recently, more resource had been assigned to the team and a review will be carried out of how that impacts on the overall capacity of the team in the first instance. There had previously been a group of officers who had been tasked with looking at the strategy for empty properties and this could be reconvened.
Councillor Hodson added that there were funding streams from government for projects relating to homelessness reduction. Could additional funding for a specific post be sought from these streams? Councillor Manley confirmed that she had forwarded this information to Jon Walter and would resend to the Strategic Manager (Resources).
The Strategic Manager (Resources) added that this was a wider subject matter encompassing both empty properties and homelessness, which Community & Resources had already considered and resources had been allocated. A team of officers was already looking at a variety of options. It was also stressed that, whilst empty properties brought back into use might help, the actual financial incentive in terms of Council Tax was not significant for TDC.
The Planning and Economy Manager told the Committee that TDC dealt with low numbers. Developers were not building houses.