Agenda and minutes

Shared Revenues Partnership Joint Committee
Wednesday 21st June 2017 4.00 pm

Venue: Gipping Room, Grafton House

Contact: Trisha Sutton  01473 432512

Items
No. Item

1.

Election of Chair

Minutes:

Resolved:

 

that Councillor D Haley be elected as Chair of the Shared Revenues Partnership Joint Committee for the municipal year 2017/18.

2.

Appointment of Vice-Chair

Minutes:

Resolved:

 

that Councillor S Meudec be appointed as Vice-Chair of the Shared Revenues Partnership Joint Committee for the municipal year 2017/18.

3.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

3.1       Apologies for absence were received from Councillor P Patrick.

4.

Minutes of the Meeting held on 18 January 2017 pdf icon PDF 92 KB

Minutes:

4.1      Minute No 43.2 – Councillor Whitehead asked for the 2016/17 formula used to calculate Discretionary Housing Payments and the Operations Manager, Revenues agreed to supply this.           

 

Resolved:

 

that the minutes of the meeting held on 18 January 2017, be signed as a true record.

5.

Minutes of the Meeting held on 15 March 2017 pdf icon PDF 52 KB

Minutes:

Resolved:

 

that the minutes of the meeting held on 15 March 2017, be signed as a true record.

6.

Dates and Times of Meetings - all held at 4.00pm

·         Wednesday 6 September 2017

·         Wednesday 1 November 2017

·         Wednesday 17 January 2018

·         Wednesday 14 March 2018

Minutes:

The times and dates of meetings were confirmed.

7.

To Confirm or Vary the Order of Business

Minutes:

Resolved:

 

that the Order of Business be confirmed as printed on the agenda.

8.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

9.

Presentation - Improving SRP

Minutes:

9.1      Mr Peter Timmins, the interim Head of Finance and Revenues gave a presentation to the Committee and explained the national context of  revenue partnerships in terms of changes to the tax and benefit system being driven by a mix of four factors.  These were economic, Government policy, demographics and the digital revolution with the changes impacting on Business Rates, Council Tax, Benefits and caseload changes.   

 

9.2      The Officer said that urban districts presented a different dynamic to rural districts which experienced less turnover, while urban districts saw greater churn and more transient populations.  Income from the Government was volatile, with the grant income being made up of 10 grants in 2017/18, details of which were set out and clarified why reserves were needed to cover potential risks.  

 

9.3      Whilst performance had improved, budgets had been reduced and costs had been absorbed but there was scope for further savings through further performance improvements.

 

9.4      In response to a question about fraud it was reported that the Corporate Fraud Service (with a £330k budget) had been transferred to the Department of Work and Pensions in May 2015 however, the Shared Revenues Partnership still provided services such as form filling and statistical information.

 

9.5      Within the fees and charges during 2016/17, some income items had been received such as, from Suffolk County Council for some funding work.  The totals were compared to 2017/18 (looking towards 2018-21) and a total deficit of £218k was identified.  There was an underlying deficit of £84k with an increase in employee costs of £134k due to pension re-evaluations.

 

9.6      The performance goal was to improve services but challenges were from delays in administration, inconsistent claims and improvement to individual training.  Investment would be required to improve outcomes and customer access.

 

9.7      Actions for 2018-21 were:

·         To critically plan for external changes and challenges

·         To set out performance standards to avoid subsidy penalties

·         To have a clear IT strategy to enable success

·         To engage customers in designing the service

·         To develop a trading strategy to reduce the volatility of income risk ‘expand people or court work’

·         To undertake a lean review to re-engineer processes and reduce costs

·         To resolve the underlying budget for 2018/19 e.g. to consider in house enforcement       

 

9.8      Councillor Meudec asked whether any forecasts had been considered for future years.  The Operations Manager, Revenues said that when the Shared Revenues Partnership had been set up the budget had been set for 10 years; this now needed to be revisited and would be brought to the Committee at the September meeting.

 

9.9      Discussion took place about the potential to take on more work, a one-page summary on filling in the forms electronically being available to increase the use of the on-line forms and other districts joining the Partnership.  The performance statistics comparing 2011/12 and 2016/17 showed a positive journey considering the significant changes made to welfare reform and the year on year increase to Discretionary Housing Payments.

10.

SRP/17/01 Service Report pdf icon PDF 137 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

10.1    The Operations Manager, Benefits presented this report and detailed that for May 2017, 88% of benefit claims were made on line for Ipswich Borough Council, 82% for Babergh District Council and 80% for Mid Suffolk District Council.  These figures showed a significant increase on previous years and more comparison details would be available at the next Committee meeting.  It was confirmed that a secure upload facility auto-indexed credentials to each account for on-line forms and if any mistakes were made these would be manually rectified.  Statistics were requested about how and which mistakes were most frequently made and it was requested that information about how a claim had been completed would continue to be circulated to the Committee.  

 

10.2    Councillor Osborne asked whether the three authorities in the Partnership were penalised or rewarded on performance and the Assistant Director, Corporate Resources confirmed that contributions to the Partnership were based on caseloads and adjustments were made between the authorities on a yearly basis.  

 

10.3    The Operations Manager, Revenues confirmed that Suffolk County Council had agreed to fund the review of accounts in receipt of single resident discount for Council Tax, for a further year.  Officers were awaiting the definitions, following the new relief rates being introduced in April 2017 however, ratepayers had been identified who might potentially qualify for relief and they had been excluded from further recovery if appropriate.

 

10.4    The Chair requested that the draft discretionary relief scheme policies be circulated to the Committee prior to being presented to either the relevant Executive, or Cabinet, dependent on authority and this was agreed.   

 

10.5    In relation to the transitional vacancy underspend, currently there were 5.5 FTE vacancies in the Benefits and Revenues service area as recruitment difficulties had been experienced. 

 

10.6    In respect of the SRP Service Review a consultant had been commissioned, the initial report had been received and an update would be submitted at the September 2017 Committee meeting. 

 

            Resolved:

 

1.    that the Shared Revenues Partnership financial outturn for 2016/17 and the financial treatment of the favourable variance, be noted as this allowed the Shared Revenues Partnership to continue to have a reserve to fund the future changes expected, future developments in the service and the running costs to maintain the current level of service.

 

2.    that the financial position of the Shared Revenues Partnership be reviewed further in 2017/18 in relation to partner contributions.

 

Reason:  This sum would meet the shortfall of partner’s contribution to the anticipated running cost of the Shared Revenues Partnership in 2017/18.

11.

SRP/17/02 Welfare Reform Update pdf icon PDF 180 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

11.1    The Operations Manager, Revenues explained that this report gave an overview of how national welfare reforms had impacted on local services and confirmed that work continued with Housing Services to promote Discretionary Housing payments.

 

11.2    The timetable for the rollout of Universal Credit to couples and families was detailed with Sudbury being the first area to be actioned in October 2017.  At the moment Universal Credit was still only available for single claimants at all three authorities so the numbers remained low.

 

11.3    The most recent changes, from 1 April 2017 around housing support and the Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) were detailed in section 7 of the report.  The Operations Manager, Benefits explained that only certain categories of young people would be exempt from the removal of the Housing Support element but the DWP would be requested to provide more information.  It was confirmed that no regulations had been published about any other future changes as yet.

 

            Resolved:

 

            that the report be noted.

 

Reason:  The Joint Committee need to be aware of the welfare reform roadmap and the effect this had on residents and the work load of the Shared Revenues Partnership.

12.

SRP/17/03 Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 76 KB

Minutes:

            Resolved:

 

            that the report be noted.

13.

Exclusion of Public

To exclude the public (including the Press) from the meeting during consideration of the following items under Regulation 21 of the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Access to Information) (England) Regulation 2000 as it is likely that if members of the public were present during this item there would be disclosure to them of exempt information falling within paragraphs 1, 3 and 4 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended).

Minutes:

Resolved:

 

that the public (including the Press) be excluded from the meeting during the consideration of the following items under Regulation 21 of the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Access to Information) (England) Regulation 2000 as it was likely that if members of the public were present during these items there would be disclosure to them of exempt information falling in paragraphs 1, 4 and 5 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended).

14.

Unconfirmed Exempt Minutes of the Meeting held on 18 January 2017

15.

SRP/17/04 Revenues Update