The Committee will receive recommendations following the meeting of the Housing & Wellbeing Committee held on 6 December 2022 relating to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Revised Budget 2022-203. These minutes will be circulated separately to this agenda.
Attached is an accompanying report from The Interim Group Head of Finance and Section 151 Officer asking the Committee to consider the financial position in relation to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) in order to make recommendations to Full Council for a revised budget for 2022/23 for approval at its meeting on 18 January 2023.
The Chair confirmed that at the meeting of the Housing & Wellbeing Committee held on 6 December 2022, there were two sets of recommendations put forward for this Committee to consider.
The first recommendation was at Minute 494 [HRA Business Plan Update] with the minutes from that meeting being circulated to Members separately and uploaded to the Council’s web pages on 12 December 2022. A report from the Interim Group Head of Finance and Section 151 Officer also accompanied the minutes and she presented this report to the Committee.
It was highlighted that there were recommendations for the Committee to consider that needed to be forwarded onto Full Council on 18 January 2023 to approve. Appendix 1 to this report, which had been provided to Members in the supplement pack, provided the detail already considered by the Housing & Wellbeing Committee. The recommendation was asking this Committee to agree the revision to the HRA Revenue Budget set out in that Appendix and for the Committee to review the changes to the HRA budget prior to approval by Full Council. The report provided a more up to date forecast for the repairs, supervision and management budget for 2022/23 and it recommended that the Council changed its policy in relation to the financing of capital expenditure to include borrowing to ensure an outturn balance on HRA of around £600k. Work was continuing to identity other areas of expenditure that could be capitalised with Members being asked to note that by capitalising this expenditure this would result in additional cost pressures in future years. Any borrowing had to be affordable under the prudential framework.
The Chair then invited questions and debate. In looking at the comments made by Councillors at the Housing & Wellbeing Committee on 6 December 2022, there had been and could still be a systemic problem within housing partly to do with staffing and management changes on a permanent, interim and other basis. In reaction to this, it was members’ view that what was needed was more than just a financial adjustment but that the council, with the Chief Executive, should prepare a report to committee on these problems and how these would be addressed. This report needed to be factually based on what had and what was going wrong so that vigorous action to investigate and report a solution to fix the problems could be seen by all Members.
The Director of Environment & Communities responded explaining that the situation was enormously challenging within the housing department and so she had agreed with the Chair of the Housing & Wellbeing Committee to bring forward the HRA business plan being remodelled and that additional consultancy advice was also being sought so that the Chair and Vice-Chair of that Committee could be briefed to explain some of the assumptions around some of the concerns expressed. Members were reassured that this work was underway now. The way forward planned was for the HRA Business Plan to be presented based on a range of assumptions and the budget was part of that. This way forward had been agreed with the chair of the Housing & Wellbeing Committee, Councillor Pendleton.
In response, the Committee requested that this report be sent to all Members of the Council or that a wider briefing for all Members also be organised as it was imperative for all Members to have access to this update as it was about performance and how this affected tenants and others in the district. In response, Councillor Pendleton agreed that this was a very important issue and that a confidential briefing for all Councillors would take place and she asked the Director of Environment & Communities to ensure that this was organised.
Councillor Cooper then proposed the recommendations which were then seconded by Councillor Pendleton.
RECOMMEND TO FULL COUNCIL – That
(1) Having reviewed the changes to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget, the revised HRA Budget set out in Appendix 1 to the report is approved; and
(2) Any required changes to the financing of HRA capital expenditure including potential borrowing are agreed.
The Chair then referred Members to the next Minute for the Committee to consider at Minute 499 [Leisure Report] and he reminded Members that the accompanying report provided and the discussion undertaken at the Housing & Wellbeing Committee had been undertaken in Exempt Business and so if this Committee wished to have detailed discussion, moving into Exempt Business might be necessary.
The Group Head of Community Wellbeing then provided a brief introduction to this item reminding Members of the challenging trading conditions experienced by Freedom Leisure and other operators around the country. However, working with Freedom Leisure the council had returned to its contractual position in April 2022 and were currently receiving the full operating fee for the contract unlike many other local authorities. The impact of the rising utility costs had now placed an additional burden on the contract and was potentially threatening the viability of the contract. The projected increase in energy costs were quite staggering as detailed in the Exempt report.
The Chair then invited questions and debate. Councillor Stanley spoke first stating that he wished to make a slight amendment but was not sure to which recommendation. His amendment was to ask the council to make a representation to Government supporting ‘Swim England's’ campaign to extend the Energy Bill Relief scheme and seek additional support for leisure centre’s providing swimming pools.
The Chief Executive responded confirming that this request did not need to become an amendment to the recommendations before the Committee as he would be willing to undertake this action on behalf of the committee if approved. This was agreed.
Following discussion, the Committee confirmed that it was happy to support these recommendations.
Having been proposed by Councillor Pendleton and seconded by Councillor Walsh, the Committee
RESOLVED - That
(1) A sum up to £265,000 is transferred from the Inflation Contingency Reserve in 2022/23 to support the additional cost of energy required for the Council’s leisure centres;
(2) It notes the contents of this report in relation to the increased costs faced by leisure operators across the UK linked to the energy supply crisis.
(3) It agrees that it is necessary to support Freedom Leisure to ensure their
continued viability and the delivery of the Leisure Operating Contract;
(4) It authorises a sum up to £265,000 is transferred from Inflation Contingency Reserve in 2022/23 to support the additional cost of energy required for the Council’s leisure centres; and
(5) It notes that the Director of Environment and Communities and the Interim Group Head of Finance and Section 151 Officer is authorised to implement mitigating measure and make revisions and changes to the leisure operating contract based on energy matters affecting the facilities for the remainder of this financial year 2022/23