Venue: Phoenix Chamber, Phoenix House, Tiverton
Contact: Sarah Lees
Link: audio recording
To receive any apologies for absence.
There were no apologies for absence.
Public Question Time
To receive any questions relating to items on the Agenda from members of the public and replies thereto.
The following questions were received from members of the public:
During the July 2020 Cabinet Meeting the MDDC Leader stated “it was time to Lift the Veil” on 3 Rivers. Since then, the MDDC has continued to make full use of PART 2 constraints. Constraints that act as an iron curtain preventing an expected level of public transparency. More than two years later and with increasing MDDC financial exposure, the justification for this additional 3 Rivers loan is being hidden behind secret reports. The public are not permitted to see these documents and not even know their titles! Will the Council Leader please do what he can to “Lift the Veil” of secrecy now?
Given that the MDDC loan agreements with 3 Rivers are on an individual project basis and not on a group basis, how much of the additional funding request of £2.3 million is allocated for the St Georges Court Tiverton Development?
Cabinet are being asked to lend an additional £2.3 million to 3 Rivers when MDDC’s own risk reports show 3 Rivers as a high lending risk. Are Cabinet Members aware that an external Credit Report available in the public domain dated July 2021 also deemed 3 Rivers a high credit risk?
How can MDDC Officers and Cabinet Members reconcile the following two statements?
Grant Thornton state in the latest MDDC Audit: Report (Page 9) “For MDDC we have concluded that the greatest risk of material misstatement relates to Group Revenue”. “We have therefore identified the occurrence and accuracy of 3 Rivers trading income as a significant risk of misstatement and a key audit matter”.
Cabinet Members briefing notes (Page 396) and in justification for the additional funding of £2.3 million states the following: “strengthened expected sales income of the properties which should allow for net profit and loan repayment profiles in line with previously declared expectations”
Have Simpkins Edwards, as the 3 Rivers newly appointed internal auditors, completed a full Audit on the 3 Rivers business. If so, has their Audit Report received full oversight by Grant Thornton as the MDDC Auditors and has it also been made available to MDDC Councillors?
It appears the St Georges Court impairment amount of £790,000 is being written off over a period of 5 years. Can it be confirmed this is not the case and that the impairment will not be written off by MDDC at any time?
Can it be confirmed that no portion of the additional St Georges Court funding now requested will also be added to the impairment amount going forward?
In terms of 3 Rivers revenue stream predictions, are Cabinet Members aware of how many of the 39 St Georges Court properties have been sold off plan?
This given the latest completion date being given is just 2 months away, November 2022. My understanding is the number is very low, perhaps even with ... view the full minutes text for item 47.
Declarations of Interest under the Code of Conduct
To record any interests on agenda matters.
Members were reminded of the need to make declarations of interest if and when necessary.
Minutes of the Previous Meeting PDF 494 KB
To consider whether to approve the minutes as a correct record of the meeting held on 9August 2022.
The minutes of the previous meeting were approved as a correct record and signed by the Leader.
Mid Devon as a Trauma Informed Council PDF 353 KB
Following consideration of a report of the Corporate Manager for Public Health, Regulation and Housing, the Community Policy Development Group has made the following recommendation, that:
1. It be recommended to Full Council the degree of investment the Council would require towards becoming a Trauma Informed Council.
2. Subject to recommendation 1 that it be recommended to Full Council a stepped approach be adopted, as set out in annex 1.
The Cabinet had before it, and noted, a report from the Corporate Manager for Public Health, Regulation and Housing that provided information to Members about Mid Devon District Council (MDDC) becoming a Trauma Informed Council, with a trained trauma aware workforce, as requested by the Community Policy Development Group (PDG) held on 22 March 2022. It followed a recommendation of the PDG Working Group on Community Safety made at the meeting that the PDG investigate adopting this informal status and strategic approach as a Council.
The Cabinet Member for Community and Well Being outlined the following:
· There was a risk that if not approved MDDC services would not suitably or satisfactorily accommodate the needs of our service users.
· External training costs for the scheme were: £9000 for year 1 and £3000 for year 2, but there was an option for in-house trainers which would cost £2700 per person (x3 = £8100).
· To become Trauma Informed (TI) provided a wider synergy with the Council’s Corporate Plan and Priorities which included: ‘Support and grown active tenancy engagement’ which ensured inclusivity of the most vulnerable within our tenants and communities; ‘Promote new/more integrated approaches to promoting good health and healthier living, especially in the context of planned new developments’; ‘Seek opportunities to address public health issues and disparities to improve the health and wellbeing of everyone in Mid Devon’ and ‘Promote community involvement in Council activity’.
· That there were potential benefits some of which included: individuals and communities would feel that they were being listened to; that positive relationships would be formed and the Council/individuals are trusted and that people would feel safe and supported.
The Leader thanked the Cabinet Member for their presentation and opened the floor for questions, which were as followed:
· The Leader asked if there was a figure in mind in terms of total costs, to which the Corporate Manager for Public Health, Regulation and Housing explained that if in-house trainers were used then the overall costs would be circa £20,000.
· The Leader also asked if this cost would be placed on the general fund or the HRA fund. The Corporate Manager for Public Health, Regulation and Housing explained that it was designed for all services where relevant and would benefit from the training. The exact split between the general fund and HRA fund would need to be determined.
· A Cabinet Member raised support for this training and applauded this direction. They also raised that trauma does not go away but was managed and if support could be given to those individuals then that could only be a good thing.
RESOLVED to recommend to Full Council: That
1. The degree of investment the Council would be required to make towards becoming a Trauma Informed (TI) Council as set out in the report.
2. A stepped approach is adopted, as set out in Annex 1.
(Proposed by Cllr D Knowles and seconded by Cllr C Slade)
Reason for Decision: There would be a risk that if this approach was not ... view the full minutes text for item 50.
Recommendations of the Anti-Social Behaviour Working Group PDF 9 KB
Following consideration of a report from the Policy and Research Officer the Community Policy Development Group has made the following recommendations:
1. That Members of the ASB working group are consulted on the review of the Housing ASB policy (due to take place this year, and to be incorporated into Neighbourhood and Community Standard Policy) through an informal, in-depth discussion with the Corporate Manager for Public Health, Regulation and Housing and other officers.
2. That information around ASB and how to report it is clearly communicated to Members and the public.
3. That the Mid Devon Senior Inspector is requested to provide Members with a monthly update on policing in the District and consideration is given to other ways to engage with members.
4. That the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) review the Community Trigger process.
The Cabinet had before it, a report from the Policy and Research Officer which outlined the review undertaken by the Community PDG Working Group on anti-social behaviour (ASB).
The Officer in brief raised the points highlighted below:
· This was a report from the Community PDG working group on anti-social behaviour. The working group looked to ensure that the Council had a targeted and effective response to ASB in the District.
· The report found that the Council had comprehensive and effective policies on ASB, and that officers were adept at tackling and resolving issues.
· The Mid Devon Senior Inspector, Insp Leitch had agreed to provide monthly newsletters, and a Member Briefing was due to take place on 29 September 2022.
The Leader thanked the Officer for their presentation and opened the floor to questions which were as followed:
· The Leader commended the good work that had been carried out by the working group of the Community PDG. In addition, he raised the importance of being kept up to date and that these monthly updates and bi-annual briefings be maintained.
· A Cabinet Member asked if the Senior Inspector had already agreed to that a monthly newsletter be provided to Members and how had the Police responded to this report and its recommendations. To which the officer explained that the Senior Inspector was happy to provide these monthly updates as well as all Member briefings every 6 months.
1. That Members of the ASB working group would be consulted on the review of the Housing ASB policy (due to take place this year, and to be incorporated into Neighbourhood and Community Standard Policy) through an informal, in-depth discussion with the Corporate Manager for Public Health, Regulation and Housing and other officers.
2. Information around ASB and how to report it would be clearly communicated to Members and the public.
3. The Mid Devon Senior Inspector would be requested to provide Members with a monthly update on policing in the District and consideration be given to other ways to engage with members.
4. The Community Safety Partnership (CSP) review the Community Trigger process.
(Proposed by Cllr C Slade and seconded by Cllr D Knowles)
Reason for decision: A key priority for the Council was to promote sustainable and prosperous communities. The impact of ASB could cause distress and suffering for victims, and was a key concern for Mid Devon residents.
Mid Devon Air Quality Supplementary Planning Document PDF 148 KB
To receive a report of the Director of Place seeking approval for the draft SPD for consultation.
The Cabinet had before it a report from the Director of Place which sought approval for the draft Mid Devon Air Quality Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for Public Consultation.
The Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Regeneration outlined the contents of the report and stated that:
· Following the Council’s adoption of the Mid Devon Local Plan in July 2020 there has been a need to prepare a new Air Quality Supplementary Planning Document. This SPD will provide further guidance and information about how local plan policies (and the development plan as a whole) in relation to air quality will be applied and interpreted. While the SPD will not form part of the adopted development plan, it will be capable of being a material consideration in determining planning applications where air quality is relevant.
· A draft Air Quality SPD has been prepared by consultants. It is aligned with the current National Planning Policy Framework, and aims to provide a consistent approach to assessing air quality impacts from planning proposals, and to encourage early engagement in the development process. The SPD will assist developers in determining when an air quality assessment is required for a new development, provide guidance through the emissions and air quality assessment procedures, and identify suitable mitigation measures to be included at the planning stage.
· The Council will be able to use the guidance to sustain and contribute towards the compliance with national air quality objectives, with consideration given to the presence of Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) in Crediton and Cullompton, and the cumulative impacts from individual sites in local areas.
The draft Air Quality SPD is structured into a three stage process:
· The first stage is to classify the development as having a small or large impact. This will include consideration of whether the planned development is within, near to, or will likely have an impact on an AQMA, and will identify what actions are required to assess the new development. This will range from ‘no action required’ to ‘air quality impact assessment required’.
· Stage 2 sets out how to assess and quantify the impact of the development on local air quality.
· Stage 3 determines the mitigation to be applied.
The draft Air Quality SPD has been ‘screened’ for the purpose of Strategic Environmental Assessment and Habitat Regulations Assessment, and no requirement has been identified for a full Strategic Environmental Assessment, or Appropriate Assessment.
The Planning Policy Advisory Group (PPAG) considered the Air Quality SPD at its meeting of 1st August 2022 and has noted its content. The PPAG has requested that a non-technical guide is prepared and is made available as part of, and to assist, the consultation on the Air Quality SPD. This request forms part of the recommendations that are before the Cabinet.
Should the recommendations be agreed then once that decision comes into effect the SPD will be subject to a public consultation exercise of at least 6 weeks. Once the consultation has ended and all comments have been taken ... view the full minutes text for item 52.
Tiverton Neighbourhood Plan - Decision on Examiners Report PDF 397 KB
To consider a report of the Director of Place seeking approval for the recommended modifications made in the Examiners report and seeking further approval for the Tiverton Neighbourhood Plan to proceed to a local referendum.
The Cabinet had before it a report from the Director of Place which sought approval for the recommended modifications made in the Examiner’s Report and for the Tiverton Neighbourhood Plan to proceed to a local referendum.
The Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Regeneration outlined the contents of the report and stated that:
· Tiverton Town Council has been preparing a Neighbourhood Plan following the designation of the neighbourhood area in November 2018. The neighbourhood area covers the parish of Tiverton. The preparation of the neighbourhood plan has included consultation on a pre-submission draft plan in 2021 and consultation on a regulation 16 publication plan in early 2022. The Neighbourhood Plan has since been examined and Mid Devon District Council received the final Examiner’s report on 27th July this year.
· There is now a need for the Council to consider the Examiner’s recommended modifications and reach a decision whether the Tiverton Neighbourhood Plan with the Examiner’s recommended modifications and some typographical corrections be agreed, and that the plan proceeds to a local referendum. This forms the basis for the recommendations that are before the Cabinet.
· Should the recommendations to Cabinet be agreed then once that decision comes into effect, a Decision Statement will be published and a local referendum will be arranged in accordance with the relevant regulation requirements. It is likely that this local referendum would take place in November this year. Following the local referendum, if more than 50% of those persons voting, vote ‘yes’ then the Neighbourhood Plan will come into force as part of the statutory development plan for the Tiverton area. The Neighbourhood Plan must be ‘made’ within eight weeks of the local referendum, which will be through its formal adoption by the Council.
· The report sets out in more detail the outcome of the examination and the process for the Council making a decision and the options available.
· The Planning Policy Advisory Group has noted the recommendations of this report at its meeting on the 1st August.
The Leader thanked the Cabinet Member for their presentation and opened the floor to questions which were as followed:
· A Cabinet Member asked if a date had been decided for a full council meeting. To which an Officer noted that a date was yet to be confirmed.
· A Cabinet Member noted that they thought it would never get to this stage and that officers had done an excellent job and that this positive progress would support relations with Tiverton Town Council.
1. The Examiner’s modifications (Table 4) and correction of errors (Table 2) be agreed, and that subject to these modifications the Tiverton Neighbourhood Plan be determined to meet the Basic Conditions (as defined in Town and Country Planning Act 1990 Sch 4B) and other legislative requirements;
2. The Decision Statement attached at Appendix 2 be approved; and
3. The Tiverton Neighbourhood Plan (at Appendix 3) subject to the Examiner’s modifications and correction of errors, proceeds to a local Referendum based on the boundary ... view the full minutes text for item 53.
To receive a verbal update presenting a financial update in respect of the income and expenditure so far in the year.
The Cabinet was given a verbal update from the Cabinet Member for Finance who raised the following:
· Overall, the forecast outturn had worsened across the General Fund & HRA, since the last update.
· The biggest movement from P3’s forecast was in respect of the forecast Pay Award. From a budgeted 2%, to the Q1 value of 3%, the Employer’s Body offer had been fully included. It was reiterated that is was £1,925 per FTE, or 10.4% on the lowest salary band to a circa 3% for Corporate Managers. It had been estimated to be an additional £ 0.5M. It was noted that the offer may or may not be accepted, so there remained a risk that the figure could go higher before the year end.
· Current general inflation pressures threatened the Council, utility costs were the most significant pressure. However, the Q1 report assumed a significant increase per pessimistic forecasts so there was no reason to make changes at this point. Another reason for the continued strategy was that the Council had pre-purchased energy contracts so that near-term costs were controlled. In addition, fuel prices had eased since Q1, which reduced the forecast over-spend.
· In terms of resources, recruitment remained a tough challenge. Consequently, the Council continued to rely heavily on agency staff in key areas of planning, waste and street scene. Whilst salary underspend balanced agency overspend to some degree, the net is generally unfavourable compared with the budget.
· On income, cost of living pressures continued for local residents and businesses which impacted the Council indirectly. As noted in the Q1 report, Council Tax and Business Rate collection performance remained depressed. Similarly, leisure and parking income remained below budget and was still lower than pre-covid. However, there were areas where income was better than budget, for example in planning, recycling sales and trade waste.
· Costs would be limited where possible by stopping, pausing, economising, or slowing down. Consideration may need to be given to vacancy management processes, with resources being the biggest budget item. However, it was acknowledged that it would be unlikely that this will be sufficient to compensate for the pressures faced by the Council and noted that a combination of Government intervention and use of Reserves was almost inevitable.
· Budget preparation was underway and that these impacts would be reflected in the Medium Term Financial Plan due to Cabinet on 4 Oct 2022.
RESOLVED: That the update be noted.
3 Rivers Development Limited - Funding Request PDF 287 KB
To consider a report from the Deputy Chief Executive (S151) considering the recent funding request that has been received from 3 Rivers Development Ltd.
The Cabinet had before it a report from the Deputy Chief Executive which sought approval for a funding request from 3 Rivers Development Limited.
The Cabinet Member for Finance who raised the following:
· This report and associated recommendation is for Cabinet to authorise an increase to the current loan agreements to 3RDL of £ 2,280,784. This is for 3 specific purposes: to deal with projected overspends on the 2 active projects at St George’s Court and Bampton, to increase the working capital in the business, and to allow the business to work on alternative prospects following the revised Treasury guidance on out-of-District projects. It is important to stress that these increases do not breach the overall funding envelope agreed within the Council’s budget, in fact, far from it. Rather it reflects a pragmatic rescheduling of finance arising from the impact of external factors beyond the business’s control.
· That the lending envelope approved by full council was £19.66m Lending envelope for 2022/23. The request for an additional £2.3m would put the total projected spend at circa £12.7m, £7m under the enveloped budget.
· Regular updates to Cabinet have highlighted the inflationary cost pressures on the business arising from materials and labour challenges in various guises. These have had an inevitable impact on the 2 live projects, driving these loan increase requests. On the other hand, the housing market in the region has been vibrant, reflected in an increase in sale prices. Overall, project outturns, assuming somewhat pessimistic sales forecasts, remain broadly the same. Full details are in the Part 2 element of the report.
· Both these projects fit within Treasury guidance, meeting MDDC policy to provide housing and regeneration in area. As the Lender, the Council was interested in risks and returns on its capital investment. Were Cabinet not to approve the loan increases, to cease funding the projects prior to completion as some propose, there would be a sudden and significant threat to the Council’s investment. By carefully proceeding, by contrast, there is no notable change in Council capital risk by increasing loan value, while interest returns remain very beneficial to overall Council finances, particularly noting my previous report.
· It has always been the goal for the business to be a long-term net positive contributor to the Council’s finances whilst fulfilling policy objectives. The change in Treasury guidance earlier this year brought an unwanted change to the business’s geographical ambit and forced the abandonment of several prospects one of which was very advanced. As, in the true sense of the words, a going concern, the business must refocus on a revised pipeline of work. A sum of £580k was sought to explore new sites, as set out in the Part 2 part of the paper, to make up for the loss of a number of opportunities. As such this is no more than a redirection of existing budget allocation.
· Section 3 of your report provides an overall summary of the Council’s financial position with regard to the business, indicating a healthy ... view the full minutes text for item 55.
Notification of Key Decisions PDF 270 KB
To note the contents of the Forward Plan.
RESOLVED: That the notification of Key Decisions be noted.