Agenda and minutes

SWT Corporate Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 7th July, 2021 6.15 pm

Venue: The John Meikle Room - The Deane House. View directions

Contact: Andrew Randell Email:  Marcus Prouse Email:

Webcast: View the webcast

No. Item




Minutes of the previous Corporate Scrutiny Committee held on 2 June 2021 pdf icon PDF 221 KB


Declarations of Interest

    To receive and note any declarations of disclosable pecuniary or prejudicial or personal interests in respect of any matters included on the agenda for consideration at this meeting.


    (The personal interests of Councillors and Clerks of Somerset County Council, Town or Parish Councils and other Local Authorities will automatically be recorded in the minutes.)


    Additional documents:


    No additional declarations were made.


Public Participation

    The Chair to advise the Committee of any items on which members of the public have requested to speak and advise those members of the public present of the details of the Council’s public participation scheme.


    For those members of the public who have submitted any questions or statements, please note, a three minute time limit applies to each speaker and you will be asked to speak before Councillors debate the issue.


    Temporary measures during the Coronavirus pandemic

    Due to the temporary legislation (within the Coronavirus Act 2020, which allowed for use of virtual meetings) coming to an end on 6 May 2021, the council’s committee meetings will now take place in the office buildings at the John Meikle Room, Deane House, Belvedere Road, Taunton. Unfortunately due to capacity requirements the Chamber at West Somerset House is not able to be used at this current moment.

    Following the Government guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the council meeting rooms will have very limited capacity. With this in mind, we will only be allowing those members of the public who have registered to speak to attend the meetings in person at the office buildings, if they wish. (We will still be offering to those members of the public that are not comfortable in attending, for their statements to be read out by a member of the Governance team). Please can we urge all members of the public who are only interested in listening to the debate to view our live webcasts from the safety of their own home to help prevent the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).



    Additional documents:


    There was no public participation.


Corporate Scrutiny Request/Recommendation Trackers pdf icon PDF 287 KB


Corporate Scrutiny Committee Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 33 KB


Executive and Full Council Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 68 KB


Financial Monitoring - Outturn Position 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 999 KB

    Additional documents:


    This report set out information related to Somerset West and Taunton Council’s

    (SWT) financial performance for the 2020/21 financial year. The outturn figures

    included are provisional subject to the completion of the external audit of the statutory financial statements. The audit is due to be completed between July and September with the findings due to be reported to the Audit and Governance Committee on 27 September this year.


    The COVID pandemic had significantly impacted upon the Council's services, costs

    and income during the past financial year. The situation has been extremely dynamic

    throughout the year both in terms of various announcement of additional funding

    arrangements from Government and the local impact on demand for and delivery of

    services. Budgets were revised at Quarter 3 taking into account changes agreed by

    Council including allocations from reserves, plus further changes made under

    delegated powers such as to reflect more recent COVID grant funding allocations

    made. Measures were implemented early in the year by leadership to mitigate risk

    and uncertainty.


    By the end of the financial year, COVID has resulted in additional cost pressures and

    loss of income to the General Fund totalling £7.270m. This has been partly offset by

    additional government funding of £5.718m but has required £1.552m of Council funds to meet the shortfall.


    COVID has also impacted on the expenditure for ‘business as usual’ services.

    Management have prioritised significant intervention and support in response to

    COVID and in some cases activity has been delayed or deferred e.g. due to supply

    chain limitations. This has contributed to a carry forward of planned spend into

    2021/22 of £2.079m. Despite the financial pressures and ongoing delivery of key

    services the Council has contained spend and reports a net underspend against final

    General Fund revised budget of £1.245m.


    The revenue outturn position for the financial year 2020/21 is as follows:


    The General Fund (GF) Revenue Outturn position for 2020/21 is a net underspend

    of £1.250m (5.9% of net budget). This is net of £2.079m of budget carried forward to



    The HRA Revenue Outturn position for 2020/21 is a net overspend of £15k (0.1% of gross income).


    The HRA is a ring-fenced, self-financing account used to manage the Council’s

    Housing Landlord function, which is budgeted to break even (net of approved

    transfers to/from HRA Reserves). As the HRA Net Budget is net £nil with costs wholly offset by income and reserves, performance is reported against gross income for monitoring purposes.


    The capital outturn position for 2020/21 was set out:


    The total approved General Fund Capital Programme budget in place in 2020/21, including schemes brought forward from previous years, was £112.5m (Appendix C). This relates to a combination of schemes to be delivered in the year and some that will span over more than one year. £63.3m has been spent during 2020/21. Of the remaining £49.2m, £0.1m is reported as net underspend on projects completed during the year, £7.5m is removed from the budget as it is no longer required, and £41.6m will  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.


Financial Strategy 2021/22 to 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 741 KB

    Additional documents:


    The Financial Strategy is presented for approval by the Executive. This sets out the approach and plans for ensuring the Council continues to operate in a financially sustainable way and allocates its resources in accordance with agreed priorities. The Strategy if agreed with underpin the ongoing management of the current year 2021/22 budget as well as the approach to developing the 2022/23 budget for approval by Council in February 2022.


    The Council’s services, costs and income last financial year were significantly impacted by the COVID pandemic, with major uncertainty and a frequently changing financial position. In such a dynamic and uncertain environment, financial forecasting and planning is extremely difficult, and the approach during the year necessarily adapted as the year progressed. The refresh of the financial strategy last year focused very much on managing the financial impact of COVID as well as supporting intervention and economic recovery.


    Financial planning uncertainty remains, and this is reflected within the 2021/22 budget and reserves plan. The ongoing impact on services, costs and income will be carefully monitored during this year to assess reliability of current year baselines and budget forecast assumptions.


    A further factor considered in the Financial Strategy is the prospect of a move to a new (one or two) unitary authority structure within Somerset from April 2023. The Secretary of State is expected to decide on the preferred option in the summer. This added uncertainty leads to a shorter-term focus in budget planning within this Strategy, with future corporate and service priorities, structural design, and related financial plans beyond 2022/23 likely to be undertaken through shadow/transitional governance arrangements.


    The other major uncertainty reflected in the Strategy is future funding arrangements for local government. The previous Spending Review in 2020 only covered one year, and it is uncertain at this stage whether the 2021 Spending Review will cover a longer period, and how future funding of local government will be affected by the ongoing impact of COVID in the economy and local demand for services. Changes in funding mechanisms, such as the fair funding review and redesign of business rates retention and new homes bonus are also ‘known unknowns’ at this stage.


    Given the level of uncertainty and likely structural change, this Strategy and updated MTFP focus on 2021/22 and 2022/23 with an indicative forecast for 2023/24 based on continuation of existing district services.


    During the debate the following comments and questions were raised:-


    ·        Ensuring funds were available to manage the transition to the New Council and manage existing budgets effectively was a priority. Clarity on the Future of Local Government reform in Somerset was welcomed towards the end of the month.

    ·        Concerns around investments held by the Council and future risk around the commercial property sector was expressed. Reassurance was requested around commercial investments.

    ·        The portfolio of assets were being built along with any asset management requirements. It was questioned when commercial investments would be reviewed. This was managed by the officer team and reported to the Commercial Investment Board.

    ·        It  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.


Corporate Performance Report, Quarter 4 and Outturn, 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 377 KB

    Additional documents:


    The report provided an update on the council’s performance for the 2020/21 financial year. The report includes information for a range of key performance indicators and also provides an update on progress against the council’s annual plan commitments for the year. This year, the council has also played a significant role in the response to the pandemic and this report includes a summary of the additional work undertaken. Finally, the report also includes the key business risks for the council.


    As part of the Councils commitment to transparency and accountability the report provided an update on performance for a number of key indicators across a range of council services and also provides progress monitoring for the implementation of the Corporate Strategy, and the delivery of the commitments made in the 2020/21 Annual Plan. The past year has been exceptional and the pandemic has resulted in unprecedented circumstances. The council’s response to the pandemic has been significant, and this has been achieved in addition to the regular day-to-day responsibilities.


    During the debate the following comments and questions were raised:-


    ·        The numbers of complaints were questioned, it was considered if there had been an increase in complaints and issues experienced in the Licensing department and staffing issues. Performance in Licensing had improved and was back on track in the current year.

    ·        Requirements for variations to licenses were considered and how this impacted the variations to the backlog. More information would be provided following the meeting.

    ·        There had been a small increase in a number of complaints.

    ·        Performance in the year overall had been impacted at the start of the year although it remained at 90% for complaint responses.

    ·        Determination of Planning applications and delays around this were discussed. There were 93 cases held up as a result of phosphates. Delays in applications due to phosphates had been experienced which had impacted social housing applications which had adversely impacted communities.

    ·        It was requested further dialogue was required with Natural England to improve the situation with applications which had been delayed.

    ·        The national indicator was followed as an indicator which included extensions to planning permissions. Broader reasons for time extensions were being worked through with the Assistant Director.

    ·        Length of time and time extensions in relation to Planning was requested as a true picture to resolve issues.

    ·        The number of complaints responded to within 10 working days was considered and Communications of questions by phone and email.

    ·        Complaints due to lack of response or information was requested to be tracked. It was acknowledged that responses were not always as timely received as could be due to pressures in certain departments.

    ·        Officer resource had been targeted to address complaints along with addressing customer responses around waste collections. Missed waste collections had been a recent recognised issue.

    ·        Progress in Watchet in relation to the Wall repair was commended along with the draft Local Plan.

    ·        The Senior Management Team and Portfolio Holder were congratulated for all their hard work and progress.


    The Corporate Scrutiny Committee noted the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.


Executive Cllr PFH Session - Leader of the Council & Communications


Access to Information - Exclusion of the Press and Public

    Resolved that the press and the public be excluded from the meeting for the items numbered 14 (appendices only) and 15 on the Agenda as the items contained exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, and the public interest in withholding the information outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information to the public.


    Additional documents:


    The Exclusion notice was not utilised as Councillors did not discuss the confidential appendix.



Financial Monitoring - Outturn Position 2020/21 - Confidential Appendix G