Your Councillors


Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Remote Meeting - The public proceedings of the meeting will be broadcast live and recorded for playback on the Maidstone Borough Council website.

Contact: Committee Services  01622 602899

Items
No. Item

65.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillors M Burton and English.

66.

Notification of Substitute Members

Minutes:

Councillor Purle was present as Substitute Member for Councillor M Burton.

 

Councillor Joy was present as Substitute Member for Councillor English.

67.

Urgent Items

Minutes:

There were no urgent items.

68.

CHANGE TO THE ORDER OF BUSINESS

Minutes:

It was agreed that item 19 – Call-In of Economic Regeneration and Leisure Decision of Hazlitt Theatre Options would be taken before Item 16 – Discretionary Housing Payments to accommodate the public speakers on the item.

69.

Notification of Visiting Members

Minutes:

Councillors Brindle, Hinder and Naghi were present as Visiting Members for Item 19 – Call-In of Economic Regeneration and Leisure Decisions of Hazlitt Theatre Options.

 

Councillors Kimmance, Parfitt-Reid, Purle, Powell were present for the debate on Item 19 – Call-In of Economic Regeneration and Leisure Decisions of Hazlitt Theatre Options, as the Members that had signed the call-in referral form.

70.

Disclosures by Members and Officers

Minutes:

There were no disclosures by Members or Officers.

 

71.

Disclosures of Lobbying

Minutes:

The following Members had been lobbied on Item 18 – Council-Led Garden Community Update:

 

Councillors Clark, Cox, McKay, Mortimer, Newton, Perry, Round, Springett and de Wiggondene-Sheppard.

 

The following Members had been lobbied on Item 19 – Call-In of Economic Regeneration and Leisure Decisions of Hazlitt Theatre Options:

 

Councillors Brice, Chappell-Tay, Clark, Cox, Mrs Gooch, Harvey, Joy, McKay, Mortimer, Perry, Purle, Round, Springett and de Wiggondene-Sheppard.

 

Councillor Chappell-Tay had been lobbied on Item 14 – 2nd Quarter Financial Update & Performance Monitoring Report 2020/21.

 

Councillor Round had been lobbied on Item 12 – Committee Work Programme.

72.

EXEMPT ITEMS

Minutes:

RESOLVED: That

 

1.  All items be taken in public as proposed unless any Committee Member indicated a wish to refer to Item 20 – Exempt Appendix C – Hazlitt Theatre Options.

 

2.  The Minutes (Part II) of the meeting held on 21 October 2020, be taken alongside the Part I Minutes under Item 8 without going into Part II.

 

73.

Minutes of the Meeting Held on 21 October 2020 pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 21 October 2020 (Parts I and II) be agreed as a correct record of the meeting and signed at a later date.

 

74.

Presentation of Petitions

Minutes:

There were no petitions.

 

75.

Questions and answer session for members of the public

Minutes:

There were eleven questions from Members of the Public.

 

Question from Ms Kate Hammond to the Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee

 

How much has Maidstone Borough Council spent on their Heathlands Council-Led Garden Community to date?’

 

The Chairman responded to the question.

 

Ms Hammond asked the following supplementary question:

 

‘That is roughly the same amount of money as the annual subsidy for the much loved Hazlitt Theatre. Do you think £305,645 is a prudent investment of public funds for what is essentially a high-risk investment?’

The Chairman responded to the supplementary question.

Question from Mr Steve Heeley to the Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee

 

How much has Maidstone Borough Council made budget provision for over the next five years for their Heathlands Garden Community?’

 

The Chairman responded to the question.

 

Mr Heeley asked the following supplementary question:

 

‘Last week you said to the press that you find yourselves in a situation where you have to decide on the best use of your resources at the moment. Do you think Maidstone Council’s pursuit to be a property developer is the best use of your scant finances and resources in the current climate, given the severe pressures on other services and the threat to institutions like the Hazlitt Theatre?’

 

The Chairman responded to the supplementary question.

 

Question from Mr David Finch to the Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee

 

As Mr Finch was not in attendance, the question was read out on his behalf by the Democratic Services Officer.

 

‘MBC’s own Report shows that the Hazlitt Theatre brings in over £5m of direct and indirect business to the Town for a modest subsidy of £243k to Parkwood Theatres – a staggering return of over 2,000 percent per annum.  With at least three Covid vaccines of over 90% success rates due to start coming onstream from next month and with mass vaccination planned for 2021, we are on the cusp of recovery and returning to normal social life from early/mid next year – which will enable the current Hazlitt management team to re-introduce its full programme of income generating events far sooner than the Council anticipate.  Rather than mothball the Theatre with the resultant loss of experienced Theatre staff whilst still incurring the ongoing maintenance cost of £100,000 pa, what avenues have been explored with Parkwood to reduce the current Management Fee during the course of this pandemic to ensure a “win-win” situation – and thereby ensuring the Theatre remains well placed for the social and economic upturn expected in 2021?’

 

The Chairman responded to the question.

 

Question from Ms Becky Roberts to the Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee

 

‘I would like to know how MBC intend to generate the 5 million pounds income per annum that The Hazlitt Theatre brings into the county in normal circumstances?  This would on the basis if you're intending to run the venue without the current experienced team being Parkwood Theatres, whom know this unique old building better  ...  view the full minutes text for item 75.

76.

Questions from Members to the Chairman

Minutes:

There were no questions from Members to the Chairman.

77.

Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 115 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED: That the Committee Work Programme be noted.

 

78.

Reports of Outside Bodies pdf icon PDF 29 KB

Minutes:

A Nomination form had been received from Councillor Perry for the appointment of Council representative to the Upper Medway Internal Drainage Board (UMIDB).  

 

Councillor Round was thanked for his service as Council representative on the UMIDB, with this extended to Councillor Harper for his continued service.

 

RESOLVED: That Councillor Perry be appointed as the Council representative to the Upper Medway Internal Drainage Board.

79.

2nd Quarter Financial Update & Performance Monitoring Report 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 86 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Finance and Business Improvement introduced the financial information update and highlighted the Council’s £7million budget gap as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which had been partially mitigated through government funding. The slippage in the Capital programme had resulted in savings through reduced borrowing costs. The report also detailed the uncollectable Non-Domestic Rates at Appendix 4.

 

The Senior Business Analyst introduced the performance aspect of the report and noted that two of the three indicators were within 10% of the target. The percentage of successful duty relief outcomes had achieved a figure higher than the same period last year. The percentage of successful duty outcomes was noted as the Housing Options team achieved a positive outcome in three of four cases. Across the Council’s Service Committees, only three indicators missed their target by more than 10% as a direct impact of the pandemic.

 

The Deputy Head of Audit introduced the risk management update. The 11 top scoring risks and the implementation of planned controls were identified. There was a risk profile reduction for five risks, with no increased risk profiles within the register. Three additional risks focused on the internal and external uncertainties of the pandemic and major contract failure had been created. The risk register would be continually reviewed.

 

In response to questions it was confirmed that government guidance required the Council to assist the Leisure Centre providers in managing the costs incurred through the pandemic. The Committee expressed support for the work undertaken to produce the report.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

1.  The Revenue position as at the end of Quarter 2 for 2020/21, including the actions being taken or proposed to improve the position, where significant variances have been identified, be noted;

 

2.  The Capital position at the end of Quarter 2, be noted;

 

3.  The Performance position as at Quarter 2 for 2020/21, including the actions being taken or proposed to improve the position, where significant issues have been identified, be noted;

 

4.  The Risk Update, attached at Appendix 3 to the report, be noted; and

 

5.  The uncollectable Non-Domestic Rates (NDR) listed in Appendix 4 to the report, be written off.

 

80.

Strategic Plan Review Update and Medium-Term Financial Strategy pdf icon PDF 72 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chief Executive introduced the report stating that the Committee had begun the process of refreshing the Strategic Plan in July, where they had agreed that whilst the priorities and ambitions remained the same, the plan’s outcomes for the next five years for each of the priorities should be reviewed.

 

Appendix A to the report summarised the progress made concerning the refresh of the Strategic Plan. The future service delivery and efficient improvements for planning and economic development were highlighted, with feedback from Members welcome due to the current formative stage of the work. Key Councillors that included the Leader of the Council, Leader of the Conservative Group and the Chairmen of the Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Committee and Planning Committee would be consulted in finalising the scope of the work to be undertaken.

 

The Director of Finance and Business Improvement introduced the Draft Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS), with the transformational approach to savings highlighted. It was likely that Council Tax would be increased by 2% as the Council’s biggest source of revenue. Other important sources of income included planning fees and parking income. Parking income had been seriously affected by Covid-19.

 

The Chancellor’s statement was referenced, with regards to the possibility that the Council would retain the same proportion of Business Rates Income as in previous years and the continuation of the existing financial settlement. The budget report to be presented in February 2021 would include greater detail into the MTFS as a result. The results of the resident survey undertaken were highlighted, with the top two most important service to residents identified as waste collection and parks and open spaces.

 

In response to questions, it was confirmed that the New Homes Bonus (NHB) and funding from the Kent Business Rates Retention Pool (KBBRP) could be used to temporary close the budget gap. The NHB was usually used for capital spending, with the Council’s borrowing likely to increase as a result and the KBRRP usually used for economic development. From 2023 onwards, the Council’s reserves would be increased. A 2% increase in Council Tax would total an additional £320,000.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

1.  The Strategic Plan Review update be noted alongside the feedback given;

 

2.  The Draft Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021/22 – 2025/26 as shown as Appendix B to the report, be endorsed; and

 

3.  The Council Tax setting principal as set out in paragraph 2.5 of the report be agreed.

81.

Discretionary Housing Payments pdf icon PDF 72 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Revenues and Benefits Shared Service introduced the report and noted that the Council is provided with an annual discretionary housing payment (DHP) budget, from the Department of Work and Pensions. A total of 344 applications were awarded last year, with an increased budget of just over £406,000 provided to the Council due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

The DHP policy had been updated to reflect the responsibilities of the claimant and the Council in providing DHP’s, with the payments to be viewed as short-term emergency funding.

 

RESOLVED: That Council be recommended to adopt the Discretionary Housing Payment Policy, as attached at Appendix 1 to the report.

82.

Call-In of Economic Regeneration and Leisure Decisions of Hazlitt Theatre Options pdf icon PDF 52 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Councillors that had signed the call-in referral form were invited to address the Committee.

 

Several public speakers were invited to address the Committee. Katie Penn on behalf of the Young Performers; Michelle Cleverley; Jacob Amos; Darren Clark; Scott Raffle as Chairman of the Willington Players and Secretary to the Hazlitt Theatre Users Association.

 

The Head of Regeneration and Economic Development introduced the briefing note within the context of the Council’s Strategic Plan Review. The Committee agreed in September 2020 that the Economic Regeneration and Leisure (ERL) Committee would consider the Hazlitt’s contribution to the town centre economy and options for its sustainability. The theatre had been closed since March 2020, with the members of staff either furloughed or made redundant with the Council paying Parkwood Theatres an annual subsidy of around £245,000.

 

Between March to September 2020, the Council had increased their monthly payments to allow the theatre to re-open when feasible. The funding bid submitted by Parkwood Theatres to the Cultural Recovery Fund had been unsuccessful, with a waiver against their contractual obligations until March 2021 requested. It was noted that despite the positive news of vaccine development, a high degree of uncertainty still remained when considering the Council’s subsidy payments. The ERL Committee had considered all available options.

 

Councillor Harper addressed the Committee as Chairman of the ERL Committee. The importance of the theatre to the local economy and community was heavily referenced, with the desire to re-open the theatre when feasible highlighted. The impact of the arts and culture industry on resident’s quality of life and the benefits of community engagement were identified. It was noted that the ERL committee was unanimous in their decision, with an all-Member briefing having taken place in October 2020 to provide further information on the Hazlitt Theatre. Suggestions of alternative uses in the short-term were provided.

 

During the debate, the benefits of deferring the decision made by the ERL Committee were referenced. This included that since the decision was taken, several potential vaccinations had been brought forward which could lead to a reduction in Covid-19 social distancing measures and that deferring the decision would provide further time to negotiate a reduced subsidy payment with Parkwood Theatres.  The unknown costs of terminating the contract in place and re-opening the Hazlitt theatre were highlighted in contrast to the proposed savings.

 

The Head of Regeneration and Economic Development confirmed that there was no financial penalty from ending the contract early and that the financial and time costs associated with contract termination had not yet been discussed with Parkwood.

 

The staff furlough and redundancies that Parkwood Theatres had implemented from September 2020 prior to the ERL Committee’s decision were noted. The importance of experienced staff was highlighted, in response to queries about the procurement process if the original decision was maintained.

 

The Director of Finance and Business Improvement confirmed that if the contract was not terminated, the proposed savings would need to be found from elsewhere within the Council’s budget.

 

The Chairman of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 82.

83.

Council Tax Reduction Scheme 2021-22 pdf icon PDF 110 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Revenues and Benefits Shared Service introduced the report and referenced the Committee’s previous decision to introduce an income banded council tax reduction scheme. The current system was reactive to changes in Universal Credit, which increased council tax administration, reduced council tax collection and caused the production of multiple council tax bills for residents.

 

The objectives were to maintain the 80% maximum award, protect disabled households, simplify assessment and re-assessment and maintain costs. A public consultation on three potential models occurred between 31 July 2020 to 27 September 2020, with model two as the preferred option. 242 responses were received, with 163 having included the models being ranked in order of preference.

 

The Committee expressed support for the proposed scheme.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

1.  The outcome of the public consultation be noted;

 

2.  Full council be recommended to implement the 2021-22 Council Tax Reduction Scheme for the reasons outlined in 4.1 of the report; and

 

3.  The impact of the proposed changes to the Council Tax Reduction scheme on people with the protected characteristics of disability, sex and age, as set out in Section 1 and Appendix 2 of the report be noted, and that these impacts be weighed against any potential savings in the administration of the scheme that may be made by the Council as well as achieving the objective, to maintain costs of award of the scheme in line with the current scheme in 2021/22.

 

84.

Council-Led Garden Community Update pdf icon PDF 81 KB

Minutes:

The Director of Regeneration and Place introduced the monthly update on the Council-Led Garden Community and referenced Heathlands inclusion in the Regulation 18 preferred approaches public consultation document. It was noted that Homes England were continuing their due diligence, with no concerns highlighted. Community engagement would continue, with a meeting scheduled with the representative of the five principal landowners in the near future.

 

RESOLVED: That the report be noted.

 

85.

Exempt Appendix C - Hazlitt Theatre Options

86.

Minutes (Part II) of the Meeting held on 21 October 2020

87.

DURATION OF MEETING

Minutes:

6.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.