Agenda and minutes

Policy Development Panel - Wednesday, 9th March, 2016 6.30 pm

Venue: Meeting Room 1, Council Offices, Priory Road, Spalding

Contact: Christine Morgan  01775 764454

Items
No. Item

46.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 62 KB

To sign as a correct record the minutes of the following meetings (copies enclosed):

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the following meetings were signed by the Chairman as a correct record:

 

·         Special joint meeting of the Performance Monitoring Panel and Policy Development Panel – 30 November 2015

·         Special joint meeting of the Performance Monitoring Panel and Policy Development Panel – 14 December 2015

·         Policy Development Panel – 13 January 2016

·         Special joint meeting of the Performance Monitoring Panel and Policy Development Panel – 4 February 2016

47.

Declaration of Interests.

Where a Councillor has a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest the Councillor must declare the interest to the meeting and leave the room without participating in any discussion or making a statement on the item, except where a Councillor is permitted to remain as a result of a grant of dispensation.

Minutes:

There were none.

48.

Questions asked under Standing Order 6

Minutes:

There were none.

49.

Tracking of recommendations

To consider responses of the Cabinet to reports of the Panel. 

Minutes:

There were none.

50.

Items referred from the Performance Monitoring Panel

Minutes:

There were none.

51.

Key Decision Plan pdf icon PDF 147 KB

To note the current Key Decision Plan, published 1 March 2016 (copy enclosed). 

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the Key Decision Plan, published on 1 March 2016.

 

AGREED:

 

That the Key Decision Plan be noted.

52.

Council Tax Support Anti-Fraud Policy pdf icon PDF 60 KB

To consider the Anti-Fraud Policy in relation to the Council Tax Support Scheme (report of the Executive Director Commercialisation (S151 Officer) enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Executive Director Commercialisation which asked the Panel to consider the Council Tax Support Anti-Fraud Policy, and provide feedback if appropriate.

 

Council Tax Support replaced the national Council Tax Benefit system in April 2013 under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, and local authorities were required to have in place a locally determined scheme for working age residents.

 

It was a legislative requirement that those who received state pension would continue to receive support under the Council Tax Support Scheme on the same terms as would have applied under the old Council Tax Benefit scheme.

 

Activities outlined in the policy were carried out in practice by trained and experienced officers, with compliance to relevant legislation and governance.  To ensure transparency, and to act as a deterrent, the process had been brought together in a Council Tax Support Anti-Fraud Policy, which was attached to the report at Appendix A.

 

Consideration was given to the report and the policy, and the following issues were raised:

 

·         Section 4 of the policy, relating to penalty as alternative to prosecution – It was stated that ‘in accordance with the legislation, a penalty offered as an alternative to prosecution will be a minimum of £100, or 50% of the fraudulent excess Council Tax Support claimed by the offender’.  Councillors felt that this needed to be clearer to explain that the penalty was in addition to also paying back the whole amount of the fraudulent excess.

 

·         Section 4 of the Policy, Council Tax Support anti-fraud policy process map – Box A stated ‘that the claimant is offered a financial penalty (50% of overpayment) as an alternative to prosecution’.  As with the previous point, it also needed to be clearer that the penalty was in addition to paying back the whole amount of the overpayment.

 

·          

AGREED:

 

a)    That the report and policy be noted: and

 

b)    That the following amendments be made to the Council Tax Support Anti Fraud Policy:

 

·         That in Section 4 of the Policy under ‘penalty as alternative to prosecution’ and ‘Council Tax Support anti-fraud policy process map (Box A)’, it be made clearer that the penalty was in addition to paying the whole amount of the overpayment back.

53.

Council Tax Section 13A Policy pdf icon PDF 72 KB

To consider the policy in relation to applications for discretionary reduction under Section 13A (1) (c) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (report of the Executive Director, Commercialisation enclosed)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Executive Director Commercialisation, which asked the Panel to give consideration to the Council Tax Section 13A Policy in relation to applications for discretionary reduction under Section 13A (1) (c) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, and to provide feedback if appropriate.

 

Section 76 of the Local Government Act 2003 introduced section 13A (Billing Authority’s Power to Reduce Amount of Tax Payable) into the Local Government Finance Act 1992.  This provided the Council with discretionary powers to reduce the amount of Council Tax payable to such an extent as it thought fit, including reducing the amount to zero, where other national discounts and exemptions could not be applied.

 

The Local Government Finance Act 2012 inserted a new Section 13A in the Local Government Finance Act 1992, creating two discounts:

 

·         Local Council Tax Support schemes under Section 13A (1)(a) and (b); and

·         13a (1) (c) effectively the original Section 13A discount now including provision to further reduce the amount of any reduction provided by S13A (1) (a) and (b).

 

In accordance with Section 13A (1) (a) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (amended), the Council had a Council Tax Support scheme which provided assistance to those deemed to be within financial need.  The scheme had been designed to take into account the financial and specific circumstances of individuals with maximum relief of 75% of the Council Tax liability, available to working age applicants.

 

Council Tax legislation also provided for a wide range of discounts, exemptions and reductions that had the effect of reducing the level of Council Tax due.  The Policy under Section 13A (1) (c), as shown in Appendix A, would require applicants to have exhausted all other options before making an application under this policy.

 

Officers applying this policy would similarly consider whether alternative actions could be undertaken before applying the policy.  As such, the policy would only consider exceptional circumstances, due to financial need or crisis, where it was appropriate and fair to provide a discretionary discount.

 

Any relief awarded under Section 13A (1) (c) would be intended only as short term assistance and not a means to reduce Council Tax liability indefinitely.

 

The Panel considered the report and the policy, and the following issues were raised:

 

·         Was the Authority required to put this Policy in place?

o   The Investigations Team Leader (CPBS) advised that it was considered good practice to do so.  Other Council’s had been criticised for not advertising its availability.

 

·         Was there a demand for this assistance within South Holland?

o   The Investigations Team Leader advised that only one claim had been received over the past year.  It was normally only awarded in exceptional circumstances.

 

·         It was good to see that there were paragraphs of discretion within the Policy to allow for those that required it, within exceptional circumstances.

 

·         What happened at the end of the six months, and was the customer able to re-apply again if they were still in genuine need?

o   The Investigations  ...  view the full minutes text for item 53.

54.

Consideration of potential Policy for residual gains from Right to Buy sales

Should the Council have a policy stating that all residual gain from Right to Buy sales be ring fenced for council housing? 

 

The Chief Accountant will give a short presentation to provide background information and details on the current position, after which the Panel will decide if it wishes to consider this issue further.  The suggestion was originally put forward as a recommendation at the budget scrutiny meeting on 14 December 2015)

 

Minutes:

The Panel had requested at the last meeting on 13 January 2016 that an officer provide more information on this subject to this meeting.  The Interim Chief Accountant was unable to attend and it was therefore agreed that the update be provided to the next Panel meeting on 26 April 2016.

55.

Policy Development Panel Work Programme pdf icon PDF 66 KB

To set out the Work Programme of the Policy Development Panel (report of the Executive Manager Governance enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Executive Manager Governance, which set out the Work Programme of the Policy Development Panel.  The Work Programme consisted of two separate sections, the first setting out the dates of the future Panel meetings along with proposed items for consideration, and the second setting out the Task Groups that had been identified by the Panel.

 

Consideration was given to the report and the following issues were raised:

 

·         Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field Task Group – Councillor Dark advised that he was working with the Communities Manager on the proposals that had arisen from the Task Group.  Good progress was being made.  It was agreed therefore that the Task Group could be removed from Section B of the Work Programme.

 

·         It was suggested that a Task Group be set up to consider a policy to address the number of off-licences in Spalding – Panel members stated that the number of off-licences in the town was an issue that many Spalding residents felt strongly about, and the perception was that the Council was responsible.  The Panel was advised that a Cumulative Impact Assessment was currently being undertaken by the Portfolio Holder for Strategy, Governance and Public Protection, with these issues in mind.  Although some Panel members requested that the Portfolio Holder be asked to attend the meeting to discuss this further, it was felt that he should complete the assessment before this was considered.  It was agreed therefore that the Portfolio Holder be requested to provide the Panel members with a briefing note to explain the situation in the interim. 

 

·         Panel members asked how it was to progress its work with regard to policy review.  The Democratic Services Officer commented that she would ascertain the status of the Policy Register with a view to it being brought to the next meeting of the Panel.

 

AGREED:

 

a)    That the Work Programme be noted;

 

b)    That the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field Task Group be removed from the Panel’s Work Programme;

 

c)    That the Portfolio Holder for Strategy, Governance and Public Protection be requested to provide the Panel with a briefing note on the work he was undertaking on a Cumulative Impact Assessment in respect of the number of off-licences in Spalding; and

 

d)    That the Policy Register be considered at the next meeting of the Panel.