SWT Corporate Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 26th January, 2022 6.15 pm
Venue: The John Meikle Room - The Deane House. View directions
Webcast: View the webcast
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from councillors Nick Thwaites, Danny Wedderkopp and Barrie Hall. Councillors Simon Coles and Ross Henley also sent their apologies and joined the meeting via Zoom.
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.)
Members present at the meeting declared the following personal interests in their capacity as a Councillor or Clerk of a County, Town or Parish Council or any other Local Authority:-
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).
The Chair invited Mr House to speak.
Mr House made the following statement and asked the following question with regard to agenda item Draft General Fund Revenue Budget and Capital Estimates 2022/23.
The Victoria Park Action Group has been campaigning for improvements to our Park Pavilion and safer external public toilets since 2015. The current toilets have been closed but the council are trying to reopen. The key issue is becoming a need to create perhaps two safe and maintainable public external park toilets like those appear on the side of the Coach Building to serve the Park and Sports Facilities. This would allow space within pavilion south pyramid to be upgraded to form a proper Community Hall minimum 75 sq m area, perhaps as an objective of a future town council.
Elsewhere in the town centre there are currently closed or demolished toilets that will require to be replaced if we wish to attract more visitors to support shops and hospitality venues.
At Fire pool an amphitheatre has been proposed, at Coal Orchard a waterside boating feature is being built and at the bus station a proposal for a first changing rooms toilet for Taunton, a higher standard toilet to benefit arrange of people with disabilities and their Carers. I could make a similar case for funding to replace the produce market house on Firepool which in 1974 was thriving.
Since I asked this question last year we are now firmly set to have a new Somerset Unitary Council from April 2023 who will wish to transfer all expenditure on the non-statutory provision of public toilets to a Taunton Town Council.
From the experience of the Unitary changes in Dorset effecting the new Weymouth Town Council in the January meetings before their inception in April 2019:
Work was underway by the outgoing Weymouth and Portland Borough Council to construct new seafront toilets at Weymouth for the new Town council to operate once finished after the due transfer date. So a useful precedent for our park and town centre public toilets.
That month the Dorset Shadow Unitary Council meeting reports show by this time six donor council capital programmes had been merged into one. A task the newly elected Somerset Unitary Councillors will do next year in lieu of a SWT budget process.
This year is the last chance to include district wide funding for rebuilding our public toilets. The new Weymouth Council had to increase its first precept by 10% for the first two years in order to build up its new capital reserves. A similar case for Taunton Town will restrict it from raising capital funds for Toilets at the outset.
Appendix C - Can the Capitol budget line Community Development showing £500,000 allowance from CIL receipts be allocated to Taunton Public Toilets, clearly a third tier council responsibility, so that funding can be established and pass-ported through to help our Park and perhaps other schemes. Can Scrutiny consider if this month is the last chance for ... view the full minutes text for item 87.
To receive items and review the Forward Plan.
Councillor Firmin suggested inviting a representative of Somerset County Cricket Club to provide an update on how the Cricket Club are using funding supplied to them by the Council. The Chair asked officers to make contact with Somerset County Cricket Club.
The Chair noted the forward plan.
This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Henley, Corporate Resources
Report Author: Emily Collacott, Lead Finance Business Partner (Deputy S151 Officer)
The Portfolio Holder introduced the report:
· Received details of the financial settlement from central government just before Christmas. The Settlement was not brilliant and resulted in a reduction in year-on-year funding of £1.5m, however, the Council had been prepared for receiving less funding.
· There was a significant reduction in car park income, and this was anticipated to continue. This had been built into the budget.
· There would be a decrease in business rates due to Hinkley Point B being decommissioned.
· The Commercial Investment Strategy had been successful and would provide income for the Council next year and help to counteract the impact of increased costs.
· The budget provided for the additional costs of the implementation of a unitary council next year whilst minimising impact on services.
During the debate the following points and questions were raised:
· More information was requested on how internal borrowing worked as opposed to how external borrowing worked. Officers responded that internal borrowing was a treasury management tool to manage risk. The Council had cash balances, cash to invest and borrowing needs. These needs were balanced to minimise risk. As part of the treasury strategy, a certain amount of liquid cash was held at any given time but any funds above that could be used for internal borrowing. Internal borrowing could be better than investing as it could reduce risk and reduce the need for additional external borrowing.
· It was asked who sets the interest rate if money was leant to an internal project and why external investment would not be done instead if a higher interest rate and investment return could be made. Officers responded that it was a way of managing risk and that there was a treasury management report coming to the committee in March which would address these issues in greater detail.
· It was asked whether the reserves the Council was holding would be seen as being too great by the auditors. Officers responded that they did not foresee that being the case.
· Support was given for providing public toilets in Taunton. It was asked about the need for a settlement if a new town council was set up in Taunton and concerns were raised that this did not appear to have been planned for in the budget. Any new town council would need a budget to be able to provide services such as public toilets. Officers responded that there was no capital provision for providing public toilets but there was revenue support built into the budget to provide public toilets. Regarding funding provision for a new town council for Taunton officersagreed to provide a full answer to the committee after the meeting and before the Full Council budget setting meeting.
· A set up payment to a town council in Taunton would be paid for by everyone across the district whereas in all parishes, parishioners have to pay for facilities that are provided in their area through the precept they pay. Providing a set up payment for ... view the full minutes text for item 89.