Report of the Democratic Services Manager.
Members welcomed Councillors Clarke and Payne to the meeting to examine their portfolios.
Councillor Payne first addressed the question raised in respect of the recent commercialisation internal audit. He said that the Senior Leadership Team had fully accepted the recommendations made in the audit, which mainly concerned the market research undertaken and business case building process for the Pet Cremation Service. He added that he would be happy to talk members through the individual recommendations if that was required.
In respect of the second question about scrutiny involvement in policy formation, the Deputy Leader said that the scrutiny committee was always welcome to engage with portfolio holders at any time on matters relating to their areas of work. He added that work was ongoing, led by the Chief Executive supported by Democratic Services, to produce a more relevant Executive Forward Plan which contained all forthcoming details for the short, medium and long term.
A further question concerning the progress of a climate action plan for the council was also submitted. The Deputy Leader advised that a Carbon baseline assessment and associated draft action plan had been completed using 2019/20 full year data. Additional funding had been allocated for a Climate Change Officer who would be in post shortly to work in partnership with external bodies and departments to deliver the program of work in the plan. The plan arising will be embedded in the Council’s Climate Change Strategy. Progress is being made on the strategy and an actionable action plan is being prepared for further consultation. It is aimed to have the Carbon Action Plan done by 18 July for consultation with the draft strategy document ready in the autumn.
A final question was asked about covid-19 Restart and Additional Restrictions grants. Information from the Deputy Leader was provided as follows:
· A total of 736 applications for restart grants had been received taking an average of 25.4 days to process with 48 still being processed. A total of 2214 Additional Restart Grant applications (ARG) had been received with 0 outstanding and an average processing time of 19.4 days
· A total of £3,362,042 has been paid out for Restart Grants and £4,504,196 for the ARGs
· The average processing time was a crude estimate calculated using a random sample of 10 applications as accurate data on processing times was not a requirement for the scheme and to produce it would be onerous. The processing time statistics do not take account of applications that were received incomplete or without the required evidence.
· In many cases the Portfolio Holder asked for officers to contact applicants to provide missing application information rather than reject those as per the guidance and exceptional cases were re-considered where the guidance was considered to be too restrictive for example car mechanics.
· Initially the government gave a date of March 2022 for authorities to distribute ARG funds which led to a decision being taken to hold a small proportion of the funding back should the pandemic worsen. This date was then revised to 30 June 2021 with the requirement for pre-assurance checks to be made on applications. The pre-assurance checks were introduced to combat fraud.
· The Council has paid out nearly £30 million of covid funding to all businesses across the 25 different schemes
· Massive thanks was due to the businesses in Gedling for their efforts in coping with the pandemic and restart period.
· Thanks also to the staff involved in the complex grant allocation process which was done in addition to their normal duties, especially in light of the extra demand for the council tax reduction scheme
· Additional funding was promised to authorities who had used their allocations by 30 June. This had been done leading to a claim of £624,000 which is due for payment in July.
· It was disappointing to note the level of scrutiny given to national decisions for various government funding decisions in comparison to the level of scrutiny given to local authorities’ allocation of grants.
In discussion the following was covered:
· A number of members added their thanks to the officers involved in the processing of covid grants which had been gratefully received by businesses.
· The Leader emphasised his thanks to the officers involved in the grants process.
· In respect of commercialisation, the Deputy Leader stated in response to a question that the social value aspect of any business case for a commercial service was very important so long as tax payers’ money was spent wisely.
To note the information provided and thank Councillors Clarke and Payne for their attendance.