Agenda item

Urgent Business

To consider any business that the Chairman rules may be dealt with under Section 100B(4) of the Local Government Act 1972.


The Chair ruled that the Review of Fees and Charges 2024-25 item that was considered by the Executive on 16 November 2023 was to be taken as urgent business.

The reason for the urgency, at its first opportunity, prior to the recommendations from the Executive being formally debated by Council on 30 November 2023.

Eugene Walker, Interim Finance Director and Section 151 Officer, introduced the item.  The proposed changes to fees and charges had been developed within the framework of the Council’s review of providing discretionary and statutory services.  The Council had embarked on a paradigm shift on its approach to budget, including charging for services.  Two underlying principles for each service had been applied; either cost recovery or cost neutrality.

The Committee discussed the format of the report recognising that it was very information dense and lacked consistency which inhibited effective scrutiny.

Councillor Roberts noted that the Council had historically not prioritised management accounting which had caused insufficient reporting and those reports that were generated not including all information that would be beneficial to Members.  This was an area that Officers were actively addressing.

Several suggestions to improve the report in future years were made.

        The rationale for each increase be included in future years to aid Members in determining whether to approve the fees and charges.

        How proposed increases could impact parts of the community.

        Categories for fees and charges.  An example set was given; inflation, removal of subsidies, improved accounting, cost awareness, catch-up (where there had been no increase for several years), outliers, and other factors.

        If proposed changes from the previous year were realised.

        Evidence of where benchmarking had been performed.

        Evidence of where fees and charges were increased to reflect increased costs incurred by the Council.

The Committee considered it most appropriate to instruct the Finance Working Group to explore with Officers improvements to the Fees and Charges 2025-26 report.  It was recognised that the Council was embarking on multiple streams of improvement across all financial and commercial activities and that many elements of best practice already in development should be incorporated into the work.

The Working Group was requested to provide an update to the Committee by the end of the Municipal Year including a timeline of when the improvements would be delivered in time for the next review of Fees and Charges.  Work began on the report in conjunction with the development of the Medium Term Financial Strategy in the Summer months.

Specific query was raised on the management fee for Homelink, a service shared with other Councils, and whether the Council incurred any additional costs as the lead Council for the scheme.  Officers undertook to provide information outside of the meeting.

The pop-in visits service was intended as ad hoc and to be used in exception when individuals would not be able to visit those they support for a period.  The Council had not particularly promoted the service but intended to keep it.

Increases to community meals charges were primarily due to inflationary pressures.  Efficiencies had been made in the service by reducing the number of rounds each meal was delivered in, from six to five.  The breakfast option was cold, pre-prepared and delivered at the same time as a hot meal.

Although St Mary’s kitchen had closed, it was not due to lack of success from the model and a similar project was continuing at Westfield.  Officers considered the model worthy of expanding..