Executive Committee Meeting - 20 May 2016
Society of District Council Treasurers
Minutes of the Executive Committee held on 20th May 2016
At the CIPFA Offices, Mansell Street, London
In Attendance: Norma Atlay (President), Angela George (Secretary), Nick Eveleigh, Kevin Jaquest, Jill Penn, Frank Wilson, Bob Palmer, Jo Wagstaffe, Helen Seechurn.
Also in attendance: Bevis Ingram (LGA), Joanne Pitt (CIPFA), Lisa Quinn (Capita), Aileen Murphy and David Aldous (NAO), Sally Marshall (DCEN), Jon Hayes (PSAA).
1. Apologies/ Welcome:
Apologies were received from – Sandra Cowley, Rob Bridge, Peter Stuart, Jason Vaughan, Alan Peach, Sanjiv Kohli, Steve Richardson, Jane Kitchen, Shirlene Adam, Chris Brewer, Sal Khan, Vince Green, William Jacob, Simone Hines (Mat).
2. Minutes of Previous Meeting and actions arising
The draft minutes of the previous meeting of 8th April 2016 were agreed with minor amendment and will now be published.
Actions have either been completed or picked up elsewhere on the agenda.
3. Business Rate Retention:
NB: All papers from the various working groups have previously been circulated to SDCT members and all papers are available on the LGA website (www.local.gov.uk/business-rates ; e- mail: email@example.com)
3.1 Steering Group (Norma Atlay lead)
Norma Atlay had circulated notes from the 2nd meeting of the group held on 13th April.
Bevis Ingram (LGA) circulated slides highlighting some of the key issues (attached). The aim is for a consultation document to be launched at the LGA Conference in early July and to meet this deadline the Steering group meeting on 13th June would be crucial. The LGA are very keen to get to as many regional events and individual Treasurer’s meetings as possible and anyone interested in this should contact the LGA directly.
Action – All to contact Bevis if local meetings required.
3.2 Systems Design (Rob Bridge lead)
There was nothing further to add to the note previously circulated by Rob from the meeting held on 4th May.
3.3 Needs and Redistribution (Nick Eveleigh lead)
A note from Nick was circulated from the meeting on 3rd May. It was noted that a review of needs is not in itself an essential element of the operation of the retained rates system and so the timescale for this working group is not as tight as for the others.
Action – SDCT members to advise if they can provide cover for Nick for the meeting to be held on 4th August
3.4 New Service Responsibilities (Steve Richardson lead)
The first meeting had been held on 3rd May. It was noted that CLG did not appear to have formed a view on many of the key issues which left a real opportunity to influence the thinking in this work stream.
3.5 Accounting and Accountability (Vince Green)
The first meeting of this group would be held on 31st May. Vince could not attend but would try to get a substitute.
3.6 DCN / CCN
A meeting has been set up for 8th June. Sal Khan has agreed to represent the SDCT at that meeting.
The Executive discussed again how best we could support the District case from the SDCT and it was agreed that we would require specific financial modelling support. Although the exact nature of the support is still not known, it was agreed to contact a private sector supplier to see what their capacity would be to support any such work as it arises.
Action – Angela George
4. Devolution and Transformation
Members of the Executive whose areas were involved in devolution discussions gave updates on some of the issues being encountered. In some areas the devolution debate had turned into a ‘unitary’ debate.
5. Audit Update
A Paper from Bob Palmer was considered (attached) with the key issues as follows:
5.1 National Audit Office
A full note of the work of the NAO was given in Bob’s note.
Aileen advised that the report on Devolution had some specific recommendations for Government to consider including ensure the core purpose of devolution deals are clarified. Another report was due in the autumn.
David reported that a consultation on Practice Note 10 (PN10) on the application of Auditing Standards to public sector audits would commence shortly. Given the continuing implementation of the new localised audit arrangements in England, it is possible that local authorities and their Audit Committees will wish to have a better understanding about how auditors carry out their work, and so there may be more interest in this consultation than has historically been the case.
It was noted that the report on the Business Rate review including the role of the Valuation office was still outstanding.
There would also be a report into Transition Grant – methodology for the distribution of funds.
5.2 PSAA Ltd
There was still no further word regarding the PSAA taking on the role of the sector led body to appoint auditors. Concern was expressed that time was getting short to make appointments if a decision was not taken shortly by CLG. Events had been lined up at both the CIPFA and LGA conferences in July.
Action – Bob Palmer to continue to update on audit issues.
6. Advisor Reports
6.1 Updating the New Burdens Doctrine - note from Sal Khan (attached).
6.2 Accounting Issues – note from Vince Green (attached).
7. Reports from External Bodies / Sponsors:
Bevis updated on some of the issues currently being dealt with by the LGA not covered on the agenda including:
- Purdah would start on 27th May.
- There was no further news on New Homes Bonus
- The Council Tax Support review had published recently and gives some positive messages.
Sally Marshall gave updates on the following areas:
- New Homes Bonus
- Business Rates
- Housing – Sally would share a paper on implications for LG
- Planning Workshops
Lisa Quinn will represent Capita at future meetings and gave updates as follows:
- Rugby and LB Enfield are both live with the Business Rates system. Lisa stressed that the system would be flexible enough to take account of any changes recommended from the review of BR.
- Capita were providing Business Modelling / MTFS support for Districts.
- Treasury Management. There had been a newsflash on PWLB changes. The DMO is being transferred to the Treasury which is being done as an efficiency measure but clients would see little change to the service.
- Work on Reserves strategies/ Balance Sheet and MRP reviews was being carried out to support LA’s. A 10% discount on the price was offered for District Councils.
- Outsourced Waste Contracts – existing contracts could be reviewed to find savings.
The minutes were noted including the support of ALATS to a request from CIPFA to a ‘small’ contribution to individual Councils to support work being carried out by the IFS (see item 9.1 below).
There was a query raised regarding the criticism of LA Audit Committees by the external audit firms when compared to Health Audit Committees. The Executive concurred with the results of a CIPFA survey to date, which found fairly positive results on LA Audit Committees. Whilst improvements could always be made, the Executive felt the Committees were generally effective and adequate.
8. CIPFA Conference – SDCT Workshop
It was agreed to proceed with Business Rates and Devolution as the 2 main items for the workshop to be
supported (potentially) by external speakers.
Action - Angela to finalise agenda and speakers
9 Any Other Business:
9.1 CIPFA/IFS Research Project
The details of this had previously been circulated. There was a wide ranging discussion on this and some concern was expressed by the Executive including the level of contribution being requested at a District level (which resulted in a disproportionate overall contribution from Districts); the potential cross over with current BR work streams; the usefulness to Districts; and the timeliness of the output. It was agreed to discuss the issue further in the private part of the agenda.
9.2 Local Government Transparency Code
The Government have published a consultation paper on potential changes to the Code which will run for 8 weeks to 8th July. The main issue is principally regarding publishing authority decisions on retaining services ‘in-house’. Bevis Ingram reported that this consultation document was causing concern at the LGA and was being firmly resisted. The LGA will draft a response for circulation but encouraged as many authorities as possible to respond individually.
10 Date of Next Meeting - 13th July 2016 (CIPFA Conference workshop, Manchester)
- 9th September, Goring Hotel followed by SDCT Lunch
11. Part B – Private Executive Business
11.1 Web Site progress
Progress on changes / improvements the Executive had discussed has been slow and potential ways forward were discussed. CIPFA will provide the updating and hosting at no cost to the SDCT.
Action – Angela George to liaise with Anna (CIPFA)
11.2 CIPFA / IFS Research Project
Further to item 9.1 the Executive agreed that they were broadly supportive of the work whilst expressing some concern that the data was not already readily available. It was agreed that we continue discussions with CIPFA over the level of district contribution and ensure that assurances were given over the concerns raised by the Executive.