Society of District Council Treasurers
Draft Minutes of the Executive Committee –
Held on 8th June 2018
SDCT Website: www.cipfa.org/partners/society-of-district-council-treasurers
In Attendance: Jill Penn (President), Angela George (Secretary), Jason Vaughan, Alan Peach, Paul Deal, Simone Hines, Homira Javadi, Steve Hearse, Ian Knowles, Shelagh McGregor, Jenny Poole, Simon Freeman, Peter Stuart.
Also: Nicola Morton (LGA), Sally Marshall (DCEN), Lisa Quinn (Link), Michael Hutchison and Jerry Fox (Zurich), Aileen Murphie (NAO), Paul Dossett (GT)
1. Apologies: Sal Khan, Mark Dickenson, Adrian Rowbotham, Simon Riley, Jo Wagstaffe
Also: Joanne Pitt (CIPFA)
Goodbyes: William Jacob and Kevin Jaquest have both tendered their resignations to the Executive. The Executive wished to record their thanks for the contribution each has made to the work of the SDCT.
2. Minutes of Previous Meetings and matters arising
The draft minutes of the previous meeting of 20th April 2018 were agreed (on the SDCT website). Nicola Morton reported that she is still investigating the accounting treatment of contributions made to the work regarding NHS Trust. Other actions have either been completed or picked up elsewhere on the agenda.
3. Business Rate Retention
Feedback from the various working groups attended is as follows:
Steering Group (Jill Penn)
Jill reported on the main points arising from the steering group meeting of 14th May which were:
• Mark Barnett, MHCLG, gave an update in regard to an outstanding action from the previous meeting to provide a further analysis of income above baseline funding level since 2013-14. Figures will be published at the local authority level in due course by MHCLG and on the LGA website.
• Members received an update from the Fair Funding Review Technical Working Group meeting, 28 March, which provided an overview of the work on the Children’s Services formula, the options for future adult social care funding and council tax adjustments. The group noted, and endorse the proposed work programme, in addition to endorsing the next steps on the fair funding work programme.
• Members noted the forward plan for the Steering Group. The plan for the BR work will now cover the spending review work from October onwards.
• MHCLG will commission an organisation to look at the lessons learnt from 2017/18 and 2018/19 pilots. Timescales currently suggest initial findings will be available in autumn 2018 with more substantive findings to follow later in 2019.
• Steering group noted the work on the Safety Net, Levy, Tier Splits and dealing with appeals. The group noted the process and next steps, but recognised decisions will be made closer to the time.
Nicola Morton (LGA) reminded members that the LGA will be commissioning models that will help assess the impact of various system design choices such as the safety net, tier splits, resets etc. The Needs and Council Tax Equalisation models are currently being cleared and should be available by the end of June. The Transition model should be available to member authorities later in the year.
Fairer Funding Review Consultation and Working Group (Simone Hines)
Simone reported that there would be a consultation in the autumn. The main issues under discussion were surrounding which costs to include or exclude. The next meeting will be in mid-July.
Systems Design Working Group (Alan Peach)
Alan reported that there have been no further meetings but that little progress appears to be being made.
It was noted that it was understood that MHCLG were recruiting additional staff to the BR project.
There was no further update on the external review of the business rates system, being conducted by Andrew Hudson. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/sajid-javid-announces-details-of-review-of-local-government-finance-governance-and-processes . Views are requested by 1st July.
Action – SDCT to respond to review
4. Audit Update
Steve Hearse had attended the PSAA Advisory Panel on 17th May and updated the Executive on the key points.
The purpose of the panel is looking at how the External Audit process is working under the new arrangements and looking at how things progress for the future.
The main areas of discussion were:
• Concerns that with fees having reduced significantly what impacts there could be around audit quality.
• The fee variation process and whether it is fair and transparent, which there was a consensus that it is. Whether enhanced VFM work would require fee variation.
• Outcomes following Northants s114 notice including the Financial Management Code being developed by CIPFA and what this might require in audit terms for VFM and financial resilience, although too early at this stage to quantify.
• The recent Audit Quality Forum, which was a successful event and how to develop this into a regular event.
• PSAA going through a review process conducted by Cardiff Business School and CFO’s may get contacted to provide feedback.
4.1 NAO (Aileen Murphie)
Aileen reported on the results of the Financial Sustainability of Local Government 2018 report, which is an update on the 2014 report. The conclusions and recommendations of the report are set out in detail in the attached slides.
5. Reports from External Bodies / Sponsors
5.1 LGA (Nicola Morton)
Spending Review - There is no further information on timing or process but the LGA has started its work on this. The LGA has extended the funding gap to 2025 and this will be the focus of a short publication to be published at the LGA conference. This marks the start of the LGAs SR2019 campaign.
Council Tax Debt Collection – the Cabinet Office are doing some work on cost variations in debt collection.
The Insurance Mutual is now live.
Staircase Tax and Empty Homes Premium Bill is in the Lords this week
5.2 DCEN (Sally Marshall)
Sally gave an update on some of the current key work areas of the DCN.
5.3 CIPFA (Joanne Pitt)
Joanne had sent an update on the key work areas for CIPFA and reminded members of the CIPFA Conference and benefits of attending, and also to respond to the consultation on IFRS 16 Leases.
5.4 Link (Lisa Quinn)
Lisa gave an update as follows:
• We are holding two workshops on Business Rates on 14th June in London and 20th June in Leeds
• Main aim is to stress importance of understanding Business Rates base to better inform future Business Rates growth
• Focusing on strategic side of forecasting
• Having several discussions with clients, and delivering support, on Capital Strategy requirements for 2019/20
• Summer will disappear fast following audit
• We are recommending early work on this if at all possible
• Importance of being clear on which powers using when making investments, cash investments and capital investments
• Need to reacquaint yourselves with these matters when drafting new Capital Strategy
• CIPFA has released ITC with deadline of early September 2018
• LAS will be issuing a technical response to clients and to CIPFA
5.5 Zurich Municipal (Michael Hutchison and Jerry Fox)
There was a working group meeting set up for 3rd July to consider whether IPT should apply to LA’s
There has been a threefold increase in claims.
The inquiry is raising fire safety issues which will have implications for LA’s.
Creation of New Councils
Consider shadow authority insurance cover
6. Advisor Reports
6.1 VOA Liaison (Steve)
Steve reported from the Engagement workshop held on 22nd May and chaired by Nicola Morton. The purpose of the workshop(s) is to consider the ways that the VOA are developing plans to improve engagement with LA’s.
The main areas being developed are:
• The role of the Local Authority Relationship Managers (LARMs) – understanding their roles and working together more in partnership to deliver what LA’s and the VOA can as best possible with limited resources. Having better informed and more strategic conversations with LA’s possibly at CFO level initially to better understand each other’s requirements and focus for the future.
• Online support – whether the VOA LA web pages are of use and used and what could be improved.
• VOA / LA Engagement Forums – considering options and opportunities for refocussing these groups making more of a two way meeting rather than a cascade of information.
• Information sharing – A lot of discussion of what would be useful, but also what can be used due to restrictions and is an area, which will need to explored further.
• Other points raised – concern that centralisation is losing local knowledge at the VOA and dual list maintenance is proving difficult when reconciling lists and billing. The VOA are unable to assist with the estimating of appeals.
6.2 ALATS (Jason)
The ‘one voice’ work is continuing. The main focus is requesting more financial resources for the sector as a whole rather than for individual tiers. The next meeting is on 2nd July.
Action – Jason
6.3 Universal Credit
Simone reported that there was a steering group next week to discuss the increasing pace of rollout and she will report further following that meeting.
6.4 Treasurers Forum (Room 151)
Jill reported that she had been asked for a volunteer to sit on the panel on 20th September. Following Kevin Jaquest’s resignation we do not currently have a Treasury advisor and it was agreed to merge the CPITAL and Treasury roles. Ian Knowles suggested his Deputy would be a good replacement for the technical Treasury Management aspects and will speak to her. Paul Deal agreed to attend the Panel session (supported by Ian’s deputy).
Postscript – Ian has confirmed that his deputy at West Lindsey DC, Tracey Bircumshaw, is happy to support the Treasury Advisor area.
Action – Paul Deal and Tracey Bircumshaw to attend the Room 151 Conference on 20th September
7. Any Other Business
Angela reported that CIPFA has launched a survey on ethics and exploring the pressure accountants feel to compromise their ethical code. The Ethics Working Group is looking for interesting examples that could be used as case studies. Members are encouraged to complete the survey and feedback (in confidence) any ‘interesting’ dilemmas.
Action – Please complete the Ethics Survey and feedback any dilemmas to Angela to feed into the work of the Ethics WG.
8. Date of Next Meeting – 7th September, CIPFA Offices, London
Pensions – Jenny Poole
VAT – Shelagh McGregor
Capital – Paul Deal
Financial Accounting – A chief accountant / deputy CFO will be sought to fill the role. Simone will try to cover until then. Postscript - Subsequent to the meeting Peter Notley, Deputy CFO at Eden DC has agreed to undertake the role on behalf of the SDCT.
Waste Group – Homira Javadi
- Order of Agenda – trial new ways to streamline the agenda.
- Date of AGM – there are differing views on the Executive as to the best date and wider membership opinion will be sought.
Action - Angela