Agenda and minutes

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Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Windmill Street, Gravesend DA12 1AU. View directions

Contact: Committee Section  Email: committee.section@gravesham.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

13.

Apologies

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Benjamin Sizer and Cllr Dakota Dibben.  Cllr Jordan Meade and Cllr Alan Metcalf attended as substitutes.

 

14.

To sign the minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 145 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on Monday 20 November 2023 were signed by the Chair.

 

15.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

 

16.

Corporate Performance Report: Q3 2023-24 pdf icon PDF 148 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee were presented with an update against the Performance Management Framework, as introduced within the Council’s Corporate Plan, for Quarter Three 2023-24 (October to December 2023).

 

The Interim Assistant Director (Corporate Services) advised the report was for information only and highlighted key points in relation to the Performance Indicators set:

 

  • Members were referred to PI 60, where the average processing time for new housing Benefit Claims stood at 15 days in Quarter 3.  It was noted that the latest available figure nationally was for Quarter 2 at 20 days, whereas Gravesham achieved 16.7 days at the end of that quarter. It was observed that there had been a decrease of the number of Housing Benefit claims, as most new claims need to be submitted to the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) as a claim for Universal Credit.  Consequently, Housing Benefit claims processed were predominately made to cover those at pensionable age or living in supported accommodation or temporary accommodation.
  • Member’s attention was drawn to PI 61, which outlined the average processing time for change of circumstances in relation to Housing Benefit claims.  At the end of Quarter 3, Gravesham’s processing time was 3.5 days, however it was noted that performance was currently 3.2 days.  Nationally at the end of Quarter 2, turnaround time stood at 9 days, whereas Gravesham ended Quarter 2 at 4.1 days and so were performing above average.
  • In regard to PI 62 it was noted that the amount of Council Tax Reduction Claims had increased to 6661 an increase of 379 live cases since the start of the financial year.  Performance to process claims currently stood at 15.9 days.  Although this figure was not measured nationally the target was to complete applications under 20 days.      
  • PI 54 had been included, to measure the percentage of Corporate Improvement Team savings targets delivered.  The Interim Assistant Director (Corporate Services) highlighted that since this measure was initially set it had proven hard to measure due to the introduction of an additional initiative undertaken by all heads of service to identify potential budget savings and/or additional income streams.  There is a question of treatment of retrospective adjustments given that general savings and corporate improvement targets (CIT) could change over time and how this can be reflected in the outcomes. CIT has unearthed process and efficiency enhancements, better customer experience and wider benefits that all could be seen as positive changes. There can also be future cost avoidance which would not necessarily show any savings in existing budgets. It was noted that in the future budget savings would be made, becoming easier to monitor and therefore more transparent.       
  • Head of Internal Audit & Counter Fraud Shared Service updated Members on PI 68 in regard to the percentage of agreed internal audit actions implemented.  Members were informed that there had been 42 actions agreed with 32 implemented.  New actions were expected at the end of March.  The internal audit programme was currently 79% complete.  Members received an update in relation to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.

17.

Annual Review of the Information Governance Shared Service pdf icon PDF 276 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members were presented with the annual review that has been conducted in respect of the Information Governance Shared Service with Medway Council.

 

The Interim Assistant Director (Corporate Services) provided a summary of the report, updating that in recent years the team had experienced recruitment and retention issues due to the specialist nature of the work.  As a result, there had been a need to make use of temporary staff to maintain service delivery.  It was noted that as a consequence of this, the anticipated cost would exceed budget provision for 2023/24.  Actions to respond to the recruitment challenges were outlined in the report.  The team continued to provide resilient service, despite the recruitment and retention challenges faced.

 

The Committee noted the report.

 

18.

Revenues and Benefits Service Update

Minutes:

The Interim Assistant Director (Corporate Services) gave the Committee a Revenues and Benefits service update:

 

  • Members were informed that the team were currently in their busiest time of year with the annual billing calculations for council tax, benefits and non-domestic rates (business rates).  Members were informed that 44,853 Council tax bills were generated, and 2,305 business rates bills had been sent.
  • The new Council tax bills from 1 April 2024 would reflect recent changes to empty property premiums.  There was now a 100% premium applied to all properties that had been empty for over one year.  This had previously only applied to properties empty for over 2 years.  There would also no longer be a 12-month 100% discount for uninhabitable properties.

 

            Work had been carried out to ensure residents were aware of the changes.           Letters had been sent to residents in advance of the new bills and the            Council’s website had been updated with information on the new charges.

 

            Inspections were undertaken on empty properties, in order to provide any evidence to support empty charges being raised.

  • The Committee were updated that the non-domestic rate bills would reflect the continuation of the 75% retail, hospitality and leisure reduction where appropriate.  It was noted that to qualify, the business must meet exacting funding considerations.
  • Members were advised that to date the collections for 2023/24 provided an outturn of 96.1% for Council tax and 96.4% for non-domestic rates.
  • Work had been carried out throughout the year to claim back historic Council tax arrears.  To date £1,170,000 Council tax revenue had been recouped and £1,080,000 for business rates.
  • The Interim Assistant Director (Corporate Services) updated that Housing Benefit claims were being migrated to Universal Credit (UC).  This had been on the agenda for many years and GBC had one of the highest number of cases already migrated.  It was estimated that Gravesham had 720 cases of the total 3,055 claims to move across to UC by the end of September 2023.  The DWP would be the issuing Migration Notices to the affected claimants. It was very important the public responded to the DWP, to gain transitional protection.  There were also plans with Gravesham’s communications team, to undertake a targeted response to make sure those needing to move to UC were aware. 

 

The migration would leave Gravesham Housing Benefit claims active only for the more complex cases, such as temporary accommodation, supported accommodation, pensioners, and some ESA cases.

  • Members were informed that the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) awarded by central Government was £178, 908 for 2024/25 and an additional £75,000 had been awarded from HSF4 funding which had been added to the DHP budget.  There had been a 25% rise in applications to 514 cases, for DHP by end of February 2024 and the Council had awarded £224,000 (90%) to 185 tenants provided security of tenure.
  • The Interim Assistant Director (Corporate Services) updated Members on the Low-Income Family Tracker (LIFT), which was used to measure the number of households living in relative poverty.  It  ...  view the full minutes text for item 18.