Manchester City Council

Agenda and minutes

Agenda and minutes

Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 6th September, 2018 2.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Level 2, Town Hall Extension

Contact: Michael Williamson 

Webcast: View the webcast

Items
No. Item

44.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 112 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 19 July 2018.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Decision

 

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 19 July 2018.

45.

Revenue and Benefits Unit - Annual Report 2018/18 pdf icon PDF 824 KB

Report of the City Treasurer

 

This report provides performance data for the 2017/18 financial year for the Council Tax, Benefits and Business Rates Service areas.  The report also provides an update on key areas of work and the welfare reform changes.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the City Treasurer, which provided Members with an overview of the performance of the Council’s Council Tax, Benefits and Business Rates service areas for the 2017/18 financial year.  The report also provided an update on key areas of work and the welfare reform changes.

 

The Director of Customer Services and Transactions referred to the main points and themes within the report which included:-

 

·                Performance in the collection of Council Tax, which included details on Council Tax support, collection of arrears, recover activity and action, enforcement agent activity, attachment of earnings orders, attachments to benefits and Increasing revenue from the New Homes Bonus;

·                Performance in Benefit administration, which included details on Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance;

·                Performance in the collection of Business Rates, which included details on increasing revenue from business rates and Business Rates relief awarded;

·                Details of Discretionary Housing Payment spend against planned budget, including a breakdown of awards by tenure type;

·                Details of Discretionary Council Tax Payment Scheme;

·                Performance of the Council’s Welfare Provision Scheme;

·                Details on the welfare reform agenda and Housing Benefit administration; and

·                Other achievements and activity during 2017/18, including extension of support to care leavers, changes to the Council Tax Long Term Empty Premium, fraud and error initiatives and the transition to Universal Credit

 

Some of the key points that arose from the Committees discussions were:-

 

·                The collection rate for Council Tax was impressive and would it be possible to improve on this in future years;

·                How effective was the Council in learning from the success of other local authorities;

·                How much was spent on chasing council tax payment from university students who had not submitted exemption forms and was there anything further that could be done to streamline this process;

·                Clarification was sought as to when the Council would use bailiffs in pursuing outstanding debt owed with reference to a particular instance given;

·                Did the Council have any contingency in place should all Discretionary Housing Payment funding be utilised and was there any correlation with the number of people moving into Manchester and an increase in benefit claims being made;

·                What was the Council doing to identify empty homes that could be brought back into use and therefore become subject to Council Tax payment

·                When did new build properties become subject to Council Tax payments;

·                Did the Council have any influence in the banding of properties within the city

·                Was it possible to have a breakdown of the different bandings for new build properties that had recently been built;

·                How many cases of bankruptcy had there been during 2017/18;

·                Was there any update on the proposed changes to Housing Benefit in relation to supported housing; and

·                How was the funding framework for temporary accommodation working in practice

 

The Director of Customer Services and Transactions advised that improvement targets were set each year and the Council aimed to collect more council tax year on year.  To achieve this the Council put in place a variety of methods,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 45.

46.

Proposed changes to the Council Tax Support Scheme 2019/2020 pdf icon PDF 385 KB

Report of the City Treasurer

 

This report proposes changes to the Council’s Council Tax Support Scheme so that the scheme remains fit for purpose as working age residents in receipt of welfare benefits are moved onto Universal Credit. The report seeks approval from the Executive to formally consult on the proposals that change the scheme for working age residents in receipt of Universal Credit.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the City Treasurer which set out proposed changes to the Council’s Council Tax Support Scheme to enable the scheme to remain fit for purpose as working age residents in receipt of welfare benefits were moved onto Universal Credit. The report also sought approval to formally consult on the proposals.

 

The Director of Customer Services and Transactions referred to the main points and themes within the report which included:-

 

·                The background to the current scheme, following the localisation of Council Tax Support;

·                Details of Manchester’s current scheme, which was based on the default provisions offered by the government in 2012 and where possible used the DWP assessment of income and needs, minimising the need for further means-testing by the local authority;

·                The impact of Universal Credit in Manchester and its impact on Council Tax Support;

·                Issues with aligning the scheme with Universal Credit and proposals to mitigate and respond to these issues;

·                Proposed changes to the scheme which would come into effect from 1 April 2019 in respect of people entitled to Universal Credit;

·                The cost of making the proposed changes to the scheme;

·                Details of financial modelling and impacts of a banded scheme; and

·                A proposal to go out to consultation on the proposed changes between 13 September and 31 October 2018, with the responses along with the final proposals brought back to Scrutiny Committee before approval by the Executive in December 2018.

 

Some of the key points that arose from the Committees discussions were:-

 

·                There was support in relation to the proposed changes to the scheme to enable it to remain fit for purpose as working age residents in receipt of welfare benefits were moved onto Universal Credit;

·                Strong Concern was raised by Members that the scheme still supported historic changes that had been made to the scheme in 2017 to take into account the Government’s welfare reform changes that affected all other means tested benefits.  Specifically this was in relation to where the Council had agreed to exclude additional applicable amounts in council tax support to families where a third or subsequent child was born or joined a household on or after 1 April 2017, which aligned to the Housing Benefit rules.

·                Clarification was sought as to when the above rule in relation to council tax support applied from;

·                Was it possible to estimate the cost to the Council if the rule to exclude additional applicable amounts in council tax support to families with a third or subsequent child was not in place; and

·                Would it be possible for the Council to reconsider its stance on this part of the scheme as part of the proposed consultation.

 

The Director of Customer Services and Transactions advised that the decision to enforce the provisions set out in regulations to exclude additional applicable amounts in the Council Tax Support Scheme to families with a third or subsequent child was agreed by the Executive in 2017 and there was currently no proposals to look to change  ...  view the full minutes text for item 46.

47.

Blacklisting pdf icon PDF 279 KB

Report of the City Treasurer

 

This report informs the Committee of the Council’s position and actions in relation to organisations/contractors that have previously or currently blacklist trade union members and officers.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the City Treasurer on the Council’s position and actions in relation to organisations/contractors that had previously or were currently blacklisting trade union members and officers.

 

The City Treasurer referred to the main points and themes within the report which included:-

 

·                The Council’s position as set out in its Ethical Procurement Policy in relation to undertaking business with suppliers, service providers and contractors that unlawfully compiled, used, supplied or sold information that contained details of persons who were or has been members of trade unions or persons who were taking part or had taken part in the activities of trade unions;

·           The actions that the Council could take in relation to organisations/contractors that had previously or were currently blacklisting trade union members or officers, which could include exclusion of an economic operator from a procurement process in accordance with the public procurement rules;

·                Any exclusion must be considered on a case-by-case basis as a blanket ban wouldnot be lawful;

·                Exclusion needed to be justified on appropriate evidence and was not to be seen as a means of punishing operators for past wrongdoing, but rather a means of putting right past wrongdoing and ensuring that it did not re-occur;

·                The concept of self-cleaning, which provided that an operator convicted of an offence would not be precluded from participating in a procurement process if it could demonstrate that it had put in place effective measures to remedy the consequences of any criminal offences or misconduct and ensure that the conduct would not recur; and

·                There was no automatic right to terminate a contract where an economic operator has been or was engaged in blacklisting

 

Some of the key points that arose from the Committees discussions were:-

 

·                It was suggested that the Ethical Procurement Sub Group may want to add a report to its work plan to look at whether the Council’s Ethical Procurement policy had appropriate Trade Union/whistleblowing recognition within in it or whether this was an area that requires strengthening;

·                How could the Committee be satisfied that the companies who had submitted bids for the Town Hall Management Contract had undertaken appropriate self-cleaning measures;

·                Who would be responsible for making the final decision on whether the self-cleaning evidence submitted by the companies who had submitted bids for the Town Hall Management Contract was sufficient;

·                There appeared to be a contradiction within the self cleaning regime in so much as an operator could be excluded from a procurement process on evidence of an admission of wrong doing, but the concept of self-cleaning required potential suppliers to explain how it had breached the grounds for exclusion and what action they had taken to remedy; and

·                The report was lacking in terms of what action the Council had taken in relation to any organisation it had previously contracted or were currently contracting that had or were blacklisting trade union members and officers and examples of action taken were requested.

 

The Executive Members for Finance and Human Resources advised  ...  view the full minutes text for item 47.

48.

Our Town Hall Project - Management Contractor Procurement pdf icon PDF 284 KB

Report of the City Treasurer

 

This report provides an update on the position of the appointment of a Management Contractor for the refurbishment and partial restoration of the Town Hall and Albert Square under the Our Town Hall (OTH) project.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the City Treasurer, which provided Members with an update on the procurement of a Management Contractor for the refurbishment and partial restoration of the Town Hall and Albert Square under the Our Town Hall (OTH) project.

 

The City Treasurer referred to the main points and themes in the report which included:-

 

·                The procurement process was formally launched on 13 February 2018 with the issue of the Contract Notice via the Chest, accompanied by the full suite of procurement documents in line with the OJEU regulations;

·                A total of six potential Management Contractors registered and downloaded the documents from the Chest, however only two organisations returned a Selection Questionnaire on 19 March 2018;

·                Following evaluation of the Selection Questionnaires, Laing O’Rourke and Lend Lease were invited to submit Outline Solutions by 10 July 2008. These were evaluated prior to the issue of the Invitation to Continue Dialogue, on 6 August 2018

·                This stage presented the Council with the opportunity to meet the bidders and provide feedback to bidders on their outline solution, and to enable the bidders to test their understanding of the Council’s requirements;

·                At all stages of the dialogue process, the objective was to enable the bidders to develop their best possible solution for the Council;

·                A second week of dialogue meetings was planned for weekcommencing 10 September 2018 and would comprise of a series of detailed meetings and workshops, at which each bidder would present further details on their proposed solutions;

·                It was intended to formally close the dialogue period on 21 September 2018, subject to having reached the point at which the Council was confident that the bidders had developed solutions that met the project requirements; and

·                Final bids would be submitted in October followed by evaluation prior to the selection of the Preferred Bidder. The appointment of the management contractor was is scheduled for late November/early December 2018.

 

Some of the key points that arose from the Committees discussions were:-

 

·                It was hoped that the successful appointed contractor would adopt and follow the Councils blacklisting policy;

·                Clarification was sought as to whether the final decision in relation to accepting the evidence of self-cleansing as sufficient (submitted from the two bidders) had been made and if not, could this be considered by the Scrutiny Committee before the decision was taken and by who

·                Could the Committee or the Ethical Procurement Sub Group be provided with the evidence of self-cleansing that had already been submitted by both bidders;

·                Clarification was sought on the difference between refurbishment and partial restoration of the Town Hal;

·                Could officers take account of the Committees previously expressed views in relation to blacklisting and self-cleaning, and ensure with greater vigour that appropriate evidence has been submitted before the appointment of a management contractor is made;

·                A Member proposed that it would be appropriate for the Officer tasked with making the final decision on whether the self-cleansing evidence submitted by the two bidders was considered sufficient addressed a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 48.

49.

Overview Report pdf icon PDF 391 KB

Report of the Governance and Scrutiny Support Unit.

 

This report provides the Committee with details of key decisions that fall within the Committee’s remit and an update on actions resulting from the Committee’s recommendations. The report also includes the Committee’s work programme, which the Committee is asked to amend as appropriate and agree.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the Governance and Scrutiny Support Unit which contained key decisions within the Committee’s remit and responses to previous recommendations was submitted for comment. Members were also invited to agree the Committee’s future work programme. 

 

A request was made for the possible inclusion of a report on the Committees Work programme on the Value form the Public Realm and the Council’s expenditure on this.

 

The Chair also advised that she would be requesting a report for the next meeting on the overspend in the Children’s Services budget.

 

Decision

 

The Committee:-

 

(1)       Notes the report.

(2)       Notes that the Chair will discuss the above item with the Member who suggested it in more detail; and

(3)       Notes the report requested on the overspend in the Children’s Services budget for Octobers meeting.