Venue: Council Chamber, Millmead House, Millmead, Guildford, Surrey GU2 4BB. View directions
Contact: John Armstrong, Democratic Services and Elections Manager Tel: (01483) 444102
Apologies for absence
Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of The Mayor, Councillor Masuk Miah, and Councillors Dawn Bennett, Honor Brooker, Phillip Brooker, Geoff Davis, Angela Goodwin, Bob Hughes, Sandy Lowry, George Potter, Joanne Shaw, and Catherine Young, and from Honorary Aldermen Catherine Cobley, Jayne Marks, Terence Patrick, Tony Phillips, Lynda Strudwick, and Jenny Wicks.
Disclosures of interest
To receive and note any disclosable pecuniary interests from councillors. In accordance with the local Code of Conduct, a councillor is required to disclose at the meeting any disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI) that they may have in respect of any matter for consideration on this agenda. Any councillor with a DPI must not participate in any discussion or vote regarding that matter and they must also withdraw from the meeting immediately before consideration of the matter.
If that DPI has not been registered, the councillor must notify the Monitoring Officer of the details of the DPI within 28 days of the date of the meeting.
Councillors are further invited to disclose any non-pecuniary interest which may be relevant to any matter on this agenda, in the interests of transparency, and to confirm that it will not affect their objectivity in relation to that matter.
There were no disclosures of interest.
To confirm as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 25 July 2023.
The minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 25 July 2023 were approved as a correct record. The Mayor signed the minutes.
To receive any communications or announcements from the Mayor.
On behalf of the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor thanked everybody who attended the Guildford Cricket Festival on Sunday 20 August. The Mayor had said that it was a wonderful day and a great game to watch.
The Mayor also wished to remind councillors about the forthcoming Mayor of Guildford’s Charity Adult Football Tournament to be held on Sunday, 10 September from 10am to 3pm at Stoughton Recreation Ground. All were welcome to come along to this community event, which would include a barbecue, Indian food and drink, a bouncy castle, face painting, classical Indian dance demonstrations, and other entertainment.
To receive any communications or announcements from the Leader of the Council.
Heritage Open Days 2023
This year’s Heritage Open Days would take place from Friday 8 to Sunday 10 September, and had been kindly sponsored by Charles Stanley Wealth Managers. The event had also received £1,000 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
All the locations with events over the Heritage Open Days weekend offered free entry, many of which were allowing free access to areas that were otherwise closed to the public.
This diverse programme of events would include:
· walks and talks by the award-winning Guildford Town Guides
· museums and churches
· educational institutions
· historic buildings
· a free family trail in town
Car Free Day 2023
Guildford’s Car Free Day would be held on Sunday 24 September between 10am and 4.30pm. It would be a day of celebrations and free family fun promoting a `Greener Guildford’ supported by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
Events planned would include market stalls, street food, live music and street play for children, together with lots of information and activities about how residents can help tackle climate change and be part of a `Greener Guildford’.
Ash Road Bridge drop-in sessions
Drop-in sessions would be held next month for residents in Ash who would like to find out more about the construction of the Ash Road Bridge. The sessions would be held at the Small Hall at the Ash Centre, on:
Residents could be directed to the Ash Road Bridge page on the Council’s website, which would be updated regularly during the construction of the bridge.
In response to a question as to the cost to the Council of the Car Free Day on 24 September 2023, taking into account funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, the Leader indicated that the details would be circulated.
The following questions were asked about the Ash Road Bridge drop-in sessions:
(a) Who would be attending the drop-in sessions?
Response: Representatives of Volker Fitzpatrick and the Council (including the Deputy Leader and Lead Councillor for Regeneration) would be present.
(b) Will councillors be informed of the questions asked by the public at the drop-in sessions, and the answers given?
Response: The project team would seek to capture frequently asked questions that arose during the day. However, no assurance could be given that every question and response would be captured. Responses to frequently asked questions would be uploaded to the Council’s website.
(c) Will ward councillors be provided with the information on the presentation in advance?
Response: Although the detail of the presentation had not yet been finalised, officers could share designs and the materials intended for presentation at the drop-in sessions with ward councillors in advance.
(d) How will the Council ensure that residents unable to attend either drop-in session are kept informed in a timely manner?
Response: Residents unable to attend could access a specific website which would contain all the relevant information. It was also anticipated that further ... view the full minutes text for item CO42
To receive questions or statements from the public in relation only to the business for which this extraordinary meeting has been called.
No requests to speak or ask a question had been received from the public.
Questions from Councillors
To hear questions from councillors of which due notice has been given in relation only to the business for which this extraordinary meeting has been called.
No questions on notice had been received from councillors.
Councillors were reminded that, at its budget meeting in February 2023, the Council approved the 2023-24 budget with a £3.3m shortfall which required further work to remove this gap, with the fallback position being the deployment of usable reserves.
The delayed audit of the 2020-21 accounts had identified errors relating to accounting for COVID grants and the Collection Fund, which took place in 2021. These were both sums which were due to be repaid to the Government in 2021-22 rather than sums which were available for use by the Council. This meant that the level of usable reserves was around £20m less than had been thought when the 2023-24 budget was set.
There had been an overspend of £6.4m on the General Fund budget outturn position for 2022-23, and this had therefore further reduced the sums available to the Council.
An updated Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) position had been presented to the Council at its meeting on 25 July 2023, which had set out the key issues and the position in which the Council was now left, which was a remaining in-year deficit of £1.7m and a budget gap of £18.3m over the MTFP period to 2026-27.
The report had therefore concluded that the Council was facing a potential s114 report if actions were not agreed to bring this situation back in to balance by October 2023.
The October report would set out the significant work required to avoid the other potential s114 trigger-point which was the statutory requirement to set a balanced budget in February 2024.
Over the past year, the Council had commissioned several due diligence workstreams to examine the issues identified in more detail. This had been done through a number of expert organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA), LG Futures, Arlingclose, and Savills, together with additional interim and experienced support within the Finance Team.
This work had helped to clarify the current position and set the baseline from which the Council now needed to work. It had also provided options for the Council to consider. Consideration and then implementation of these options would form an integral part of the Financial Recovery Plan.
The latest work completed was a review of the 2022-23 outturn position and Period 4 monitoring against the revised budget used for the July 2023 MTFP update. This had shown that a number of the key areas of overspend in 2022-23 were continuing in the current financial year and had the potential to take the Council into a far greater in-year deficit than the £1.64m set out in the July 2023 report.
Whilst a fully developed recovery plan would be presented to Council in October, sufficient work had been completed to provide an update report to this meeting. The first issue of the Financial Recovery Plan had set out some immediate actions to help reduce the in-year deficit, the workstreams proposed to aid development of the next MTFP and a work schedule for improvements in the financial procedures ... view the full minutes text for item CO45
Mr Richard Bates left the meeting for the consideration of this item of business.
The Council noted that Section 151 of the Local Government Act 1972 required local authorities to make arrangements for the proper administration of their financial affairs and to appoint a S151 Officer, also known as a Chief Finance Officer to have responsibility for those arrangements.
Due to the departure of Peter Vickers, the current Executive Head of Service and Section 151 Officer, a replacement appointment was required to ensure that both councils could continue to meet their statutory requirements.
The nature of the recruitment market and timescales to appoint to the permanent role and also ensure both councils had the S151 Officer in place meant that both an interim and permanent appointment solution were required.
Interviews and technical assessments were carried out with shortlisted candidates for the interim appointment, and the successful candidate for the role was identified as Richard Bates.
Due to the requirement to provide continuity, Mr Bates had been appointed to the interim role of Executive Head of Finance on 17 July 2023; however, approval to the S151 element of the role was required from both councils on the formal recommendation from the Joint Appointments Committee (JAC).
At its meeting held on 14 August 2023, the JAC had recommended unanimously to both councils that Richard Bates be appointed as the Interim Section 151 Officer.
The Leader of the Council, Councillor Julia McShane proposed and the Deputy Leader, Councillor Tom Hunt, seconded a motion to appoint Mr Bates as the Interim Section 151 Officer.
During the debate, councillors asked for details of the length and cost of the contract with Hays and information regarding the turnover of Chief Finance Officers in recent years. The Council was informed that the contract was for six months and that details of the cost and information regarding turnover would be circulated to all councillors.
The Council also noted the structural arrangement at Guildford whereby the role of Section 151 Officer was covered at the Executive Head of Service level rather than as a director. This was not an unusual arrangement in local government and the Chief Executive assured the Council that the Section 151 Officer had a direct reporting line to the Chief Executive in respect of the discharge of their statutory functions.
Having considered the motion, the Council
RESOLVED: That Richard Bates be appointed as the Interim Section 151 Officer for Waverley Borough Council and Guildford Borough Council.
· Section 151 of the Local Government Act, 1972 required that local authorities have in place arrangements for the proper administration of their financial affairs.
· Richard Bates was a qualified Accountant and experienced local authority Chief Finance Officer. He had held the S151 Officer role at Dorset County Council and interim S151 Officer at Mendip District Council
Councillors noted that, in January 2023, the Council had approved a series of recommendations to enable the delivery of the Weyside Urban Village to continue whilst further work was undertaken to consider all mitigation options available to address the potential forecast financial deficit. The recommendation included specific reference to this information being considered by Full Council in July 2023.
The Council was informed that it had not been possible to submit a report to Council in July 2023 due to ongoing work by Officers on the mitigation options. The Council considered a report which sought to regularise the delegations required to continue the delivery of the project in advance of the aforementioned report and financial forecast being considered by Full Council later this year.
Upon the motion of the Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Tom Hunt, seconded by the Leader of the Council, Councillor Julia McShane, the Council
RESOLVED: That the Council agrees
(1) To the continuation of the project until Officers have completed the required due diligence outlined in the 16 January 2023 report, as follows, and reported back to Full Council later this year:
• To provide alternative risk assessed option appraisals other than to proceed with the original Full Council approved scheme, including all possible mitigations and alterations to the current funding and specifications, indicating by use of a range of values where specific data is not available, and a full explanation of assumptions with reasons, sufficient to enable Members to make a fully informed decision on how it wishes to proceed.
• To update the project with the latest assumptions, indices and valuations and report back to Council.
(2) To delegate to the Strategic Director of Place, in consultation with the Lead Councillor for Regeneration, and Lead Councillor for Finance and Property, authority to enter into such other contracts and legal agreements connected with Weyside Urban Village as may be appropriate in compliance with Procurement Procedure Rules and within the approved budget.
· To ensure that statutory service agreements and construction contracts can be entered in to for the delivery of services and infrastructure for the development and to ensure that Homes England Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) milestones are achieved.
· To ensure that the Council can perform its obligations under the Thames Water Utilities Limited (TWUL) agreement.
Item of Urgent Business
In accordance with Section 100B(4) Local Government Act 1972, the Mayor agreed that this matter should be considered at this meeting as an item of urgent business by virtue of the special circumstances described below.
The special circumstances in this matter, that has led the Mayor to agree to take the matter as an urgent item at this meeting, despite the item being open to public inspection for 3 clear days before the meeting, rather than 5, are:
(a) that previous advice given by external solicitors advising that work relating to Weyside could continue under the previous delegations as there was an implicit authority had ... view the full minutes text for item CO47