Agenda and minutes

Service Delivery Executive Advisory Board - Thursday, 9th September, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: This meeting will be held via MSTeams

Contact: Andrea Carr, Committee Officer Tel no: 01483 444058  Email: andrea.carr@guildford.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

SD33

Apologies for Absence and Notification of Substitute Members

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Dennis Booth and Bob McShee.

SD34

Local Code of Conduct and Declaration of Disclosable Pecuniary Interests

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 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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no declarations of disclosable pecuniary or non-pecuniary interests.

SD35

Minutes pdf icon PDF 365 KB

To confirm the minutes of the Executive Advisory Board meeting held on 8 July 2021.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting of the Service Delivery Executive Advisory Board held on 8 July 2021 were confirmed as a correct record, and would be signed by the Chairman at the earliest opportunity.

SD36

Collection of Council Tax Arrears Good Practice Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) Protocol pdf icon PDF 336 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

On 28 July 2020, the Council authorised the Director of Resources to review the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) / Local Government Association (LGA) ‘Revised Collection of Council Tax Arrears Good Practice Protocol’ and to report back to the EAB with details as to where the Council's current approach to the collection of Council Tax arrears differed from the Protocol.  This would enable the EAB to make an informed recommendation to the Executive regarding the adoption of the Protocol.

 

The Lead Councillor for Resources introduced a report regarding the outcome of the review which invited the EAB to recommend that the Council should not adopt the CAB / LGA Protocol and instead support the adoption of a Corporate Debt Recovery Policy.

 

The Revenues and Benefits Lead presented the report and highlighted various details including the statutory Council Tax recovery process and financial assistance available to people via the Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) Scheme.  The Protocol was divided into three sections: Partnership Working, Information and Recovery and the report considered the detailed requirements and identified the Council’s approach to each and where it differed.  The report concluded that the Council had a good working relationship with the local advice agencies addressing issues as and when they arose and that documentation and information available to the public via the Council’s telephone line and website were reviewed regularly.  Debtors were signposted to advice agencies through all channels and cases were passed to enforcement agents only when other avenues had failed.

 

The EAB was advised that the review of the Protocol had found that the related benefits did not outweigh the cost of compliance, given that the Council already met the overarching aims of the Protocol.  Although the adoption of a Corporate Debt Recovery Policy would not render the Council compliant with the Protocol, it would enhance the information available to Council Tax payers.

 

In addition to the report, the EAB received a Summary of LCTS Statistics as at 1 May 2021 for background information.  The Summary provided the numbers of live cases by Council Tax property band and by receipt of different percentages of LCTS reduction, the spread of working age claims across the Borough, the reasons for nil awards, working age household types and working age percentage of Council Tax reduction.

 

The following points for forwarding to the Executive arose from related questions, comments and discussion:

 

1.           In response to a question concerning the reason for 251 out of the 314 billing authorities not adopting the Protocol, it was felt that approaching the 251 councils to ascertain their reason for non-adoption would present a considerable amount of work with an anticipated low response rate.  An alternative of making enquiries of a selection of peer local authorities in Surrey and nearby counties was suggested to obtain their reasons for adoption or otherwise.  The Council was not under pressure from local advice agencies to adopt the Protocol.

2.           Ash and Guildford CABs had been approached by officers during summer 2020 and neither had expressed  ...  view the full minutes text for item SD36

SD37

Policy on Debt Recovery pdf icon PDF 260 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A draft Corporate Debt Recovery Policy and covering report were before the EAB for consideration.  The Lead Councillor for Resources introduced the report which invited the EAB to provide feedback in respect of the draft Policy and the proposed recommendation to the Executive that the Council should adopt such a policy.

 

The Policy was clear and concise seeking to deliver the following benefits:

 

·             Ensure a consistent approach across the Council and establish a way forward for customers with multiple debts.

·             Offer clarity for customers setting out what action and support they can expect from the Council together with the Council’s expectations of debtors in line with the Future Guildford model of self service.

·             Provide a useful reference document for officers when collecting debts.

 

Officers had been asked to develop a Corporate Debt Recovery Policy prior to the Covid-19 pandemic owing to the perception that there was a conflict between the collection of Council Tax and Council rents, specifically where a debtor was in arrears for both.  Although the related investigation found no evidence of such a conflict, it involved officers reviewing some publicly available debt recovery policies of other councils and resulted in the preparation of this Council’s draft Policy.

 

The following feedback points arose from related questions, comments and discussion:

 

1.           The draft Policy was welcomed as a succinct, beneficial and admirable policy document.

2.           An easy read version of the Policy should be produced to increase accessibility and use and a less formal introduction section within the Policy be written for publication purposes.

3.           With the involvement of Councillors Jo Randall and Ramsey Nagaty as required, the wording of the draft Policy and covering report should be reviewed in relation to the references to the responsibilities of individuals with multiple debts and adding context to the statistics in paragraph 4.4 of the report.

4.           Work with the Communications and Website Teams should be pursued to reinforce the message to residents that the Council sought to support debtors in a holistic manner with a view to assisting them to become debt free.

5.           The Council’s website could direct people with debts to the numerous supporting organisations that were able to offer related advice and assistance.

6.           Although there were no indications that ‘loan sharks’ were an issue in the Borough, related information and signposting to sources of support and advice could be added to the Council’s website to assist anyone encountering them.

7.           Council assistance involved working with debtors to identify the reason for their debts with reference to their income and expenditure and advising them in respect of the recognition of priority debts such as the need to sustain their tenancies.  This support led to high Council Tax and rent collection rates and low levels of evictions.

 

Further to the recommendation in the report, the EAB agreed that the above points formulated its feedback in respect of the draft Policy and that the recommendation to the Executive that the Council should adopt such a policy be supported.

 

SD38

Executive Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 569 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Forward Plan was noted without comment.

SD39

EAB Work Programme pdf icon PDF 148 KB

To consider and approve the EAB’s draft work programme with reference to the Executive Forward Plan.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members was advised that the Vice-Chairman, Councillor Ramsey Nagaty, would chair the next meeting of the Executive Advisory Board, to be held on 4 November 2021, in the Chairman’s absence.  Although the work programme indicated that the agenda in respect of the next meeting would contain a significant amount of business, it was anticipated that some of the items would be re-scheduled.  Reference was made to the Art Collection item listed in the unscheduled section of the work programme and an update was sought.