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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Home Gardens, Dartford, Kent, DA1 1DR

Contact: Email: memberservices@dartford.gov.uk 

Items
Note No. Item

1.

Chairman's Introduction

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed Members and Officers to the meeting.

2.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors C S McLean, M A Maddison and R F Storey.

3.

Urgent Items

The Chairman will announce his decision as to whether there are any urgent items and their position on the agenda.

Minutes:

There were no urgent items.

4.

Items Reserved for Debate

Minutes:

The Chairman advised Members that the following agenda items had been drawn down for debate:

 

11.      Acacia - Heritage and Regeneration

 

18.      Revenue Budget Monitoring 2016/17 - Projected Outturn and 2017/18 Budget Process

 

Accordingly, Members endorsed the Officer recommendations in respect of the following items:

 

12.      New Council House Building Project Update

 

13.      Financial Contributions to Parish and Town Councils

 

14.      Collective Switching Scheme - Energy Deal

 

15.      Community Infrastructure Levy Annual Monitoring Report 1st April 2015 to 31st March 2016

 

16.      Street Naming and Numbering - Empire Paper Mills Sports Ground

 

17.      Minutes of the Policy Overview Committee Meeting held on 20 September 2016

 

19.      Capital Programme Budget Monitoring 2016/17 - Progress and Projected Outturn

 

20.      Corporate Plan - Performance Indicators

 

21.      Dartford Borough Council Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report 2015 - 2016

5.

Declarations of Interest on Items Reserved for Debate Only

To receive declarations of interest from Members including the terms(s) of the Grant of Dispensation (if any) by the Audit Board or Managing Director.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

6.

References from Committees

None at this stage.

Minutes:

There were no references from Committees.

SD (IS)

7.

Exceptional Hardship Scheme for Council Tax Reduction pdf icon PDF 69 KB

Summary:

 

1.           This is a Key Decision as it is significant in terms of its effects on communities living or working in an area of the Borough comprising two or more wards.

 

2.           This report presents the Exceptional Hardship Policy for Member approval, to be introduced alongside the changes proposed to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

 

Recommendation:

 

That Cabinet approve the following resolution to the General Assembly of the Council:

 

That the Exceptional Hardship Policy shown at Appendix A be approved and adopted alongside the changes proposed to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

This report presented the Exceptional Hardship Policy for Member approval, to be introduced alongside the changes proposed to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

 

  • The Head of Revenues and Benefits explained how the hardship scheme had been developed to help those who are found to be experiencing extreme financial hardship following the implementation of proposed changes to the existing Local Scheme of Support for Council Tax on 1 April 2017. He noted how it had been designed to be similar to the existing Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) scheme for Housing Benefit and said that only 11% of the cost of any payments made would be met by Dartford Borough Council with the majority of the cost being borne by the major preceptors.

 

  • In response to a question the Head of Revenues and Benefits said that the budget for the scheme was still being negotiated and that it was hoped that those requiring support from the scheme would be small. With respect to its rollout the Strategic Director (Internal Services) said that it would be demand led and that those who receive support must meet the criteria defined in the policy.

 

  • Members debated the use of the term ‘lifestyle choice’ in paragraph 2.2 of the policy document and whether the terminology was appropriate. A number of Members felt that it should be changed whereas others disagreed. In conclusion it was decided to note the concerns that had been raised and ask that Cabinet decide whether the terminology should be changed or not.

 

  • Members also asked how the state of exceptional hardship would be assessed. The Head of Revenues and Benefits agreed that it was difficult to define and said that it would be better understood once claims are received and the issues being faced by claimants are identified. He noted how the tests that were being applied were similar to those used when assessing DHP claims and said that claimants would also be advised to engage with other organisations that can provide budgetary advice and support.

 

  • Members asked whether the policy could include examples of unnecessary expenses/debts etc. The Head of Revenues and Benefits replied that being prescriptive can cause problems because no two cases would be the same and each would require individual assessment to see which of their expenses/debts etc. may be considered unreasonable. He also noted the need to maintain consistency with the policy used for DHP claims and said that the HERO (Housing, Energy and Retraining Options) team could be called upon to review a claimant’s debts if required.

 

  • Members asked whether other organisations would be made aware of the new policy. The Head of Revenues and Benefits replied that they would but said that the scheme would not be widely publicised.

 

  • In response to a question Members were advised that the Strategic Director (Internal Services) in consultation with the Leader of the Council would determine how the scheme is to be applied because it is a policy decision.

 

SD (IS)

8.

Risk Based Verification for the Administration of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction pdf icon PDF 63 KB

Summary:

 

1.         This is a key decision as it establishes new policy outside the agreed policy framework.

 

2.         This report advises Cabinet of the new approach to be taken in respect of verifying new claims and changes in circumstances for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the Risk Based Verification Policy at Exempt Appendix A be approved.

Minutes:

Members noted that this item had an exempt appendix and resolved that, under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended), the press and public be excluded from the meeting during its consideration on the grounds that it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information.

 

This report advised Cabinet of the new approach to be taken in respect of verifying new claims and changes in circumstances for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction.

 

  • The Head of Revenues and Benefits advised that the same verification procedure is currently used for all new claims and changes in circumstances and that this risk based verification procedure, which had been validated and approved by the Department for Work and Pensions, would result in improved efficiency when making assessments. He described how the new approach would help tackle fraud and noted that, as the major preceptors would be covering the majority of the cost of the associated software, the cost to the Council would only be £762 per annum. He said that the new policy was based around three levels of risk and that by carrying out fewer checks on those claims considered to be low risk, less time would be required to process these claims.

 

  • Members referred to those who may be classed as high risk and asked whether those experiencing money problems would fall into this category even though there was no other evidence of fraudulent tendencies. The Head of Revenues and Benefits replied that the algorithms involved used evidence from a number of sources, including credit reference agencies, when assessing the risks involved and whether there was a likelihood of a particular claim being fraudulent.

 

  • The Advisory Panel endorsed the report’s recommendations.

SD (IS)

9.

Civil Penalties for Council Tax, Council Tax Reduction and Housing Benefit pdf icon PDF 60 KB

Summary:

 

1.         This is a Key Decision as it establishes new policy outside the agreed policy framework.

 

2.         This report advises Cabinet of the recommended approach to be taken where a customer who, without reasonable excuse, supplies incorrect information or fails to notify the Council of a change in their circumstances relating to Council Tax liability, Council Tax discounts and exemptions, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction.

 

3.         It further proposes a revised Sanctions and Prosecution Policy for proven cases of Council Tax fraud and Council Tax Reduction fraud.

 

Recommendation:

 

That Cabinet consider and approve the introduction of civil penalties and the associated guidelines detailed at Appendix A to the report and approve the proposed revised Sanctions and Prosecution Policy detailed at Appendix B.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

This report advised Cabinet of the recommended approach to be taken where a customer who, without reasonable excuse, supplies incorrect information or fails to notify the Council of a change in their circumstances relating to Council Tax liability, Council Tax discounts and exemptions, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction. It also proposed a revised Sanctions and Prosecution Policy for proven cases of Council Tax fraud and Council Tax Reduction fraud.

 

  • The Counter Fraud Manager said that the Council had a duty to protect the public purse and that a zero tolerance approach was being taken against those who refuse to abide by the rules by prosecuting those who commit criminal acts. He then described how the report recommended the introduction of civil penalties, together with an associated Sanction and Prosecution Policy, which would allow additional powers to be used.

 

  • Members noted the reference to ‘reasonable excuses’ in the report and discussed whether this term should be described in more detail. The Counter Fraud Manager said that the Policy had deliberately been written in broad terms because a mixture of circumstances has to be considered on a case by case basis when assessing whether a given excuse is reasonable.

 

  • Members then highlighted the impact that the imposition of penalties may have on those who may already be experiencing financial problems and asked how the new powers would be publicised. The Counter Fraud Manager replied that the penalties that can be applied will be described on the back of the Council Tax bill and will also be displayed on the web site and said that other ways of publicising these new powers and the outcomes being achieved would also be considered. The Head of Revenues and Benefits also noted how the measures being introduced were there to act as a deterrent and not generate income. Members felt that the new powers being introduced may also be propagated by those who use social media and agreed that the public needed to be made aware of them in order that they may effectively act as a deterrent.

 

  • The Advisory Panel endorsed the report’s recommendations.

SD (IS)

10.

Land at Stone Lodge pdf icon PDF 117 KB

Summary:

 

1.           The disposal of part of the Stone Lodge site is of such significance to the locality that the Managing Director is of the opinion that it should be treated as a key decision.

 

2.           To report that the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government is keen to purchase no less than 15 acres of land at Stone Lodge for a new 8 form entry secondary school and to seek authority inter alia, to dispose of the land at less than best consideration.

 

Recommendations:

 

1.           That, having considered the Council’s Consultant Valuer’s report in confidential Appendix A, no less than 15 acres of land at Stone Lodge (as shown on the plan at Appendix B) be disposed of to the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government for a new 8 form entry secondary school, at potentially less than best consideration, on the terms set out in confidential Appendix A.

 

2.           That the Managing Director be granted delegated authority to agree the exact size of the land take for the new 8 form entry secondary school.

 

3.           That a report on the appropriation of the land at Stone Lodge for planning purposes be presented to a future Cabinet meeting.

 

4.           That the Managing Director, in consultation with the Head of Legal Services, be authorised to finalise the Heads of Terms and complete the transaction.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members noted that this item had an exempt appendix and resolved that, under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended), the press and public be excluded from the meeting during its consideration on the grounds that it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information.

 

This report advised that the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government was keen to purchase no less than 15 acres of land at Stone Lodge for a new 8 form entry secondary school and sought authority inter alia, to dispose of the land at less than best consideration.

 

  • The Strategic Director (Internal Services) referred to the valuations in the exempt appendix and highlighted the fact that the offer that had been made was at the lower end of the values that had been assessed by the Council’s Consultant Valuer. She also noted how the funds were to be made available to the Council at the outline planning permission rather than the detailed planning permission stage and said that this would be of benefit to the Council.

 

  • Members discussed the impact that the building of a school may have on the value of the adjacent areas on the site and were assured by the Strategic Director (Internal Services) that these factors would have been taken into account during the valuation process.

 

  • Members recognised the need for a new school given the amount of development that was taking place in the Borough and also welcomed the fact that the capital receipts could be used to make development improvements in other areas of the Borough.

 

  • Some Members expressed concern at the fact that the offer was below the assessed value and asked whether this was usual. They also questioned whether the underlying need for an additional school in the area had been fully appreciated by the Education Funding Agency. The Strategic Director (Internal Services) noted how valuations can be subjective and are site specific so cannot be compared to similar exercises in other areas. She also noted how different valuers can potentially come up with different values for the same piece of land.

 

  • In response to a question relating to transport access to the school the Chairman advised that this was an area that would come forward for consideration as part of the planning approval process.

 

  • Members noted how good use was being made of the whole Stone Lodge site and welcomed the proposed layout. In relation to the consultation process it was noted that a public consultation exercise had already taken place on the use of the site and that further possibilities for public input would be provided by the planning process as the plans for each area are developed and submitted for consideration.

 

  • Members noted that at this stage it was unknown whether Kent County Council or Dartford Borough Council would be tasked with considering the planning application for the new school.

 

SD (IS)

11.

Acacia - Heritage and Regeneration pdf icon PDF 104 KB

Summary:

 

This report sets out the background to the Acacia Hall site and the need to redevelop it. It also requests an increase to the capital budget to meet the estimated costs, and subject to budgetary approval, authority to apply for the relevant consents. Public consultation on the redevelopment proposals is also proposed.

 

Recommendations:

 

1.         That the proposals for the redevelopment of the Acacia site be subject to  public consultation and any representations received be reported back to the Council’s Cabinet for consideration.

 

2.         That authority be granted to the Strategic Director (Internal Services) to apply for planning and any other statutory consents, for the proposed redevelopment works.

 

3.         That the Strategic Director (Internal Services) be delegated to tender the Acacia Hall leisure venue contract on terms agreed with the Managing Director in consultation with the chairman of Cabinet and the results of the process be reported back to Cabinet.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

This report set out the background to the Acacia Hall site and the need to redevelop it. It also requested an increase to the capital budget to meet the estimated costs, and subject to budgetary approval, authority to apply for the relevant consents. Public consultation on the redevelopment proposals was also proposed.

 

  • The Heritage, Events and Projects Manager described the issues that had been identified on the site and said that some of the buildings would require demolition. He then noted how this would enable the car parking facility to be expanded and other opportunities for the site to be progressed.

 

  • Members made reference to the future plans for the site and asked whether consideration had been given to using the facilities for a range of community based activities enabling it to act as a community hub. The Heritage, Events and Projects Manager replied that bids would be invited from potential operators of the facilities on the site and that the associated documentation was being prepared. He said that community use related proposals could be included within this but anticipated that those making use of the facilities would be required to pay commercial rates.

 

  • Members welcomed the proposed access from Market Street and asked that this proposal be carried forward. The Heritage, Events and Projects Manager agreed that access from Market Street was important and said that funding to enable further improvements to the Market Street area would also be sought, which would result in the closure of the public conveniences adjacent to the museum for a while whilst the improvements took place. Members initially expressed concern at this closure and the impact it might have on visitors to the Town Centre, but were advised that the nearby newly refurbished library included facilities that were available for public use.

 

  • In response to a question on the additional public car parking facilities to be provided on the site the Heritage, Events and Projects Manager advised that the associated charging fees had yet to be agreed and said that it would probably cater for both long and short term parking.

 

  • Members referred to the current lack of capital funding for the project and were advised that the capital receipts from the future sale of another area of identified land would be used to fund the development.

 

  • Members referred to the tendering process and hoped that the chosen operator would run the facility in ways that would deliver benefits to the community and be as successful as those that had been chosen to manage the Fairfield Leisure Centre.

 

  • The Advisory Panel endorsed the report’s recommendations.

SD (ES)

12.

New Council House Building Project Update pdf icon PDF 67 KB

Summary:

 

This report provides an update on progress made towards construction of the second phase of the Council’s new build HRA housing project.

 

Recommendations:

 

1.         That Cabinet notes the contents of this report.

 

2.         That delegated authority be given to the Managing Director, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Frontline Services, Customer Champion and Housing, to award contracts to the successful tenderer(s) for the construction phase of the projects detailed in this report.

Minutes:

Members endorsed the recommendations in the report.

SD (IS)

13.

Financial Contributions to Parish and Town Councils pdf icon PDF 61 KB

Summary:

 

To agree the level of financial contributions to be paid to parish and town councils in 2017/18.

 

Recommendations:

 

1.         That, subject to para. 2.2. below, the Council, under the provisions of Section 136 of the Local Government Act 1972, make the following contributions towards the expenses of parish and town councils’ concurrent functions in 2017/18:

£

Bean

1,555

Darenth

3,416

Longfield

2,859

Stone

9,688

Sutton at Hone and Hawley

4,090

Swanscombe and Greenhithe

12,695

Wilmington

6,197

 

2.         That the contributions be made subject to the parish and town councils submitting suitably analysed details of estimated net expenditure for the ensuing year by 31 January each year, and actual net expenditure for the preceding year no later than six months after the end of each financial year, in a format prescribed by the Council.

 

3.         That the payments be made in two equal instalments; the first on 30 April (or next working day) and the second, the latter of 30 September (or next working day) or seven days following receipt of the parish or town councils’ 2016/17 accounts, certified as correct by the clerk.

 

4.         That the Council continue to operate the Capacity Building fund and make a contribution of £45,000 into the fund in 2017/18.

 

5.         That the Managing Director, in consultation with the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council, be granted delegated authority to agree the capacity building fund bidding criteria and approval of the funds through a grants panel process.

 

6.         That the Council make the following contributions to parish and town councils to compensate for lost council tax income in local areas for the introduction of the council tax support scheme:

 

£

Bean

779

Darenth

4,487

Longfield

1,473

Southfleet

463

Stone

16,385

Sutton at Hone and Hawley

4,055

Swanscombe and Greenhithe

33,688

Wilmington

3,074

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members endorsed the recommendations in the report.

SD (ES)

14.

Collective Switching Scheme - Energy Deal pdf icon PDF 71 KB

Summary:

 

1.         This report provides information regarding Energy Deal the Collective Switching Scheme developed in Kent and requests Cabinet’s approval to continue involvement in the project.

 

2.         The Kent Environment Strategy which was discussed at the Cabinet meeting of 3 March 2016 (Min. No. 106) included key priorities to reduce energy consumption and to work to alleviate fuel poverty.

 

Recommendation:

 

That Cabinet note the contents of the report and agree to continue to participate in the Collective Switching Campaign in Dartford in partnership with other Kent Local Authorities.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members endorsed the recommendations in the report.

SD (ES)

15.

Community Infrastructure Levy Annual Monitoring Report - 1st April 2015 to 31st March 2016 pdf icon PDF 65 KB

Summary:

 

As a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charging authority the Council is required to publish an annual monitoring report ‘the monitoring report’ for the preceding financial year. CIL Regulations require a variety of information to be published. As the Dartford CIL has been operating for a relatively short period, a limited amount of information has been provided in the report for the period April 2015 to March 2016.  Members are asked to endorse the CIL monitoring report prior to publication.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the Council’s CIL Monitoring Report April 1st 2015 to 31st March 2016, at Appendix A to the report, be endorsed for publication.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members endorsed the recommendations in the report.

SD (IS)

16.

Street Naming and Numbering - Empire Paper Mills Sports Ground pdf icon PDF 48 KB

Summary:

 

To approve three new road names for the development at the Empire Paper Mills Sports Ground.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the three new road names for the development at the Empire Paper Mills Sports Ground be approved as Norton, Parkwood and Peacock.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members endorsed the recommendations in the report.

SD (IS)

17.

Minutes of the Policy Overview Committee Meeting held on 20 September 2016 pdf icon PDF 45 KB

Summary:

 

To present to Cabinet the minutes of the meeting of the Policy Overview Committee held on 20 September 2016.

 

Recommendations:

           

1.         That the minutes of the meeting of the Policy Overview Committee held on 20 September 2016, be considered and noted.

 

2.         That Cabinet consider the Policy Overview Committee’s request to add an additional ‘Environment and Sustainability’ performance indicator to those already being used to track the Council’s performance, in order that the percentage of Dartford’s waste being sent to landfill may be monitored.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members endorsed the recommendations in the report.

SD (IS)

18.

Revenue Budget Monitoring 2016/17 - Projected Outturn and 2017/18 Budget Process pdf icon PDF 84 KB

Summary:

 

1.           To notify Members of the Projected Outturn on the General Fund and the Housing Revenue Account, with the reasons for significant variances.

 

2.           To inform Members of, and seek approval for, the budget setting process for 2017/18.

 

Recommendations:

 

1.           That Members note the projected outturn position for the General Fund and the Housing Revenue Account.

 

2.           That the Managing Director is delegated by Cabinet to determine and publish the 2017/18 draft budget, in consultation with the Leader and the Finance Portfolio Holder prior to the budget being presented to the General Assembly of the Council for approval in February 2017.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

This report notified Members of the Projected Outturn on the General Fund and the Housing Revenue Account, with the reasons for significant variances. It also informed Members of, and sought approval for, the budget setting process for 2017/18.

 

  • In response to a question relating to the additional income from court costs the Strategic Director (Internal Services) said that the figure varied from year to year and was dependent on the number of people who are taken to court for non-payment of Council Tax, which could not be accurately predicted.

 

  • Members noted the overspend relating to the Dartford Festival and were advised by the Strategic Director (Internal Services) that this was because tighter security arrangements had been required because higher profile acts had been booked.

 

  • Members then asked what proportion of the refuse and street cleaning overspend related to fly tipping and what was being done to address this problem. The Strategic Director (Internal Services) replied that she would have to find out and advise Members after the meeting. Members recognised that it was not possible to monitor everywhere but referred to the advice that had recently been circulated on how to proceed if fly tipped rubbish is found and suggested that they should also make residents aware of the procedure that should be followed. Members also suggested that fly tipping may be discouraged by publicising the enforcement penalties involved.

 

  • In response to a question on the reason for the predicted below budget return on housing rents the Strategic Director (Internal Services) said that she would have to consult with those in Housing and advise Members after the meeting.

 

  • The Advisory Panel endorsed the report’s recommendations.

SD (IS)

19.

Capital Programme Budget Monitoring 2016/17 - Progress and Projected Outturn pdf icon PDF 64 KB

Summary:

 

To inform Cabinet of the progress to date on the projects which make up the approved Capital Budget and to report the latest position on capital resources.

 

Recommendation:

 

That Cabinet notes the progress made to date on the 2016/17 Capital Programme.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members endorsed the recommendations in the report.

SD (IS)

20.

Corporate Plan - Performance Indicators pdf icon PDF 45 KB

Summary:

 

This report provides the latest set of Corporate Plan performance indicators for quarter 2 of 2016-17.

 

Recommendation:

 

That Members note the contents of the Performance Indicators Monitoring Report attached at Appendix A.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members endorsed the recommendations in the report.

SD (ES)

21.

Dartford Borough Council Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report 2015 - 2016 pdf icon PDF 64 KB

Summary:

 

This report sets out the Council’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report for 2015 – 2016 and the progress made by the Council in reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions.

 

Recommendation:

 

That Members note the content of the Greenhouse Gas emissions Report 2015 – 2016.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members endorsed the recommendations in the report.

SD (IS)

22.

Land at Stone Lodge - Exempt Appendix A
(Exempt Category SO 46 (1) (b) Annex 1 Paragraph 3)

Minutes:

Members noted the contents of this Appendix.

SD (IS)

23.

Risk Based Verification for the Administration of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction - Exempt Appendix A
(Exempt Category SO 46 (1) (b) Annex 1 Paragraph 7)

Minutes:

Members noted the contents of this Appendix.

SD (ES)

24.

New Council House Building Project Update - Exempt Appendix A
(Exempt Category SO 46 (1) (b) Annex 1 Paragraph 3)

Minutes:

Members noted the contents of this Appendix.