Agenda and draft minutes

General Assembly of the Council (Budget) - Monday 28 February 2022 7.00 pm

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

Contact: Email: memberservices@dartford.gov.uk 

Items
Note No. Item

1.

Prayers: Reverend Kenneth Clark

Minutes:

The Mayor’s Chaplain led the Council in prayer. Special mention was made of the current invasion of Ukraine and a minute’s silence was also held in respect of the late former Councillor, Mayor, Alderman and Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Ivor Jones.

 

2.

Apologies for Absence

To receive apologies for absence

Minutes:

3.

Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations of interest from Members including the terms(s) of the Grant of Dispensation (if any) by the Audit Board or the Chief Officer & Director of Corporate Services.

Minutes:

The Chief Officer & Director of Corporate Services declared a personal interest on behalf of all Officers present at the meeting in staffing matters referred to in Agenda item 10, Revenue and Capital Budgets 2022/23.

 

The Chief Officer & Director of Corporate Services in the exercise of her delegated authority, in consultation with the Deputy Monitoring Officer, granted a dispensation to all Councillors to speak and vote on Agenda item 10, Revenue and Capital Budgets 2022/23, in respect of their receipt of Members’ Allowances paid by the Council on the ground that, without the dispensation, the number of persons prohibited from participating in the discussion and voting on Members’ Allowances would be so great a proportion of the body transacting the business as to impede the transaction of business (see agenda item 10).

 

 

Councillor L A Canham declared a prejudicial interest in Agenda item 10 as she is a trustee of the Mary’s Child charity, Greenhithe which receives grants/funding from the Council.

 

 

Councillor R M Currans declared a prejudicial interest in Agenda item 10 as she is a trustee of Home-Start and a trustee of the Dartford Almshouse charity which receive grants/funding from the Council.

 

Councillor D E Hunnisett declared a prejudicial interest in Agenda item 10 as he is a trustee of the Dartford Almshouse charity which receive grants/funding from the Council.

 

Councillor J A Kite MBE declared a prejudicial interest in Agenda item 10 as he is a director of Dartford Football Club which receives grant funding from the Council.

 

Councillor D J Mote declared a prejudicial interest in Agenda item 10 as he is a trustee of the Greenhithe Community Association which is a tenant of the Council, a trustee of ‘Mary’s Child’ and of ‘We are Beams’, Chairman of Stone (Dartford) Scout Group and Treasurer of the Greenhithe branch of the Royal British Legion, all of which receive grants/funding from the Council. He also declared a disclosable pecuniary interest in Appendices H(i),(ii) and (iii) of Agenda item10 as his wife is an employee of Darenth Parish Council

 

Councillor D J Reynolds declared a disclosable pecuniary interest in Agenda item 10 as his partner is an employee of Dartford Borough Council.

 

Councillor A S Sandhu MBE declared a prejudicial interest in Agenda item 10 as he is a trustee of the Kent People’s Trust and of the Kent Cohesion Council, and as Vice-President of Dartford Valley Rugby Football Club as they receive grants/funding from the Council.

 

 

 

4.

Mayor's Announcements

Minutes:

The Mayor congratulated Councillors Holt and Stealey on their recent election and welcomed them to their first Council meeting.

 

The Mayor offered her condolences to the family of the late Ivor Jones and said that, whilst she hadn’t known him personally, she had heard many good things about him and his work in the community.

 

Finally, the Mayor reminded Members of the details of her forthcoming charity dinner dance.

5.

Urgent Items

The Mayor will announce her decision as to whether there are any urgent items.

Minutes:

The Leader of the Council welcomed Councillors George Holt and Kyle Stealey following their election to the Council for Wilmington, Sutton-at-Hone & Hawley ward and Maypole & Leighton’s Cross ward respectively. He also congratulated Councillor Avtar Sandhu on his election to Kent County Council following the death of the late Councillor Ann Allen.

 

He also informed the Council that Councillors Romana Gosine and Adrian Oakley-Dow had ended their membership of the Labour and Co-Operative Group and would continue to sit as independent members. He wished them well and noted that this would result in a change in political proportionality in due course which would be implemented at the Annual Council meeting.

6.

Interim Review of Polling Districts and Polling Places 2022 pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To review the current Polling Districts and Polling Places and consider any changes that may be required before conducting an interim review.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The General Assembly of the Assembly considered a report which detailed the review of current polling arrangements that had carried out and the proposed timetable for public consultation as part of the interim review of Polling Districts and Polling Places for 2022. The report also detailed arrangements for conducting the Stone Neighbourhood Plan referendum including the need to create a new temporary polling district to enable the referendum to be held.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1. That the Electoral Provisions Sub-committee comments on the interim review of polling districts and polling places 2022, as referred to in the report, be noted;

 

2. That a public consultation on the interim polling district and polling places, be conducted in accordance with the revised timetable, at Appendix A to the report;

 

3. That a new small unconnected polling district (SHO1b) covering Stone Parish Council properties which are no longer parished, but would be eligible to vote in the [Stone] Neighbourhood Planning Referendum, be created, to enable the Referendum to be conducted, in accordance with Appendix B to the report;

 

4. That the Chief Officer and Director of Corporate Services be granted delegated authority to republish the Register of Electors, so that the [Stone] Neighbourhood Planning Referendum can be held before the conclusion of the Register of Electors review in December 2022; and

 

5. That the Polling Districts and Polling Places Current Arrangements and Observations at Appendix C to the report, be considered.

7.

Corporate Plan 2021-2023 pdf icon PDF 101 KB

To consider and approve the Corporate Plan 2021-2023.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The General Assembly of the Council considered a revised Corporate Plan for 2021-23. The new Plan covered a two year period, rather than the normal three years, so that the Council could assess the effects of Covid and Brexit before looking to a longer planning time-frame. The Corporate Plan set out the vision and priority themes for the Council and the Borough as a whole and  provided a focus for the work of the Council from 2021 to 2023 building on the key themes set out in the 2017-2020 Corporate Plan, with some minor adjustments. Housing now stood on its own, whilst Safer Communities had become Safer and Cohesive Communities. There were also two new sub-themes under the Economic Development and Regeneration theme, namely “Making the Place” which focussed on how physical development and regeneration could benefit the Borough and “Economic Prosperity” which looked at employment and economic development. The Plan’s aims and objectives were supported by a series of actions and by a set of performance indicators for each theme, some of which were service-related whilst others were ‘Borough-wide indicators not directly related to services delivered directly by the Council. The new Corporate Plan had been endorsed by the Policy Overview Committee and the Cabinet.

 

A Member commented that she felt that too much emphasis was placed on events taking place in the town centre under the theme of Safe and Cohesive Communities (page 46 of the agenda) and felt that this should be broadened to include events across the entire borough. She also felt that events should be made more inclusive for people of all abilities, including children that were neuro-diverse. The Leader of the Council said this merely reflected the fact that many key events took place in the town centre but that the Council delivered events and encouraged cohesion across the whole of the local community, including many events organised locally in smaller venues. This would also be apparent from the many events being planned to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee and from events such as music days being held in churches across the borough. He stressed the Council’s commitment to inclusivity and that nobody would be left behind.  However he would be happy to amend the Corporate Plan to make both these matters more apparent.

 

The Member also felt that the strategic objective for Housing, ‘H2 – to increase the supply of high quality affordable homes’ should reference the Council’s target that 35% of new homes should be affordable. The Leader of the Council explained that the Corporate Plan was an overarching strategy and that it was not appropriate to include the target in this document as it was included in policies which supported the Corporate Plan.  He also reminded Members of the Council’s strong commitment to delivering as many affordable houses as possible for local people and of the Council’s outstanding record of delivery and wish to foster a diverse and thriving community. However he also pointed-out the realities of development which sometimes meant that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Appointment of External Auditor 2023/24 Onwards pdf icon PDF 113 KB

To consider arrangements for the appointment of an External Auditor from 2023/24 onwards.

Minutes:

The General Assembly of the Council considered a report which set out proposals for the Council to appoint an external auditor for the financial year 2023/24 onwards, following  the end of the current contract with Grant Thornton. The existing appointment had been made by the Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) body under a national collective arrangement for the appointment of external auditors, and it was recommended that the Council should continue to opt-in to the national scheme for the appointment of its external auditor from 2023/24 to 2027/28 as it was considered that the sector-wide procurement by PSAA was likely to produce better outcomes and be less burdensome than undertaking a local procurement.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

That the Public Sector Audit Appointments’ invitation to opt into the sector-led option for the appointment of external auditors to principal local government and police bodies for five financial years from 1 April 2023 be accepted

9.

Council Tax Discounts for Unoccupied and Unfurnished Dwellings and Long Term Empty Premium pdf icon PDF 106 KB

To consider the level of Council Tax discount for unoccupied and unfurnished dwellings and to consider increasing the premium on dwellings that are long term empty.

Minutes:

The General Assembly of the Council considered a report which proposed the reduction of the discount for unoccupied and unfurnished dwellings from 100% for one month to 0% and the increase of the premium on dwellings that were long-term empty (unoccupied and unfurnished for more than two years). Reducing the Class C discount for unoccupied and unfurnished dwellings to 0% and increasing the long-term empty charge from 100% to 200% for 5 years to one day less than 10 year and 300% for 10 years+ would support the Council’s empty homes plan and encourage empty dwellings to be brought back into use more quickly and would also align the Council with other districts across the county.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

1. That the discount for unoccupied and unfurnished dwellings be changed from 100% for one month to 0%; and

 

2. That the additional charge for dwellings that are unoccupied and  unfurnished for 5 years to one day less than 10 years, be increased from 100% to 200% and dwellings that are unoccupied and unfurnished for 10 years or more, be increased to 300%.

MD

10.

Revenue and Capital Budgets 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 389 KB

To set the overall level of General Fund and Housing Revenue Account revenue and capital expenditure for Dartford Borough Council for 2022/23, to agree the level of Council Tax for Dartford Borough in its parished and unparished areas for 2022/23, to approve the Pay Policy Statement and to determine sundry related matters.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The General Assembly of the Council considered a report on the proposed Revenue and Capital Budgets for 2022-23, including setting the overall level of General Fund and Housing Revenue Account revenue and capital expenditure for Dartford Borough Council for 2022/23, the level of Council Tax for Dartford Borough in its parished and unparished areas for 2022/23 and fees and charges for 2022/23, and approving the Pay Policy Statement and sundry related matters. The Council’s determination to provide high quality services and to keep tax low, wherever possible, was reflected in the proposals which included no increase in the Dartford Borough Council element of Council tax, the freezing of rents for Council social housing and for pitches at the Claywood Lane, Caravan Site, Bean for the year, setting fees and charges, and adding to earmarked reserves for future years as part of the Council’s prudent approach to budgeting. 

 

In accordance with Standing Order 16(4), a motion was proposed, seconded and carried, to allow extra time for Leaders of the Political Groups to deliver their speeches on the Budget report.

 

The Leader of the Council, Councillor J A Kite, thanked Officers for their work with Members in developing the budget, and in particular Sarah Martin and Tim Sams. He also congratulated the Leadership Team, including two new Directors, Peter Dosad and Caroline Hicks, on the direction and leadership they were providing as the Council emerged into the post-pandemic world and commended the work of the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Finance, and his Cabinet colleagues and Lead Members. He noted that people were returning to work and customers were returning to the streets across the country and enjoying freedoms that they had been unable to use for nearly two years but that those who had been lost to the pandemic would never be forgotten. In this context he was pleased to announce that for a second year in a row the Council would be funding a scholarship for a local medical student for the duration of their training. He also announced that the Council would be making  funding available immediately to help Ukrainian nationals living in Dartford to provide support and assistance to family members caught up in the current crisis.

 

Turning directly to the budget, the Leader of the Council outlined the considerations that had been in play when considering whether to increase Council Tax. Council’s had faced a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges which had hit service revenues at precisely the time that demand for those services had increased and other factors such as skill and material shortages, lock-downs and post-Brexit adjustments were impacting the economy. In this context a decision had to be taken on the impact that an increase or freeze in Council Tax might have and the impact that a freeze might have on future revenues and the Council’s ability to deliver services. Taking everything into account it was proposed to freeze the Dartford Borough Council council tax again in order to assist local families at the early  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.