Agenda, decisions and minutes

Executive
Thursday, 18th February, 2016 7.00 pm

Venue: Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham, RG40 1BN

Contact: Anne Hunter  Service Manager, Democratic Services

Items
No. Item

102.

Apologies

To receive any apologies for absence

Minutes:

An apology for absence was submitted by Councillor Julian McGhee-Sumner.   Councillor Bob Wyatt attended the meeting on behalf of Councillor McGhee-Sumner.  In accordance with legislation Councillor Wyatt could take part in any discussions but was not entitled to vote. 

 

The meeting was also informed that due to severe traffic issues Councillor Jorgensen had advised that she would arrive late for the meeting.  Councillor Jorgensen arrived during consideration of Item 105.

103.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 209 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 28 January 2016.

 

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 28 January 2016 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

104.

Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest

Minutes:

Councillor Anthony Pollock declared a personal interest in Item 104, Council Owned Companies Business, by virtue of the fact that he was an unpaid Non-Executive Director of Optalis.  Councillor Pollock remained in the meeting during discussions and voted on the matter.

 

Councillor Anthony Pollock also declared a personal and prejudicial interest in Item 105 Optalis Contract, by virtue of the fact that he was an unpaid Non-Executive Director of Optalis.  Councillor Pollock left the meeting during discussions and did not vote on the matter.

 

105.

Public Question Time

To answer any public questions

 

A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.

 

The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of the Executive

 

Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Council or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting.  For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions

Minutes:

In accordance with the agreed procedure the Chairman invited members of the public to submit questions to the appropriate Members.

105.1

Peter Humphreys asked the Executive Member for Regeneration and Communities the following question:

 

Question

There have been a number of high profile planning disasters involving major projects in the Town, including:

·         Wellington house now demolished which was part of a scheme to build a large civic centre complex that was abandoned;

·         The proposed IDR including a roundabout surrounding the 16th Century Tudor House also abandoned due to public opposition;

·         Having to spend £30m to build social housing to replace the shoddy damp ridden properties the Council built in Eustace Crescent and then subsequently demolished (that word again) as they were insanitary;

·         A supermarket built on a greenfield site but later abandoned and left vacant for many years due to its poor location;

·         Poor architecture at either end of Peach Street, allowed by the Planning Committee, but now demolished/about to be demolished;

·         Hundreds, maybe thousands, recently planted trees about to be uprooted due to lack of joined up thinking in respect of the routes of the NDR and so on.

 

Would you please list what lessons the Council has learnt from these expensive failures and what guarantees can you give that such disasters won’t be repeated with the schemes currently in the pipeline?

 

Minutes:

 

There have been a number of high profile planning disasters involving major projects in the Town, including:

·         Wellington House now demolished which was part of a scheme to build a large civic centre complex that was abandoned;

·         The proposed IDR including a roundabout surrounding the 16th Century Tudor House also abandoned due to public opposition;

·         Having to spend £30m to build social housing to replace the shoddy damp ridden properties the Council built in Eustace Crescent and then subsequently demolished (that word again) as they were insanitary;

·         A supermarket built on a greenfield site but later abandoned and left vacant for many years due to its poor location;

·         Poor architecture at either end of Peach Street, allowed by the Planning Committee, but now demolished/about to be demolished;

·         Hundreds, maybe thousands, recently planted trees about to be uprooted due to lack of joined up thinking in respect of the routes of the NDR and so on.

 

Would you please list what lessons the Council has learnt from these expensive failures and what guarantees can you give that such disasters won’t be repeated with the schemes currently in the pipeline?

 

Answer

An interesting series of questions here.  First I just have a comment from my colleague here, who has been here a lot longer than I have in Wokingham, on your large civic centre complex.  He has never been familiar with any large civic centre complex.

 

Let me pick up the rest. I am very interested in the choice of projects that you mention and your interpretation of them as expensive failures.

 

Take for example Eustace Crescent which sat within the 1950s Norreys Estate providing housing for 60 years, or Wellington House which was in use as a Council Office for over 40 years. Hardly failed projects.

 

The regeneration proposals are not isolated one off projects as many of the schemes you refer to; but are the culmination of years of strategic planning and research. Starting 12 years ago in 2004 with the start of the development of the Local Plan, the Core Strategy, the Managing Development Delivery document and the Town Centre Masterplan which set out how the Borough and the Town should change over the coming years. This planning process ensures that what we are building now will meet the needs and demands of both current and future residents.

 

All of these documents have been the result of extensive consultation with residents, local businesses, developers and, in regards to the Local Plan core documents, have undergone Examination In Public by the Planning Inspectorate prior to their adoption. Alongside this we have continued to consult on our regeneration proposals throughout the process of developing the designs, including major consultation events in 2011, 12, 13, 14 and 15. At each stage we have changed our proposals in response to feedback to ensure we are delivering the right scheme for Wokingham to be a success.

 

What these projects also demonstrate to me, is the continually changing face of modern life and business,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 105.1

105.2

Gerald de la Pascua asked the Executive Member for Regeneration and Communities the following question:

 

Question

WBC Executive decided last week it is better to re-locate the tennis courts in Elms Field at a cost of £320k than to refurbish the existing facility. The report presented at that meeting did not say how much this second option would cost, what is the figure?

 

Minutes:

 

WBC Executive decided last week it is better to re-locate the tennis courts in Elms Field at a cost of £320k than to refurbish the existing facility. The report presented at that meeting did not say how much this second option would cost, what is the figure?

 

Answer

There was no Executive Meeting last week so no decision could have been made as you suggest. The Executive decision on the 28th January however related to agreeing the payment of relevant planning contributions required by planning application 152125 for Elms Field.

 

Ordinarily as part of the planning application process the Council would enter into a legal agreement with a developer to ensure any required financial contributions are paid at correct points. The Council cannot enter into a legal agreement with itself so an alternative approach to making payments needs to be taken in regards to applications such as this. Under the Council’s Constitution this means securing Executive approval to pay contributions of over £5million from the regeneration project to the Local Planning Authority.

 

The figure of £320,000 for the tennis courts is based upon a strict non-negotiable formula set by Sport England who set the costs of providing a flood-lit tennis court at £80,000 per court. 

 

The proposals for Elms Field include removing the tennis courts from their existing site and providing money for their replacement elsewhere. This decision was made as part of the regeneration design process to create the right scheme for Wokingham town centre, which delivers the right mix of facilities and makes the best use of the land available in balancing development with a large area of open space.

 

The monies paid by the Elms Field development will contribute to the provision of tennis courts elsewhere within Wokingham and will allow for the delivery of top quality facilities in the right locations to meet residents’ needs.The new courts will be significantly better and include lights etc. and its new location will be the subject of a consultation with our residents.

 

Supplementary Question

I wondered if there was a firm place where these might be and if there is an amount for the pitch and putt and if there are any plans to relocate that or any funds to compensate for that?

 

Supplementary Answer

Well I have already given you the situation as far as where it is going to be located.  There will be a consultation to establish where it is best to be placed and there are no plans on the pitch and putt.

 

105.3

Mike O'Riley had asked the Executive Member for Regeneration and Communities the following question and due to his inability to attend the meeting a written answer was provided as set out below:

 

Question

With the slowdown in the global economy, the increasing debt ratio in the UK economy and the risk of a more gloomy economic outlook what plans are WBC making with respect to regeneration funding to significantly reduce council and ratepayer exposure to speculative commercial property developments.

 

Minutes:

 

With the slowdown in the global economy, the increasing debt ratio in the UK economy and the risk of a more gloomy economic outlook what plans are WBC making with respect to regeneration funding to significantly reduce Council and ratepayer exposure to speculative commercial property developments?

 

Answer

Throughout the regeneration process the approach to funding and delivering the scheme has been an important factor in decision making.

 

Providing value for money is at the heart of all of the Council’s major projects and careful consideration has been given to the risks of investing money against the range of benefits which will be delivered for the town, its residents, workers, visitors and businesses

 

Benefits such as an improved variety and choice of shops and leisure facilities, improved public spaces and a fantastic town park with a bigger and better play area and services for the community events which make Wokingham a great place to live.

 

All of these are being delivered through the regeneration and at no cost to the tax payer. 

 

We are confident that the proposals offer a safe investment for the Council and that any costs incurred through building are more than covered by the value of the completed assets, whether that be through selling on the investment to generate a profit, or retaining the scheme to generate ongoing income. The designs have been continually assessed and market tested to ensure this is the case.

 

Further confidence can be given through the pre-letting of the scheme where we sign agreements with operators to let key units once built. We are in the process of finalising agreements with Premier Inn for the hotel and with two other excellent operators for the foodstore and cinema. Once these have all been signed we will already have guaranteed over 60% of the expected income. This is more than enough income to service any borrowing debt for funding the scheme.

 

Alongside this we are already being contacted by other businesses interested in taking up units across the regeneration schemes and are confident we will continue to pre-let other units in the scheme at the appropriate times.

 

I would add, that we have no intention of building anything until we have secured a reasonable number of pre lets; l would also point out that the designs proposed are sufficiently flexible to accommodate any significant changes in retail and the wider commercial demand

 

We spent over two years working closely with interested private developers to identify the right partner to aid us in regenerating Wokingham, finally selecting Wilson Bowden and David Wilson Homes for their extensive experience in delivering excellent regeneration schemes across the country. David Wilson Homes going on to become a Joint Venture partner in the scheme who will be putting their own money into this development. Not something they would consider doing if they did not have confidence in the Council and the regeneration proposals we are delivering for the town centre.  

 

In your question you refer to this as speculation but  ...  view the full minutes text for item 105.3

106.

Member Question Time

To answer any member questions

 

A period of 20 minutes will be allowed for Members to ask questions submitted under Notice

 

Any questions not dealt with within the allotted time will be dealt with in a written reply

Minutes:

There were no Member questions received.

107.

Housing Revenue Account Budget 2016/19 pdf icon PDF 110 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

That Council be recommended to approve:

1)         The Housing Revenue Account Budget;

 

2)         Council house dwelling rents be reduced by 1% effective from 1 April 2016 in line with the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2015, (subject to confirmation of the statutory starting date);

 

3)         Garage rents be increased by 1.1% effective from 1 April 2016 in line with Council fees and charges;

 

4)         It be noted that a review of the Shared Equity Rents in 2011 had determined that rents had been kept artificially low in previous years and not increased in line with the terms of the leases.  Therefore rents for shared equity properties have been gradually increased above inflation for four years to bring the rents in line by 1 April 2016.  The increase for 2016/17 and future years will be based on RPI, and is estimated to be approximately 1% in 2016/17;

 

5)         Tenant Service Charges are set in line with estimated costs;

 

6)         The Housing Major Repairs (capital) programme for 2016/17 as set out in Appendix C.

 

Minutes:

The Executive considered a report setting out the Housing Revenue Account Budget for 2016/17.

 

The Executive Member for Planning and Highways went through the recommendations in the report and highlighted that in accordance with the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2015 council house dwelling rents would be reduced by 1% effective from 1 April 2016, which was subject to confirmation of the statutory starting date.

 

Councillor Baker commented that although it was laudable to reduce the rents by 1% every year for the next four years there would be a financial impact on the Council and this reduction added extra pressure on Council budgets. 

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That Council be recommended to approve:

1)         The Housing Revenue Account Budget;

 

2)         Council house dwelling rents be reduced by 1% effective from 1 April 2016 in line with the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2015, (subject to confirmation of the statutory starting date);

 

3)         Garage rents be increased by 1.1% effective from 1 April 2016 in line with Council fees and charges;

 

4)         It be noted that a review of the Shared Equity Rents in 2011 had determined that rents had been kept artificially low in previous years and not increased in line with the terms of the leases.  Therefore rents for shared equity properties have been gradually increased above inflation for four years to bring the rents in line by 1 April 2016.  The increase for 2016/17 and future years will be based on RPI, and is estimated to be approximately 1% in 2016/17;

 

5)         Tenant Service Charges are set in line with estimated costs;

 

6)         The Housing Major Repairs (capital) programme for 2016/17 as set out in Appendix C.

 

108.

Capital Programme and Strategy 2016/19 pdf icon PDF 206 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

That:

1)         Council be recommended to approve the Capital Programme and Strategy 2016/19 subject to the 2017/18 and 2018/19 Capital Programme budgets for car park entry/exit barriers being reduced to zero pending further review;

 

2)         the allocation of the remaining un-ringfenced Large Scale Sites Grant from the HCA towards the delivery of 15/16 Strategic Development Locations (SDLs); to contribute to the generation in 2015/16 of a capital reserve of £2m be approved. This will be used to fund the 2016/17 programme;

 

3)         the schemes which are listed in Appendix C be approved. These are funded by developer contributions (s106) and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to the extent of £12m and that this funding can be increased if further developer contributions become available. The total budget for these schemes is £38m in the 2016/19 Capital Programme.

 

Minutes:

The Executive considered a report setting out the proposed Capital Programme and Strategy for 2016/19.

 

The Executive Member for Economic Development and Finance proposed the following amendment to recommendation 1):

 

The following wording to be added to the end of the recommendation:

subject to the 2017/19 and 2018/19 capital programme budgets for car park entry/exit barriers being reduced to zero pending further review.”

 

This amendment was agreed by the Executive.

 

The Executive Member for Environment commented that with regard to the schemes within his portfolio it should be noted that this was a programme and not an allocation of funds.  Equally any of these items would be subject to very robust challenge.  It was not an amount to be spent up to and the timing of these projects was a best estimate of when the Council could proceed with any of them.

 

RECOMMENDATION That:

1)         Council be recommended to approve the Capital Programme and Strategy 2016/19 subject to the 2017/18 and 2018/19 Capital Programme budgets for car park entry/exit barriers being reduced to zero pending further review;

 

2)         the allocation of the remaining un-ringfenced Large Scale Sites Grant from the HCA towards the delivery of 15/16 Strategic Development Locations (SDLs); to contribute to the generation in 2015/16 of a capital reserve of £2m be approved. This will be used to fund the 2016/17 programme;

 

3)         the schemes which are listed in Appendix C be approved. These are funded by developer contributions (s106) and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to the extent of £12m and that this funding can be increased if further developer contributions become available. The total budget for these schemes is £38m in the 2016/19 Capital Programme.

109.

Treasury Management Strategy 2016/19 pdf icon PDF 99 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

That Council be recommended to approve the following:

1)      the Capital Prudential indicators, 2016/17- 2018/19;

 

2)      the Borrowing Strategy 2016/17;

 

3)      the Annual Investment Strategy 2016/17;

 

4)      the Treasury Indicators: limits to borrowing activity 2016/17;

 

5)      flexible use of Capital Receipts; and

 

6)      note a review of counterparties and the consideration of risk versus return is                          being reviewed and will be reported back to Executive in the year for consideration.

 

Minutes:

The Executive considered a report setting out the proposed Treasury Management Strategy for 2016/17.

 

The Executive Member for Economic Development and Finance highlighted the importance of the Strategy, because of its links to the Capital Programme and how it would be financed and its links with the Council’s investment strategy.  The link was particularly important at the beginning of the financial year when, because of early payment of council tax, the Council had significant amounts of money on deposit which needed to be wisely invested in order to obtain the best return.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That Council be recommended to approve the following:

1)      the Capital Prudential indicators, 2016/17- 2018/19;

 

2)      the Borrowing Strategy 2016/17;

 

3)      the Annual Investment Strategy 2016/17;

 

4)      the Treasury Indicators: limits to borrowing activity 2016/17;

 

5)      flexible use of Capital Receipts; and

 

6)      note a review of counterparties and the consideration of risk versus return is                          being reviewed and will be reported back to Executive in the year for consideration.

 

110.

Medium Term Financial Plan 2016/19 - Revenue Budget Submission 2016/17 pdf icon PDF 191 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

That Council be recommended to approve the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) 2016/19, including the budget submission for 2016/17.

Minutes:

The Executive considered a report setting out the Medium Term Financial Plan for 2016/19; including the Revenue Budget Submission for 2016/17.  It was noted that the Medium Term Financial Plan covered both the revenue and capital budgets required to deliver the priorities of the Council over the next three years.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That Council be recommended to approve the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) 2016/19, including the budget submission for 2016/17.

111.

Treasury Management Mid-Year Report 2015/16 pdf icon PDF 84 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

That:

1)         the mid-year Treasury Management report for 2015/16 be noted;

 

2)         the actual 2015/16 prudential indicators within the report be noted; and

 

3)         the report be recommended to Council for approval.

 

Minutes:

The Executive considered the Treasury Management Mid-Year Report for 2015-16 which highlights the Council’s treasury position as at 30 September 2015, sets out the treasury decisions taken so far during 2015/16 and shows that the Council has complied with the Strategy and the prudential indicators that were set prior to the financial year.

 

RECOMMENDATION That:

1)         the mid-year Treasury Management report for 2015/16 be noted;

 

2)         the actual 2015/16 prudential indicators within the report be noted; and

 

3)         the report be recommended to Council for approval.

 

112.

School Admission Arrangements 2017/2018 DOTX 36 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

That the 2017/2018 admission arrangements for community and controlled schools and co-ordinated admission schemes, as set out in the annexes to the report, be agreed.

Minutes:

The Executive considered a report relating to the proposed School Admission Arrangements for 2017/18 which will apply to all state funded schools within the Borough (including free schools and academies but not special schools) and includes the admission arrangements for community and voluntary controlled schools.  It was noted that although the Council had no legal requirement to co-ordinate in-year admissions all schools in the Borough, except one, chose to be part of the in-year admission scheme.

 

The Executive Member for Children’s Services highlighted the changes being proposed to the current admission arrangements which included:

 

·         Clarity around families and not just children with medical and social needs;

·         Changes to residency requirements i.e. parents who own more than one home;

·         Wording relating to crown servants;

·         Management of waiting lists;

·         Increasing the designated area of Nine Mile Ride Primary School to bring it in line with a small area of the Borough that was not previously included;

·         Prioritising 2-year olds who were already in nursery or getting free funding into the admissions policy; and

·         A new timetable for co-ordinated schemes.

 

It was further noted that all the proposed changes had been consulted upon and no comments had been received during the consultation period.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That the 2017/2018 admission arrangements for community and controlled schools and co-ordinated admission schemes, as set out in the annexes to the report, be agreed.

113.

Proposed Community Asset Transfer - Lease of East Park Farm Drive Leisure Facility to Charvil Parish Council pdf icon PDF 469 KB

Decision:

That the transfer of East Park Farm Drive sports and leisure facilities under a Lease for 30 years to Charvil Parish Council (CPC) as highlighted within the red boundary in Appendix 1, and on the terms set out in Appendix 2, be approved.

Minutes:

The Executive considered a report setting out proposals for the transfer of the lease of East Park Farm Drive Leisure Facility to Charvil Parish Council which would enable the Borough Council to maintain ownership of the land and protect and preserve the public open space; whilst at the same time empowering local people through the Parish Council to deliver the management of local facilities.

 

Councillor Mark Ashwell, Deputy Executive Member for Regeneration and Communities informed the meeting that Charvil Parish Council had expressed an interest to take responsibility for the future management of East Park Drive Leisure Facility and Park by way of a long lease and shared income basis in lieu of a standard rent.  The proposed agreement would see a phased transfer of the current WBC budget for the Park to Charvil Parish Council over the next four years with a reduction of 20% each year.  This would make the venue self-sufficient within a five year timeframe. 

 

The long term lease would also enable Charvil Parish Council to improve the facility and develop an increased and more diverse usage.  In addition the financial security received from WBC would reduce the risk whilst they make the property sustainable and self-financing.  It was noted that the Council would retain the asset for the long-term via a two year break clause.

 

Members were pleased with the proposal and felt that it was a positive example of working together with the community. 

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That the transfer of East Park Farm Drive sports and leisure facilities under a Lease for 30 years to Charvil Parish Council (CPC) as highlighted within the red boundary in Appendix 1 and on the terms set out in Appendix 2 be approved.

114.

Acquisition of Property (28 Mylne Square) pdf icon PDF 165 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

That the retrospective acquisition of 28 Mylne Square as set out in the report; funded from retained Right to Buy receipts and the Housing Revenue Account, be agreed.

 

Minutes:

The Executive considered a report relating to the acquisition of property at 28 Mylne Square in order to provide much needed additional affordable rented housing for the Borough.

 

The Executive Member for Planning and Highways explained that the property had been funded from the Housing Revenue Account and retained Right to Buy receipts which if this money had not been spent in line with the contract with the Department of Communities and Local Government would have had to be repaid at 4% above base rate.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That the retrospective acquisition of 28 Mylne Square as set out in this report; funded from retained Right to Buy receipts and the Housing Revenue Account be agreed.

 

115.

Acquisition of Property (20 Billing Avenue) pdf icon PDF 165 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

 

That the retrospective acquisition of 20 Billing Avenue as set out in this report; to be funded from retained Right to Buy receipts and the Housing Revenue Account be agreed.

 

Minutes:

The Executive considered a report relating to the acquisition of a property at 20 Billing Avenue which would provide additional affordable housing in the Borough.

 

As with the previous agenda item Councillor Kaiser explained that the property had been funded from the Housing Revenue Account and Right to Buy receipts which would also have had to be repaid if they had not been spent in line with the contract signed in 2012 with the Department of Communities and Local Government.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That the retrospective acquisition of 20 Billing Avenue as set out in this report; to be funded from retained Right to Buy receipts and the Housing Revenue Account be agreed.

 

116.

Council Owned Companies' Business pdf icon PDF 416 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

That:

1)             the budget monitoring position for the month ending 31 December 2015 be noted;

 

2)            the operational update for the period to 31 January 2016 be noted;

 

3)            the Wokingham Housing Remit Document be approved;

 

4)            the Optalis Remit Document be approved;

 

5)            the Wokingham Housing Business Plan (as previously presented to the Executive at the January 2016 meeting) be approved;

 

6)            the Optalis Business Plan (as set out in the Part 2 document) be approved.

 

Minutes:

(Councillor Anthony Pollock declared a personal interest in this item)

The Executive considered a report relating to the activities of the Council Owned Companies including the budget monitoring position to 31 December 2015 and the operational update to 31 January 2016.

 

The Leader of Council clarified that the Wokingham Housing Business Plan was actually presented at the previous meeting but was inadvertently left out of the recommendations and therefore was not approved at that meeting.  Councillor Baker highlighted the business development section of the report which had grown as the reputation of Optalis had increased.  

 

Councillor Pollock paid tribute to the work being carried out by the Holding Company which was a good demonstration of working together to gain new business.

 

RECOMMENDATION That:

1)             the budget monitoring position for the month ending 31 December 2015 be noted;

 

2)            the operational update for the period to 31 January 2016 be noted;

 

3)            the Wokingham Housing Remit Document be approved;

 

4)            the Optalis Remit Document be approved;

 

5)            the Wokingham Housing Business Plan (as previously presented to the Executive at the January 2016 meeting) be approved;

 

6)            the Optalis Business Plan (as set out in the Part 2 document) be approved.

 

117.

Optalis Contract pdf icon PDF 101 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

 

That a new contract be issued to Optalis from 1 July 2016 for a period of up to five years.

 

Minutes:

(Councillor Anthony Pollock declared a personal and prejudicial interest in this item)

The Executive considered a report seeking authority to issue a second contract to Optalis to provide adult social care services on behalf of the Council.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That a new contract be issued to Optalis from 1 July 2016 for a period of up to five years.