Agenda and minutes

Extraordinary, Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Monday, 6th January, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: David Hicks 1 - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN. View directions

Contact: Callum Wernham  Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist

No. Item



To receive any apologies for absence.


An apology for absence was submitted from Councillor Graham Howe. Emma Hobbs attended the meeting as a substitute.


Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.


There were no declarations of interest.


Public Question Time

To answer any public questions relating to items on this agenda


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 this committee.


For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to


There were no public questions.


Member Question Time

To answer any member questions relating to items on this agenda


There were no Member questions.


Medium Term Financial Plan 2020-23 pdf icon PDF 120 KB

To consider aspects of the draft 2020-23 MTFP

Additional documents:


The Committee received and reviewed a report, set out in agenda pages 5 to 22, which gave an updated position on the proposed revenue budget to form part of the 2020-23 Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP).


John Kaiser (Executive Member for Finance and Housing), Graham Ebers (Deputy Chief Executive – Director of Corporate Services) and Bob Watson (Head of Finance) attended the meeting to answer Member queries.


John Kaiser stated that the information provided was hoped to be the final lockdown version of the proposed revenue budget for 2020-23. John added that the additional proposed funding for Children’s Services was in order to achieve the goal of bringing Wokingham Borough Council’s (WBC’s) OFSTED rating up to Good for the first time.


During the ensuing discussions Members raised the following points and queries:


·           What were the reasons that there was an increase of children within the Borough? Executive Member response – There was a mixture of demographics within the Borough which was constantly shifting. Many new family homes had been built within the Borough in recent years which had attracted families with young children and families with increased needs.


·           Relating to agenda page 12, how many additional staff would the £273k Social Work Staffing bid increase provide? Executive Member and Officer response – It was becoming increasingly difficult to find permanent social workers to recruit, and more social workers were found within agencies which drives up costs. Next year and moving forward, the service was going to try to make more posts permanent which would assist in the goal of achieving a Good OFSTED rating. This additional growth of £273k was due to a more realistic approach to staffing targets whereby a 10% to 15% workforce of temporary staff was still to be expected.


·           Relating to agenda page 19, was the additional funding for both Planning Appeals and Planning Enforcement sufficient? Executive Member response – WBC were hopeful that the current level of planning appeals would decrease as a result of the new local plan making developers nervous about challenging decisions. It was also hoped that the outcome of several major appeals would be favourable to WBC which would also deter speculative developers. Should the funding not be sufficient to fight appeals, reserves could be used. With regards to enforcement, the additional funding would help Officers to continue to enforce those individuals who developed outside of the planning process.


·           Had the Local Government settlement been agreed? Officer response – Yes, the settlement had been detailed and the figures presented within the agenda reflected the settlement. The settlement details were as close to complete as possible, and no further substantive changes were expected within growth, savings or special items as a result of settlement changes.


·           As detailed within the report, WBC’s reserves were expected to be higher than stated within the previous lockdown figures. Where had this extra money been found? Executive Member and Officer response – WBC were due to be £300k to £400k better off mainly due to the new  ...  view the full minutes text for item 42.


Property Investment Group pdf icon PDF 296 KB

To consider an update on WBC’s Property Investment Group (Contains Part 2 Sheets)

Additional documents:


The Committee received and reviewed a report, set out in agenda pages 23 to 40 (the part 1 report was contained between agenda pages 23 to 30), which detailed the Council’s approach and practices within commercial property investment.


John Kaiser (Executive Member for Finance and Housing), Stuart Munro (Executive Member for Business and Economic Development), Graham Ebers (Deputy Chief Executive – Director of Corporate Services), Bernie Pich (Assistant Director – Commercial Property), Damon Emes (Head of Investment) and Bob Watson (Head of Finance) attended the meeting to answer Member queries.


Graham Ebers stated that the Council had agreed a strategy whereby Wokingham Borough Council would borrow funds to invest in commercial property in order to generate an income. WBC were neither the trailblazers nor the trailers for this type of strategy, and some other authorities had fully embraced this method in a much more aggressive manner. WBC were in the middle, in terms of ambition, and were working within the Council’s approved policy. Graham stated that he was personally responsible for discharging this policy, and worked closely with the Executive Member for Finance and Housing, the Executive Member for Business and Economic Development and key specialist Officers.


During the ensuing discussions Members raised the following points and queries:


·           Why was there no reference to capital gain within the report? Officer response – It was not possible to accurately predict capital gain. The team took a prudent approach to appraisal of income and performance and did not forecast or speculate with regards to capital growth over a term as it was not always clear how long the property would be in WBC ownership. No attempt was made by Officers to predict capital growth which would be measured by periodic re-evaluation.


·           What was the level of repayment of debt? Officer response – 0.67% was repaid every year, which equated to 10% of the debt being repaid over a 15 year period.


·           Had the team liaised with a variety of other Councils who were also operating within this space? Officer response – The Property Investment Group (PIG) had met personally with a selection of other authorities. In addition, Officers had been in contact with over 100 other authorities via conferences focussing on commercial property investment. Direct contact was often hard as authorities were naturally reluctant to divulge their specific strategies as it was a competitive market and expertise was very valuable.


·           When the report refers to delegated decisions, was this accurate? Officer response – The final decisions relating to investments were solely the responsibility of the Deputy Chief Executive – Director of Corporate Services (S151 Officer).


·           What was the strategy with regards to asset disposal? Officer response – The detailed management strategy involved both entry and exit strategies. There was not a high expectation of asset disposal in the near future.


·           Relating to agenda page 26, should the company details not be considered as part 2? Officer response – The post code and description of the companies would indicate who they were regardless  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43.