The Committee will hear from the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources and the Cabinet Member for Property and Assets, who will outline their priorities for the next 12 months.
Ms Katrina Wood, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources
Mr John Chilver, Cabinet Member for Property and Assets
Sarah Murphy-Brookman, Corporate Director for Resources
Ian Thompson, Corporate Director for Planning, Growth and Sustainability
Richard Ambrose, Service Director for Corporate Finance (Section 151 Officer)
John Reed, Service Director for Property and Assets
John McMillan, Service Director for HR & OD
Dave Skinner, Service Director for Service Finance
Tony Ellis, Service Director for ICT
Cabinet Members Priorities
Ms Wood summarised the ongoing projects within the Resources portfolio and listed the key priorities as follows:
- Bring our back office systems, applications and infrastructure together to deliver transformation and a great customer service
- Develop our employee offering to attract, develop and retain our staff especially moving out of the Covid pandemic
- Ensure our systems for tracking and monitoring our finances are robust and agile to provide confidence in our financial outturn
Mr Chilver summarised the ongoing projects within the Property and Assets portfolio and listed the key priorities as follows:
· Financial update on property income
· Accommodation Strategy
· Residential Property Development
The following key points were raised by the Select Committee members during discussion:
- The impact of home working was highlighted and it was queried whether certain employees would need to return to office space, at least not to the level they had been pre-pandemic and whether there were associated cost savings to this. Ms Wood confirmed that productivity had not decreased as a result of home working and sickness rates had reduced with an improved work life balance also reported in the staff survey. A significant piece of work looking at this was ongoing and would be incorporated in to phase two of the accommodation strategy. Mr Ian Thompson, Corporate Director for Planning, Growth and Sustainability advised that staff would be increasingly encouraged to work from home and the return to office space also needed to take in to account social distancing measures, the differing layouts across building and the effects these had on maximum occupancy in council accommodation. It was accepted many staff needed to be in the office to deliver certain services and further, it was identified that many staff benefit from the social side of work and the accommodation strategy would reflect individual’s needs. By the time of the next meeting there should be progress to report on this area. The impact of downsized office spaces on town centres would also be taken in to account with discussion to be held with key stakeholders, such as town councils or committees.
- In relation to Council meetings, virtual meetings were currently only legislated for until May 2021 so any changes to member meetings would be very much dependant on legislation.
- A member asked a question in relation to Aylesbury Vale Estates (AVE) and asked whether the council would be reviewing its shareholding. Mr Thompson confirmed that the shareholding would be kept under review, two councillors had been added as board members and discussions on the business plan continued with the council abiding by its contractual agreements.
- It was queried how many of the council’s tenants had found themselves in financial difficulty during the pandemic. Mr John Reed, Service Director for Property and Assets reported that at the last quarterly update figures had been positive although he noted that this would have been at the start of the lockdown period. There would be a clearer picture of the effect covid has had on tenants at the end of this quarter and should there be no further spike in covid cases it was expected that the situation would improve as the economy does.
- The residential development plans highlighted by the Cabinet Member for Resources across the county were welcomed by the committee and members emphasised that the council should be a leader in using renewable energy on its developments and actively reducing its carbon use. Mr Chilver confirmed that the council’s full estate was being audited as part of the council’s carbon reduction programme and any opportunity to reduce carbon would be explored. This included fitting solar panels at a number of properties, replacing street lighting with LED lamps, replacing older boilers with energy efficient models, increased tree planting on agricultural estate and promoting electric vehicle usage with charging points. In response to a further query, Mr Chilver advised that opportunities were also being reviewed for solar farms on the council’s agricultural estate.
- In relation to commercial opportunities, Mr Chilver advised that significant income streams would be progressed and these included the M25 motorway service area, although any commercial projects/acquisitions would be subject to Government restrictions on borrowing for commercial properties.
- In response to a question on the Woodlands development in Aylesbury, Mr Chilver confirmed that there had been delays linked to transport related issues, planning issues and section 106 agreements but progress was being made and the development was seen as critical to the delivery of a section of the eastern link road.
- A member raised a question on affordable housing numbers, to which Mr Chilver advised that this was a significant issue being addressed as part of any development proposals, and the 40% model used in the Tatling End development was a good model to follow. An added benefit of affordable housing would be the potential savings to the council in areas such as provision of emergency bed and breakfast accommodation and other short term accommodation options used by the council.
- Mr Chilver confirmed that all capital proposals would have their business cases fully reviewed including those currently budgeted for, and where they are likely to have a positive impact on the local economy these could still be delivered in a structured way despite the financial challenges that have resulted from the pandemic.