The report updates Members on the findings of the SWAP audit into this area of work and to provide information on the current spend.
The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Manager updated Members on the findings of the SWAP audit on the current spend to help Members understand the appropriate arrangements that were in place to manage receipt and expenditure of Section 106 and CIL contributions.
The following keys issues were highlighted with actions agreed:
Ø Over 1,200 actions were outstanding on the current database system.
In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Manager advised the action agreed through audit was to advertise for six month temporary post to get the system up-to-date. Members’ noted that in terms of outstanding action most were various administrative tasks and only 7% related to payments needing to be invoiced or chased. No monies had been lost as a result of delays of those actions.
Ø Not all demand notices had been raised in a timely manner and concerns were raised about the recovery process.
In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Manager advised that this was the result of a resourcing issue and when the resource was in place this would be prioritised.
Ø Out of date Participatory Budgeting Guide.
In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Manager confirmed this had been completed and was published on the website.
Ø Town and Parish Councils not being advised on how much S106 monies had been collected.
In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Manager updated Members about a public facing module via the Exacom System that would provide free access to information which would be available on the website by the end of March 2021.
The Chair invited comments from Non-Committee Members.
The Leader showed his appreciation for the SWAP report and said it was reassuring moving forward but raised concerns about why the under resourcing issue had not been identified in the management structure for so long.
The following comments were raised by Committee Members:
· It was highlighted that approximately 2 years ago concerns had been raised in a Scrutiny Committee about the welfare of the Officer in question working alone in an office for 18 months inputting data. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Manager advised there had been 2 additional Officers in post to assist the S106 Officer but unfortunately they did not see the project through to completion. Through discussion with the S106 Officer it was felt that she could complete the project alongside her other work. Experience over time had demonstrated that this was not the case with the combination of being pulled to help with the Community Hub during the first Covid lockdown.
· Concerns raised about the participatory budgeting process being resource intensive and whether it was fit for purpose. In response the Service Lead - Planning Strategy and Development Manager confirmed it was resource intensive but highlighted major benefits in engagement with the public in terms of design of the play area and sports and open space resulting in the delivery of successful spaces valued by communities.
· Concerns raised about the S106 Officer always being taken off the job if something else needs doing.
· The two temporary Support Officers did not have the expertise to do the job.
· Concern was raised that as an important role within the Council it should not be 100% dependent on one Officer. What happens if that Officer is off sick or on holiday or they are seconded?
· Welcomed the SWAP report for a clearer process for town and parish councils to follow.
· It was noted that an important word was missing from bullet point 3 and words were repeated in bullet point 5.
1. That the findings of the SWAP audit into Section 106/CIL and the recommendations made in the audit report be noted.
2. That a review of the S106 spend and participatory spend process forms part of the draft Service Plan for Organisational Development be noted.
3. That the review of the S106 spend process go to Overview Committee for consideration be agreed.