Corporate Charging Policy
Report of the Head of Finance
Members considered a report presented by Mrs T Bingham, Head of Finance on the Corporate Charging Policy.
Reference was made to the £27m which the Council generates from local income and the importance therefore of having a relevant and up to date policy. She referred to paragraph 2.4 of the report which set out the commercial approach which the policy enabled by empowering budget holders to balance their decision against the backdrop of the public sector ethos.
Further reference was made to the three fundamental principles to the policy as set out in paragraph 3.7 of the policy document.
It was acknowledged that the requirement for an annual percentage increase announcement for charge increases that was included in the former policy had been removed and replaced with a requirement for service areas to review charges annually through the budget setting process; the intention being that this approach would improve transparency in respect of charging and the strategies that sit behind those charges thus ensuring that what may have been an appropriate charging strategy when a charge was introduced or last reviewed remained appropriate in the current economic and political landscape.
Finally, it was noted that the requirement for charges to be reviewed annually ensured the Members were involved in the decision making process allowing an effective level of scrutiny and accountability.
The Chairman invited questions and comments.
Councillor Bigby broadly welcomed the policy and considered that moving away from the percentage increase charges was a positive step although he recognised that this was included in the previous policy so did not see it as a change. He also welcomed reference to Equality Impact Assessments. However he did express concern regarding some of the phrasing in the policy document and considered that some of them were contradictory. He felt that the three fundamental principles did not capture the impact that the charges would have on disadvantaged members of the community. Whilst reference was made elsewhere in the document, it was not reflected within these principles. He also felt that there was too much emphasis placed on profit, specifically with reference to principle two. He asked if this could be caveated in some way to refer to the ability to enable subsidies in line with the public sector ethos. He also felt that there could be a fourth fundamental principle which would state that the policy takes account of the equality impact assessments and the public sector ethos. Councillor Bigby expressed his disappointment at the wording of paragraph 2.3 of the report as he felt that it implied that the main focus of the Council was to generate profit over customer impact. He was also concerned at the level of reduction in authorisation which he felt, in turn would reduce the level of scrutiny for increasing fees and charges. He there asked if a report could be brought to this Committee on any charges which had been increased.
In response to these comments, the Head of Finance advised that she would be happy to take on board the views around the fundamental principles and she clarified the intent around paragraph 2.3 whereby reference to profit was with other local authorities as opposed to businesses and residents where the focus was on full cost recovery where possible. She also advised that she would consider whether regular reporting to this Committee was the most appropriate way forward but suggested that Members would be fully engaged through the budget setting process.
The Chairman advised that, in accordance with the recommendation, these comments would be reported to the next meeting of Cabinet.
- Corporate Charging Policy Scrutiny Report, item 11. PDF 215 KB
- Appendix A - Corporate Charging Policy, item 11. PDF 216 KB