To consider and provide a recommendation to Cabinet on the proposals set out in the attached report.
Jane Fineman, Head of Finance, Procurement and Parking introduced the report that proposed the fees and charges for 2021/22.
Discussion and responses to Members questions included the following:
- The report covered all income streams from products and services except property rents and licencing income and delivered a budgeted income of £6m.
- The report also excluded parking fees which were assumed to remain unchanged next year. This was with the exception of a proposed amendment to the discount to the pay by phone services and the setting of the charges for the new Union House car park which was due to open Summer 2021.
- The report also provided a complete review of forecast sales volumes and usages for 2021/22 which when multiplied by the prices proposed created the services income budget for the next year.
- The medium term financial strategy usually assumed an increase of 3% year on year but due to the Covid-19 Pandemic it assumed an overall income deficit on fees and charges of £3m.
- The report showed a shortfall from last year of £253k as sales volumes had fallen and the Council was not anticipating them fully recovering throughout the next financial year.
- The report proposed to align the provision of free bulky waste collections and free pest control services with the eligibility bands for the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
- The introduction of Universal Credit had meant that some residents who were not necessarily the most in need, were now eligible for the free services which needed to be addressed.
- The number of residents who had signed up to the green waste collection service had exceeded last years budget. Despite Covid-19 the actual number of subscribers was now around 22,000, up 9% from last years 20,152. The budget for 2021/22 had therefore been increased to reflect this.
- There was a specific piece of VAT legislation that stated that bulky waste charges should be exempt from VAT. The Council did not propose to reduce the price instead, the price on the fees and charges would be increased by the VAT rate of 20%.
- It was also proposed the reduce the discount given to customers who paid car parking fees by telephone from 20p to 10p. When pay by phone was introduced a discount of 40p was given to recognise there was a 20p admin charge levied by the contractor to use the service and because the Council wanted to incentivise customers to use this method of payment. The new contractor did not include an admin fee so last year 20p was removed from the discount.
- It was proposed the Council should no longer accept cheques. There were many forms of electronic methods of payment which were cheaper for the Council and much more cost effective to administer. The option to pay by cash would also be available.
- The issue of VAT for bulky waste came to light when the Council was investigating VAT for green waste. The Council subsequently sought advice from external consultants about the issue before making the recommendations in the report.
- The Mid Kent Services were not run as out sourced services but were run as partnerships. TWBC would have an equal say in managing those partnerships which included taking part in setting the budgets and ensuring the work loads were set at acceptable levels.
- The hourly rates for the legal team was set by using the Court Standards.
- The sale of wheelie bins and boxes only applied to developers. If a resident required a new bin, one would be provided free of charge.
- In 2019 TWBC processed 3,679 cheques, by far the majority of those cheques were payments for Council Tax. From April 2020 to the date of the report TWBC had only received 105 cheques. Of those 105, there were only 9 residents who had not found an alternative method of payment. TWBC were now in discussion with them to help identify a different way of paying.
RESOLVED – That the recommendations to Cabinet as set out in the report be supported.