Venue: Committee Room 1, Council Offices, The Burys, Godalming
Contact: Amy McNulty Democratic Services Officer
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTES
To receive apologies for absence and note any substitutions.
Members who are unable to attend this meeting must submit apologies by the end of Monday 4 March 2019 to enable a substitute to be arranged, if applicable.
Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Mike Band. Cllr Tony Gordon-Smith attended as a substitute.
DECLARATIONS OF INTERESTS
To receive Members’ declarations of interests in relation to any items included on the agenda for this meeting, in accordance with Waverley’s Code of Local Government Conduct.
There were no declarations of interests in connection with items on the agenda.
To seek the Committee’s comments on the proposed decision-making process and company structure for property acquisitions.
It is recommended that the Value for Money and Customer Service Overview and Scrutiny Committee reviews the proposals, including and taking into account the legal advice received, and submits its comments on the proposals to the next meeting of the Investment Advisory Board on 26 March 2019.
Graeme Clark, Strategic Director, introduced this item to the Committee. He explained that the need to set up a company had come from a desire to open up additional opportunities for generating income, for example through the provision of housing for market rent or sale or to enable the purchase of commercial property outside of the borough using borrowed funds.
The Medium Term Financial Plan set out an income target to be achieved through commercial property, however Graeme advised that the Council was struggling to find good investment opportunities within the borough so it was timely to now set out the proposals for the company which would have the ability to invest outside the borough.
Dan Bainbridge, Borough Solicitor, went on to remind the Committee that a delegation was in place from Council for the Investment Advisory Board (IAB) to determine the final details for the company, subject to consideration by the Value for Money and Customer Service O&S Committee. The IAB had discussed this matter in detail, and its recommendations were set out in the report for the Committee to consider.
He added that once the details had been agreed, further specialist legal and financial advice would be taken in regard to aspects such as Corporation Tax and VAT.
The Committee thanked officers for the thorough report and associated legal advice and sought clarification on several points.
Members noted that a property company would provide the Council with more flexibility to develop both affordable and market housing. It was queried how the affordable housing element would work in relation to the HRA. Officers clarified that using a company to deliver market housing could help to cross-subsidise a less viable affordable scheme. Additionally, any affordable units owned by the company would also be exempt from Right to Buy provisions. In specific reference to the HRA it was explained that the ownership of affordable housing through the company would be at corporate level and not directly by the HRA. Officers agreed to amend paragraph 11 of the report to clarify the role of the company in relation to the ownership of affordable housing.
The Committee heard that some Councils hadn’t felt it necessary to establish a company in order to borrow for investment outside the borough. Some queries were therefore made in relation to the legal advice that Waverley had received. Officers confirmed that Waverley had received very clear legal advice that a company would be required in order to borrow for investment outside the borough; this was the same as the approach being taken by the majority of Surrey boroughs. Officers added that the Localism Act 2011 allowed Councils to operate in this way, and there had been no challenges to this position so far.
Members also sought further details of the costs associated with operating a company, particularly in relation to overheads e.g. officer time. Officers confirmed that these types of on-costs would be charged to the company but a schedule of rates had ... view the full minutes text for item 78.