Minutes of Meeting of the Highland and Western Isles Valuation Joint Board held in Committee Room 2, Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness, on Wednesday, 7 January 2009 at 10.30 a.m.
Representing The Highland Council
Mrs H Carmichael
Mr F D S Black
Mr L Fraser
Ms M Smith
Mr P Cairns
Mrs J Campbell (Substitute)
Representing Western Isles Council
Mr M MacLeod
Mr K Murray
Officials in attendance:
Mr D Gillespie, Assessor and Electoral Registration Officer
Mr A Bernard, Treasurer’s Office
Miss J Maclennan, Clerk’s Office
Mrs H Carmichael in the Chair
1. Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Mr J McGillivray, Mr R Rowantree and Mr J S Gray of the Highland Council.
2. Minutes of Last Meeting
There had been circulated and APPROVED Minutes of the Board Meeting of 26 November 2008.
Arising from the Minutes, in relation to Item 6, Schedule of Meetings 2009, discussion took place concerning the venues for future Board meetings. Given the importance of maintaining links with both Constituent Authorities it was deemed appropriate for one meeting each year to continue to be held in Stornoway. In addition, given possible accommodation issues which might arise in some of the Department’s area offices, it was also proposed that the Board meet in either Wick or Dingwall, as appropriate.
The Board AGREED in relation to Item 6, Schedule of Meetings 2009, that:-
i. the meeting scheduled for 11 August 2009 be held in Stornoway;
ii. the meeting scheduled for 25 November 2009 be held in Dingwall; and
iii. arrangements be made for the Board to hold one of its meetings in 2010
3. Revenue Budget Monitoring Statement 2008/09
There had been circulated Report No VAL-1-09 comprising a statement and commentary by the Assessor and Electoral Registration Officer on Revenue Expenditure and Income for the period to 30 November 2008. The report showed actual net expenditure of £1,629,000 against anticipated expenditure for the period of £1,743,000, a current underspend of £114,000. However, it was anticipated that the overspend at the year-end would be £9,000, mainly as a result of increased energy and postage costs and higher than expected levels of activity by the Valuation Appeal Committee.
The Board NOTED the position.
4. Revenue Budget 2009/10
There had been circulated Report No VAL-2-09 by the Assessor and Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) comprising the draft estimates of expenditure and income for 2009/10 and a draft requisitions statement prepared jointly by the Assessor and ERO and the Treasurer. The requisitions statement, based on each Constituent Authority’s population as at 2007, represented an overall percentage increase of 2.53% on the 2008/09 budget.
Speaking to his report the Assessor and ERO also set out the current position of the department in relation to its main activities. Since its previous meeting of the Board, the Department had been concerned with the clearance of rating appeals, preparatory work for the 2010 rating valuation and the publication of the new Electoral Register on 1 December 2008. In discussion, various issues were explored in greater detail including the possible effect compulsory ID cards might eventually have on electoral registration levels and the reasons for what appeared to be a drop in the collection levels for Business Rates.
In commenting on the draft budget, particular points were also highlighted including the increased provision made for overtime to ensure that the revaluation exercise would be completed by August 2009. In addition, the budgets for electricity and postage costs had been enhanced to address increased costs. It was important to ensure, particularly in relation to postage costs, that the Department was benefiting from the best contract available and the Assessor and ERO undertook to review arrangements to ensure best value was being achieved.
The Board AGREED:-
i. a revenue budget for 2009/10 of £2,684,650 as detailed in the report; and
ii. that the requisitions to be levied on each of the Constituent Authorities in
2009/10 be as follows:-
The Highland Council £2,394,971
Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar £ 289,679
5. Fee Proposals for Audit Scotland
There had been circulated Report No VAL-3-09 by the Treasurer which outlined the fee proposals from Audit Scotland in respect of year ended 31 March 2009. It was explained that the indicative fee would be in the region of £5,760 to £7,040 with a fixed charge of £1,300. The budget allocation for 2008/09 was £8,000.
The Board NOTED the estimated audit fee for 2008/09 of up to £8,340.
6. Race Equality Scheme
It was recalled that at its last meeting on 26 November 2008, the Board delegated powers to the Assessor and Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) to arrange publication of the Board’s Race Equality Scheme, reviewed and updated as required. In this connection, there was circulated Report No VAL-4-09 by the Assessor and ERO setting out the reviewed and updated Race Equality Scheme.
In recognising the impact Electoral Registration could have in addressing equalities, discussion took place as to how registration could be encouraged. There was some confusion amongst some resident EU citizens as to which elections they were entitled to vote at and it was suggested that a poster campaign and/or information leaflets sent out with pay slips through NHS Highland, one of the area’s biggest employers of EU citizens, would help to address this. Similarly, arrangements for itinerant persons who had genuine local connections were explored, particularly bearing in mind the importance of ensuring that the right to vote enshrined in law was carried into actual registration of as many individuals as possible.
The Board otherwise NOTED the reviewed and updated Scheme.
7. Exclusion of the Public
The Board RESOLVED that, under Section 50A(4) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the public be excluded from the meeting during discussion of the following item on the grounds that it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 11 of Part 1 of Schedule 7A of the Act.
8. National Pay Award
There had been circulated to Members only Report No VAL5/09 by the Clerk which recommended that the Board implement the Scottish Joint Council 2008 pay award of 3% for all staff for the year 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009, as agreed by The Highland Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, in the absence of a national agreement.
The Board AGREED to implement the 3% pay award for all staff for the year 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009.
The meeting ended at 11.40 a.m.