Venue: Ashurst Main Hall - The Charis Centre. View directions
Disclosures of Interest & Whipping Declarations
In accordance with the Council's Code of Conduct, councillors are reminded that it is a requirement to declare interests where appropriate.
Councillors must also declare if they are subject to their party group whip in relation to any items under consideration.
No disclosures of interest or whipping declarations were made.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of the Council-owned Neighbourhood Parades Scrutiny Panel held on 23 June 2021.
The minutes of the meeting of the Council-owned Neighbourhood Parades Scrutiny Panel held on 23 June 2021 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
To receive any relevant updates and information from Panel members and officers, including the following:
· Details of a programme of free retail training for independent businesses (appendix A).
· Information on other local authorities’ policies regarding rent reviews and commercial leases.
The following updates were presented to the Panel.
Free Retail Training for Independent Businesses
The Chair gave details of a new free retail training programme to be offered to independent business across West Sussex. The programme, West Sussex Retail Hub, was a project formed by borough and district councils and consisted of pre-recorded sessions, live events, and resources giving information and advice on running a business. The following modules were on offer:
o Measuring sales, tracking profitability
o Key steps for creating a marketing plan
o The importance of business planning
o Employing staff: an introduction to HR for small businesses
o Using social media for business outcomes
o Card payments and electronic point of sale
o Understanding today's customer
o Creating an exceptional customer experience
o Developing a quality customer experience for the modern independent retailer
o Developing new business models that work effectively and efficiently.
Modules were accessible at each retailer’s convenience until 2024. Weekly live Q&A sessions were to be held every Wednesday until 22nd September 2021. All resources were available at www.westsussexretailhub.co.uk.
· That details of the West Sussex Retail Hub be sent to current neighbourhood parade shop tenants via email.
· That Panel members publicise the Hub to their ward residents.
Comparisons to Other Local Authorities
Following previous discussions by Panel members, information was presented regarding several key factors in the commercial leases of local authorities to which the Panel had previously drawn comparisons.
The information, as follows, was based on unit advertisements and council policies.
Details of Business Grants and Arrears
The Head of Corporate Finance gave the following updates:
· £2.048 million in business grants had been paid to neighbourhood parade shop tenants by the Council since March 2020.
· The current total of arrears owed by parade tenants to the Council was £625,400.
Following a query from a Panel member about the publicising of business grants, it was clarified that tenants had been made aware of grants available to them via email, mailshots, and direct conversation with the Council’s Finance team. It was also confirmed that the grants were not restricted for specific purposes; there were guidelines but it was a tenant’s choice as to how to spend the money received. Grants were received by tenants in arrears and those without arrears.
The Panel discussed the arrears owed. It was heard that individual plans had been arranged for as many tenants as possible to ensure repayment of arrears at a fair and appropriate rate. Tenants that had not taken up a repayment plan ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
The Panel has invited the following witnesses to attend the meeting to help inform the review:
- A member of staff from Graves Jenkins, the agency used for the letting of the Council’s commercial units (provisional).
- Current tenants of Council-owned neighbourhood parade shops.
Whilst these individuals are anticipated to speak at the meeting, this may change subject to availability and at the discretion of the Chair. Further witnesses may be called in addition to, or instead of, those listed above.
The Committee was informed that, since the publication of the agenda, the invited witnesses had become unable to attend the meeting.
· That the scheduled witness sessions be rearranged to a future Panel meeting.
Date of Next Meeting
To confirm the date of the next meeting of the Panel. Proposed dates include:
Wednesday 22 September
Wednesday 13 October.
Panel members considered proposed dates for future meetings of the Panel. It was agreed that the next meeting be scheduled for Wednesday 22 September 2021 at 7.00pm.