The Leader’s Portfolio
To consider report FIN/483 of the Head of Corporate Finance, which was referred to the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 25 November 2019.
The Leader of the Council presented report FIN/483 of the Head of Corporate Finance which set out the projected financial position for 2020/21 to 2024/25 for the General Fund and the underlying assumptions. The report also set the policy framework for the budget process, recognising that there were a range of options for capital investment, income generation, savings and Council Tax levels; none of which can be considered in isolation. The overall objective was to work towards a balanced General Fund budget over a three year period. The Leader commented that currently there was a projected surplus of £489,200 for 2020/21, and that the report contained a proposal for an increase to the Crawley’s proportion of the Council Tax of 2% for 2020/21.
Councillor Rana presented the Overview and Scrutiny Commission’s comments on the report to the Cabinet following consideration of the matter at its meeting on 25 November 2019. It was noted that the majority of the Commission Members supported the recommendations within the report.
Councillors Irvine and Mullins spoke as part of the discussion on the item.
That Full Council be recommended to support the approval of the Budget Strategy 2020/21 to 2024/25 and to:
(a) Note, for the purpose of projections, the current budget surplus of £489,200 for 2020/21, on the basis of a Council tax increase of 2% which is £4.08 on a Band D in property 2020/21. This surplus is due in the main due to the extension of the four year financial settlement and the delay in the fairer funding review and unexpected New Homes Bonus. However the fair funding review and the changes to Business Rates Retention will result in future significant budget gaps which will need to be addressed.
(b) Work towards balancing this over a three year period, including putting back into reserves when the Budget is in surplus which is the case in 2020/21.
(c) Instruct Corporate Management Team to take action to address the long term budget gap and to identify policy options for consideration by Cabinet Members and the Budget Advisory Group, which will include areas where additional resources need to be redirected.
(d) Note that items for the Capital Programme are driven by the need for the upkeep of council assets and environmental obligations and schemes will also be considered that are spend to save or spend to earn but that such prioritisation should not preclude the initial consideration of capital projects that could deliver social value.
(e) Note that the Budget is aligned to the Council’s Corporate Priorities.
(f) Approve the updates to section 5.1 in the Capital Strategy in Appendix A of report FIN/483
(g) Approve an increase in the capital programme of £500,000 for the purchase of an investment property as outlined in section 8.3 of report FIN/483
Reasons for the Recommendations
To set a Strategy for savings and income generation and working towards a balanced budget over three years. Including putting back into reserves when the budget is in surplus.
To consider report FIN/483 of the Head of Corporate Finance.
The Commission considered report FIN/483 with the Head of Corporate Finance and Chief Accountant. The report set out the projected financial position for 2020/21 to 2024/25 for the General Fund, Housing Revenue Account, capital programme and the underlying assumptions.
The report would be considered by Cabinet and then Full Council in December. During the introduction it was acknowledged that the local government finance system had become increasing complex and that any further increase in council tax would assist in minimising the budget gap. There was recognition that there was a need to ensure an effective use of capital. The current strategy incorporated bids for capital based on expenditure required to maintain the Council’s assets in addition to spend to save projects or spend to earn investment, together with the need to undertake environmental obligations and disability facility grants and projects that could deliver social value. It should be noted that the majority of Members expressed their support for the recommendations with two opting to abstain.
That the majority of the Commission Members agreed to support the recommendations.