The Leader’s Portfolio
To consider report FIN/491 of the Head of Corporate Finance, which was referred to the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 3 February 2020.
The Leader of the Council presented report FIN/491 of the Head of Corporate Finance which set out the Budget and level of Council Tax for the year 2020/21. It was noted that the report detailed each of the Revenue, Capital and Housing Revenue Accounts that combine together to formulate ‘The Budget’. In proposing the level of Council Tax for the Financial Year 2020/21, each of those accounts identified had been considered. The proposed Council Tax for 2020/21 was to be increased by 2.43%.
It was emphasised that the Council has a statutory responsibility to set Council Tax and its Budget in advance of the commencement of the new financial year (1 April to 31 March). The Council Tax had to be set by 11 March, each year.
The Cabinet was informed that the proposed Budget had been produced based on the principles set in the Budget Strategy which was approved by Full Council on 16 December 2019. That included achieving a balanced Budget over a three year period, including putting back into reserves when the Budget is in surplus.
The Leader emphasised that the Budget had been set against the background of general uncertainty over local government finance. It was noted that there had been two consultation papers relating to local government finance, namely the Fair Funding Review and the Business Rates retention reform. It had been expected to present their findings in advance of the Budget setting period, but both reviews had been deferred because of factors such as the General Election. The outcome of these consultations will change the way the Council is funded in the future, and as a result it will be difficult to project forwards.
It was noted that a supplementary agenda had been published that included a replacement to the table within paragraph 5.5.1 of the original report.
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 3 February 2020. The Commission Chair stated that the Budget report was generally well received at the Commission, where a lengthy and in-depth discussion was held with the Leader over the contents of the Budget report. It was conveyed that five Members of the Commission expressed their support for the report, with the other four Members preferring to abstain and reserve comments for the Full Council meeting being held on 26 February 2020.
Councillors P Smith, Irvine and Jhans all spoke in support during the discussion on the proposed Budget and Council report.
That Full Council be recommended to approve the following items regarding the 2020/21 Budget:
a) to approve the proposed 2020/21 General Fund Budget including savings and growth as set out in section 6 and Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 of the report FIN/491,
b) to approve the proposed 2020/21 Housing Revenue Account Budget as set out in section 10 and Appendix 3 of the report FIN/491,
c) to approve the 2019/20 to 2022/23 Capital ... view the full minutes text for item 5
To consider report FIN/491 of the Head of Corporate Finance.
The Commission considered report FIN/491 with the Leader of the Council, Head of Corporate Finance and the Chief Accountant. The Council has a statutory responsibility to set a Council Tax and Budget in advance of the commencement of the new financial year. The Council Tax has to be set by March each year. During 2019 the Council continued to review its spending plans and considered options to amend spending to meet new priorities.
During the discussion, the following points were expressed:
· Confirmation was provided that the report set out proposed growth elements and capital programme schemes, along with efficiencies, savings, latest investment interest projections and additional income being proposed.
· Several queries were raised with regards to the Income Generation Officer growth bid. It was confirmed that the permanent post was inclusive of on-costs and would cover the wide ranging services the council offered. It was felt important to ensure a balance so as not to limit facilities or services when generating income. It was commented that it would be useful to provide discounts for those in receipt of benefit, however some offers were already provided at certain council facilities and there was a need to generate income through other means. The Commission had within its function, terms of reference and remit to scrutinise the Transformation Plan.
· It was queried whether the Nuisance and Anti-Social Behaviour Team reduction may affect the current service provision. However it was noted that the council did not always have the power to resolve issues so certain requests were disseminated elsewhere.
· Specialist HR provision would assist the organisation in reviewing service areas, whilst providing necessary support.
· Confirmation was provided over the reduced retained business rates, council tax increase and the analysis of risks within the report.
· Recognition that the flooding programme had been reviewed and some schemes were no longer a priority and resulted in savings. Any further works required would be undertaken within the flooding emergency work programme.
· Clarification was provided over queries within the Housing Revenue Account, with particular reference to garages and sheltered major works.
· There was acknowledgement of the forthcoming budget pressures together with recognition that consultation would take place in the future.
· Members of the Commission also commended officers from the Finance Team for their excellent work in producing the budget and report and dealing with challenging issues.
· Some Members expressed their support, with others preferring to abstain and reserve comments for the Full Council meeting later in the month. It was requested that their comments be passed to the Cabinet.
That the Commission’s views expressed at the meeting be conveyed to the Cabinet and that the Cabinet be advised that 5 Members expressed their support, with the other 4 members preferring to abstain and reserve comments for the Full Council meeting later in the month.