The Full Council considered report FIN/483 of the Head of Corporate Finance which had been previously considered by the Cabinet on 27 November 2019 and Overview and Scrutiny Commission on 25 November 2019. Councillor Lamb, as the Leader of the Council, presented the report and recommendations, which set out the projected financial position for 2020/21 to 2024/25 for the General Fund and the underlying assumptions, including working towards a balanced budget over a three year period.
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.
Councillor Crow moved the proposed Conservative amendment to the Cabinet recommendation, which was seconded by Councillor Guidera. The amendment proposed kept the original recommendation unchanged but added an additional section namely:
(h) - Undertake a review of the Council's neighbourhood parade rents policy taking into account and balancing the requirements to:
(i) Support a mixed range of trades to meet local needs
(ii) Ensure a sustainable and viable business presence
(iii) Recognise the importance of the neighbourhood parades as community assets
(iv) Maintain a revenue stream to support the provision of council services
Councillors Lanzer, Lunnon, Sudan, McCarthy, McAleney, B Burgess, Jones, T Belben, Irvine, Burrett, Millar-Smith and P C Smith all spoke during a lengthy debate on both the recommendation and the proposed amendment.
Councillor Lamb used his right to reply to speak at the end of the debate and in doing so moved the recommendation which was formally seconded by Councillor P C Smith.
The Mayor then called for a recorded vote on the proposed Conservative amendment, following a request during the debate:
Voting in Favour: A Belben, T G Belben, B J Burgess, R G Burgess, R D Burrett,
D Crow, C R Eade, F Guidera, K L Jaggard, R A Lanzer, K McCarthy, J Millar-Smith, M Mwagale, D M Peck, A Pendlington, J Purdy (16)
Voting Against: M L Ayling, R S Fiveash, M Flack, J Hart, I T Irvine, G S Jhans, M G Jones, P K Lamb, T Lunnon, S Malik, T McAleney, C J Mullins, T Rana, R Sharma, B A Smith P C Smith, and K Sudan (17)
Abstentions: None. (0)
The Mayor declared that the Conservative Amendment had fallen – votes in favour 16, and 17 votes against with no votes of abstentions.
The Mayor then called for the vote on the substantive Recommendation (Budget Strategy 2020/21 – 2024/25), which was carried.
That Full Council approves the Budget Strategy 2020/21 to 2024/25 and
a) notes, 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) works 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) instructs 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) notes 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) notes that the Budget is aligned to the Council’s Corporate Priorities.
f) approves the updates to section 5.1 in the Capital Strategy in Appendix A of report FIN/483.
g) approves 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.