The Leader’s Portfolio
To consider report FIN/500 of the Head of Corporate Finance, which was referred to the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 22 June 2020.
The Leader presented report FIN/500 of the Head of Corporate Finance which set out a summary of the Council’s outturn for both revenue and capital spending for the financial year running from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. It identified the main variations from the approved spending levels and any potential impact on future budgets. The Cabinet noted that the report had been prepared toward the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, and thus the full financial consequences of the crisis were not included within the report and would instead be reported on in future Budget Monitoring reports.
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 22 June 2020, which included:
· Recognition that the flood programme had been reprioritised, allowing for Tilgate Lake bank erosion works to commence ahead of schedule.
· Confirmation that the under/over spend and slippage on the HRA improvement works had been listed as a whole programme of works as opposed to being broken down on individual projects. It was commented that further breakdown would be beneficial.
· Explanation sought and obtained on the reserves for expenditure in Tilgate Park and Nature Centre as part of the 5 year investment plan.
· Acknowledgement that revenue implications needed to be taken into account for new properties to avoid overspend.
· Whether the S106 money in 8.15 referred to the Ewhurst playing fields in Ifield (as documented in December 2013 Cabinet report) or Ewhurst Road Play Area as set out in recommendation in 2.2(b) (which is in West Green). It was requested Cabinet clarify the arrangement for the S106 funding given the inconsistencies.
It had since been confirmed that recommendation 2.2(b) concerned Ewhurst playing fields, Ifield.
Councillor Crow was invited to speak on the item. Matters raised included:
· Clarification was sought that the figure of £26,000 in savings, as a result of the cancellation of the May 2020 local elections, was correct.
· A query regarding the potential to create further savings in business rates, after a £42,000 saving was made due to the demolition of parts of the Town Hall building.
· Acknowledgement that expected effects on port health services due to Brexit did not materialise, resulting in unplanned income of £37,000.
· Recognition that budget-saving decisions may need to be taken by local authorities in the future, including by Crawley Borough Council, in order to ‘balance the books’.
The Leader offered the following responses:
· May 2020 also saw the Local Police and Crime Commissioner election cancelled. It was expected that further savings in this area would be announced next quarter.
· Business rates paid by the Council on the Town Hall building could not be avoided.
· The expected decrease of £37,000 in port health services was predicted at the last budget, at which time a Brexit deal had not yet been established.
· Savings of around £2 million would need to be made, in conversation with residents, in order to reduce the impact of the economic consequences of COVID-19.
All Cabinet Members present spoke as part of the discussion on the report. It was acknowledged that the 2019/20 budget surplus of £245,000, although welcomed, was not expected to be maintained in the face of the predicted £4 million shortfall following the COVID-19 crisis. The implications on specific Cabinet Member Portfolios were also discussed. It was noted that the 2019/20 financial year was the fifth consecutive year that the Council had seen a budget surplus.
A recorded vote was taken on the recommendations in accordance with the Council’s Virtual Committee Procedure Rules. The names of the Councillors voting for and against the recommendations, along with any abstentions, are recorded as set out below:
For the recommendations:
Councillors Irvine, Jhans, Lamb, Mullins, and P Smith. (5)
Against the recommendations:
That the Cabinet
a) notes the outturn for the year 2019/20 as summarised in this report and to note that future years impact as a result of Covid-19 will be presented in the monitoring report to Cabinet in September 2020.
b) approves a supplementary capital estimate of £1,500 which will be funded from S106 contributions for the Ewhurst Road Play Area as outlined in paragraph 8.15 of the report.
That Full Council be recommended to
retrospectively approve a transfer of £1.192m to the business rates equalisation reserve as outlined in paragraph 9.2.
Reasons for the Recommendations
To report to Members on the outturn for the year compared to the approved budget for 2019/20.