To receive and consider the comments received from the Overview & Scrutiny Committee on the Service and Financial Plans for 2019/20.
(i) That the report of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the service and financial plans for 2019/20 be noted.
(ii) That the comments outlined in paragraphs 12 and 13 of the report presented, concerning the budget proposals for 2019/20 and the reporting of budget contingency or headroom, be accepted.
(iii) The comments outlined in paragraph 14 of the report presented, concerning the proposed internal audit of budget development and reporting prior to the 2020/21 budget setting process, were not accepted.
Councillor T. Schofield, Executive Member for Finance, submitted a report that set out the outcome of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s consideration of the draft budget proposals for 2019/20. The report included the relevant statutory powers, the outcome of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s considerations, legal, financial and equalities implications, consultation undertaken and policy framework considerations.
The Executive Member for Finance thanked Councillor N.D. Harrison for his hard work in chairing the Budget Scrutiny Review Panel. He also expressed his gratitude to the Members of the Scrutiny Review Panel the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and to Officers for their contribution to the process. It was noted that the Panel had conducted a thorough review of the budget proposals, aided as in previous years by a high number of advance questions. The report and recommendations of the Panel were subsequently considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in December.
It was noted that following its deliberations the Committee had put forward five recommendations (set out in paragraphs 12 to 14 of the report presented) for consideration by the Executive. Councillor Schofield confirmed each of these areas had been carefully considered and reflected on the Committee's overall positive conclusions about the provision budget proposals.
In response to the recommendation for an internal audit of "how budgets are developed and reported" the Executive Member for Finance confirmed internal auditors regularly carried out audits of the Council's Service and Financial Budget Setting Process. It was explained that they had reported most recently in January 2018 and that their findings included the following observation: "the Council can take substantial assurance that the controls upon which the organisation relies to manage the identified area are suitably designed, consistently applied and operating effectively". It was highlighted that no areas of weak controls or non-compliance with controls had been identified and accordingly no "actions for management" had been raised.
The Executive was asked to note that:
- Since the proposed budget had been reviewed by Overview and Scrutiny there had been a Provisional Settlement announcement from the Government, including additional information on the level of Business Rates the Council would retain in 2019/20.
- An update on this announcement, along with additional information concerning the Council's Capital Programme, had been provided to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in January. It was highlighted that the contents of which had been reflected in the Budget 2019/20 and Capital Programme 2019 to 2024 report (set out at item 6 to the Executive agenda).
- The Overview and Scrutiny Committee had made no additional recommendations in response to this information.
During the discussion it was highlighted that moving forward, and throughout the year, financial scrutiny would become even more important, especially in view of the growing complexity of local government.
In conclusion, the Executive Member explained he did not believe there would be any merit in commissioning a further internal audit of how budgets were developed and reported, especially as the service and financial planning process remained the same as at ... view the full minutes text for item 87
To propose a budget for approval for the 2019/20 financial year.
(i) a budget of £16.294m including the savings and growth reported, a provision for a pay award and an increase in Band D Council Tax of 2.99% (or £6.61) be approved;
(ii) the statement of the Chief Finance Officer (shown at Annex 1 of the report presented) be noted; and
(iii) the Capital Programme (shown at Annex 2 of the report presented) be approved.
RESOLVED that the Chief Finance Officer be authorised to make any necessary technical adjustments to the budget and Council Tax demand proposed to Council arising from final budget refinements or changes to government funding.
The Executive Member for Finance, Councillor T. Schofield, introduced the proposed Budget for 2019/20 which included an updated capital programme up to 2024 for recommendation to Full Council.
It was noted that a consultation exercise had been undertaken on the savings and growth proposals, considered by the Executive in November 2018. These proposals had been the subject of review by the Budget Scrutiny Panel and the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Councillor Schofield highlighted that the findings and recommendations from Overview and Scrutiny had been reported separately to the Executive (under agenda item 4).
Councillor Schofield explained that the savings requirements addressed in the report had been driven by the removal of the Revenue Support Grant and changes to business rates retention, as part of the wider national context.
The Executive Member for Finance highlighted that:
- The budget proposals allowed for a continuation of the high quality services provided by the Council. In recognition of this, it was explained that the proposals included moving a number of long term established posts into the base budget. It was noted this would result in an increased budget requirement for 2019/20 but would provide a more sustainable funding structure for future years and would give certainty for staff and service users.
- The budget savings proposed and income generation forecasts more than covered the planned service improvements for 2019/20. However, it was noted that the Council faced the challenge of a short term loss of income while some regeneration and income generation projects came on stream. In response to questions, it was explained that the Council had established ring-fenced reserves to respond to this.
- The Government’s Provisional Settlement, announced on 13 December 2018, had mitigated the impacts of the previously-anticipated £1.48m reduction in business rates receipts in the short term. As a result, the Council would no longer need to draw on reserves in order to present a balanced budget for 2019/20. However, in response to questions, it was explained that this was only expected to delay funding reductions.
- The favourable Settlement presented a budget growth opportunity to establish a permanent budget of £0.250m to fund new posts as a result of team restructures during 2019/20. In response to questions, it was explained that the intention was for this arrangement to continue in future years and would be built into Medium Term Financial Plan and budget projections moving forward.
- The report presented included details of the capital investment plans. In response to questions, it was highlighted that these plans demonstrated a breadth of activity across the borough to improve and enhance the Council’s asset base.
- The capital programme would form the foundation for planned work over the coming months to develop the Council’s Capital Investment Strategy. This would support delivery of the Council’s Corporate Plan and Housing Strategy which were both under development.
The Chief Finance Officer’s statement on the proposed budget, was noted, which pointed out the risks and uncertainties associated with the budget proposals.
During the discussion ... view the full minutes text for item 89
To note an update on the Budget Proposal for 2019/20.
The Committee considered an update on the proposed Budget for 2019/20, including additional information on the provisional local government settlement 2019/20 and the Capital Programme, which was introduced by Councillor T. Schofield, Executive Member for Finance. An amendment to the Capital Programme information containing minor updates to the Capital Programme 2019/20 to 2023/24 details was tabled at the meeting.
It was noted that the update included information on the proposed establishment of a New Posts Fund to fund new posts that might be required as a result of team restructures during 2019/20.
The Committee considered and discussed the report. There were a number of questions and comments relating to the following topics:
· Proposed Budget Adjustments. Observations were made regarding the potential use of income from retained business rates, including the delivery of services and the impact on council tax.
· Great Workplace Programme. It was confirmed that the Great Workplace Programme covered matters such as office furnishings and related supplies.
· Capital Programme projected spending. A number of queries were raised regarding the projected spending in the capital plan relating to areas including Priory Park maintenance, play areas improvement programme, commercial investment properties, and cemeteries & chapel. It was confirmed that additional information on the detail surrounding the referenced figures would be provided following the meeting. It was noted that rolling programmes were based on future expectations for capital requirements, and that these were reconsidered on an annual basis as additional information on requirements and available funding became available. It was confirmed that regular maintenance activity did not have a capital requirement and therefore was not included in the programme.
· ICT replacement programme. It was confirmed that the spending on the ICT replacement programme varied across years due to requirements around the lifespan of devices and licences and associated replacements.
· New Posts Fund. It was confirmed that the fund was to support new permanent posts where a requirement was identified during the year, prior to their incorporation into the usual section of the budget in following years. It was confirmed that governance and consultation arrangements for the fund would be confirmed following the meeting.
· Government consultation papers – Fair Funding Review and Business Rates Retention. A query was raised regarding the opportunity for Members to contribute to the consultation on these topics. It was identified that the officers would be working with the Executive Member for Finance to produce a draft response to the consultation, and that this could be made available to Members. It was suggested that any Members who would like to make comments on the consultation contact the Executive Member for Finance.
· Supporting Commentary. It was remarked that the financial information provided would be made more accessible via the addition of additional supporting information and commentary, and it was confirmed that it would be sought to provide this additional commentary in future.
RESOLVED that the updates to the proposed budget for 2019/20 be noted.
To consider the report of the Budget Scrutiny Review Panel and make any comments on the Service and Financial Planning (Provisional Budget) for 2019/20, for consideration by the Executive in line with the Council’s budget and policy procedure rules.
The Vice-Chairman invited Cllr. N. Harrison, as Chairman of the Budget Scrutiny Review Panel, to introduce the report. Cllr Harrison thanked the Panel members, the supporting officers and other contributing Members for their work to support scrutiny of the proposed budget.
The Committee heard that a wide range of advance questions had been asked as part of the budget scrutiny process, and that the Panel had thoroughly explored not only the savings and growth proposals for 2019/20 but the full service and financial context in which the budget had been prepared.
Councillor Harrison highlighted:
· That there remained a number of forthcoming financial management items to be considered by Committees and Members, including the Capital Plan and Treasury Management Strategy, and the Council’s new investment strategy.
· That the Council had substantial reserves, and the Panel was supportive of their use to support the proposed budget, but that this should be a short term measure to address the external financial pressures faced by the Council, and that the Panel supported steps to obtain additional sustainable funding.
· That the Panel supported the inclusion of ongoing costs previously funded through the Corporate Plan Delivery Fund being transferred into the revenue budget.
· That the Council continued to face significant future financial pressures due to potential increases in demand and reductions in available funding.
· That the Panel was pleased to note that the income in the budget from property rents had been secured and was not speculative.
· That the Council had not included income from the potential 2019/20 Business Rates Pilot in the budget.
· That the Panel considered that future budget reporting should make clearer reference to the level of budgetary contingency or headroom included in the budget and how this was allocated, and that it would like to see additional information on how this had been spent in previous years.
· That the Panel supported the addition of a new post to support future commercial activities.
· That the Panel agreed that the proposed budget did not propose any significant cuts to services provided by the Council.
· That the Panel had no significant concerns with the proposed budget, but was mindful of the future challenges faced by the Council.
· That the proposed budget was considered to be achievable, realistic and based on sound financial practices and reasonable assumptions.
Councillor Harrison proposed that the Overview and Scrutiny make a third recommendation to the Executive, in addition to those proposed by the Budget Scrutiny Review Panel. The proposed recommendation was as follows:
‘That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommend that an internal audit of how budgets are developed and reported be conducted in advance of the 2020/21 budget process.’
The additional proposed recommendation was supported by the Committee.
There were a number of questions and comments relating to the following topics:
· Business Rates. It was noted that the business rates pilot funds received to date would be used to support economic prosperity and businesses in the borough. Members supported ensuring that these funds were used effectively.
· The National Waste ... view the full minutes text for item 41
RECOMMENDED that the local Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2019/20, outlined in the Executive’s report, be adopted.
(i) The national and local service context, outlined in Annex 1 to the report, be noted.
(ii) The service proposals, set out in the report and accompanying Annex 2, which seek to respond to the national and local service context and to deliver corporate priorities, be endorsed.
(iii) The following be approved for consultation under the Council’s budget and policy framework:
a) Medium Term Financial Plan (Annex 3)
b) Savings and income totalling £1.229m (Annex 4)
c) Growth totalling £2.620m (Annex 5)
(iv) The Director of Finance and Organisation be authorised, in consultation with the Leader of the Council, to make any necessary changes to the Corporate Business Plan arising from the service and financial planning changes agreed for 2019/20.
As set out in the report, the Executive Member for Finance highlighted proposals for 2019/20 had been based on a full and robust assessment. It was noted that this work had been carried out by Executive members, supported by the Management Team and a Budget Advisory Working Group.
Councillor Schofield explained the proposals set out in the report would allow for a continuation of high quality services. In recognition of this, it was proposed to move a number of long term established officer posts into the base budget. This would result in an increased budget requirement for 2019/20 but a more sustainable funding structure for future years, with more certainty for staff and service users.
The Executive Member for Finance explained that the budget savings proposed, and income generation forecasts, would more than cover the planned service improvements for 2019/20. However, it was noted that the Council was faced with a short term loss of income until some regeneration and income generation projects came on stream. Combined with the sharp reduction in business rates receipts it was explained that this would mean the Council would likely need to draw on reserves in order to present a balanced budget for 2019/20 to Full Council in February 2019.
In response to questions, it was explained that in recent years the Council had established ring-fenced reserves to respond to this challenge and it was noted that Table 2 of the report summarised the gap and the proposals to deliver a balanced budget. It was also highlighted that the Council had plans in place to replace the use of reserves with new income in the medium term to help ensure a sustainable budget position for the future.
In terms of Council Tax proposals, Councillor Schofield explained that it was always a difficult decision to increase Council Tax. It was highlighted that there would be some concerns about the proposed 2.99% rise and it was noted that the proposals would see the Reigate and Banstead element of a Band D charge increase by 13 pence per week. However, Councillor Schofield outlined that for less than £4.40 a week, residents would benefit from waste and recycling collections, clean streets and award winning open spaces. The Council would also provide leisure and community centres, health and wellbeing services, housing, community development and business support services. In addition, residents would benefit from various regeneration and place improvement activities across the borough, and from statutory services provided, such as planning and environmental health and licencing.
Councillor G.J. Knight, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Housing and Benefits, went on to introduce the Council Tax Reduction Scheme recommendation.
The Executive was informed that since 2013 Council Tax billing authorities had been required to agree local Council Tax reduction schemes for working age households who were on low incomes, benefits or out of work. It was noted that in recent ... view the full minutes text for item 67
To approve the constitution of a Budget Scrutiny Review Panel for the year 2018/19.
The Committee received a report detailing the proposed membership, timetable and scope of the Budget Scrutiny Review Panel during 2017/18.
The nominations for membership of the panel were confirmed at the meeting, and were as follows:
Conservative Group: Councillors T. Archer, G. Curry, J. King and J. Stephenson.
Residents Association Group: Councillors N. Harrison and B. Stead
Green Group: Councillor J. Essex
It was noted that all Councillors were welcome to attend the meeting of the panel, even if they were not a member of the panel.
(i). The membership of the Budget Scrutiny Review Panel and the timetable for the preparation of the Budget for 2018/19 be agreed as set out in the report and confirmed at the meeting.
(ii). The scope of the Budget Scrutiny Review Panel work during 2018/19 be agreed as set out in the report.