The Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Finance.
The Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance, Councillor Schofield, introduced a report setting out service and financial planning proposals for 2021/22.
Councillor Schofield explained that the revenue budget proposals for 2021/22 were based on a full and robust assessment of what the Council does and how it does it by the Executive and the Management Team. The proposals allowed for the continued provision of high-quality services. Councillor Schofield noted that the net £812,000 revenue budget growth proposals were offset by savings of just over £2 million and a small call on earmarked reserves. There was a requirement to draw just over £0.5 million from the General Fund Reserve to balance the budget. Councillor Schofield explained that the savings against the Markets Service shown in annex 3 were incorrect and should be £10,000.
Councillor Schofield explained that several matters were still to be concluded. The final budget position was dependent on the outcome of the Spending Review and the Provisional Local Government Settlement. Overall, the budget position was sound, and the Council was well positioned to take advantage of commercial opportunities. However, the most significant financial risk was the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainty about income receipts returning to pre-pandemic levels.
The five-year medium-term budget forecasts had been updated. The Medium Term Financial Plan and supporting strategies provided a solid framework for future financial planning.
In terms of Revenue Reserves, Councillor Schofield explained that they remained sufficient to support the budget proposals and mitigate Covid-19 risks. Approval was sought for the Revenues Policy in annex 6.2 of the report.
In terms of the Capital Programme, Councillor Schofield explained that the proposals meant that 2021/22 would be a year of consolidation with modest increases and some reductions due to reprofiling of existing allocations. This would reflect updated spending plans.
The Executive were asked to recommend to Council the adoption of a new council tax policy to apply a 300% council premium for properties that have been empty for more than 10 years with effect from 1 April 2021.
In response to a question from a Visiting Member about Car Parking Charges, Councillor Schofield explained that it was projected that there was currently forecast to be a loss next year as a consequence of ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. He also confirmed that service fees and charges were still under review.
It was noted that the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had invited all non-Executive Members to the Budget Scrutiny Panel on 3 December 2020.
The Leader of the Council highlighted the work undertaken by officers to review vacant posts and, where deemed to be no longer necessary, these had been deleted from the budget. The Leader thanked the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance and the Interim Head of Finance and other officers for their work in drafting the 2021/22 proposals.
1. That the national and local policy context (Annex 1 to the report) be noted.
2. That the service proposals set out in the report which seek to respond to this context and deliver our corporate priorities, be endorsed.
3. That the draft business plans for 2021/22 to 2023/24 be approved, and that Heads of Service be authorised to finalise the plans for their service areas, in consultation with the relevant Portfolio Holders.
4. That the following be approved for consultation under the Council’s budget and policy framework:
a. Medium Term Financial Plan Summary (Annex 2 to the report)
b. Revenue Budget Savings and Additional Income proposals totalling (£2.094) million (Annex 3 to the report)
c. Revenue Budget Growth proposals totalling £0.812 million (Annex 3 to the report)
d. Forecast ongoing income budget pressures in 2021/22 as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic totalling £1.610 million (Annex 2 to the report)
e. Capital Programme Growth and Reprofiling proposals resulting in a net reduction in the five-year Capital Programme of (£0.286) million (Annex 4 to the report)
f. Revenue Reserve Balances at 1 April 2020 of £35.391 million (Annex 6.1 to the report)
5. That the Fees & Charges Policy (Annex 5 to the report) be approved.
6. That the Reserves Policy (Annex 6.2 to the report) be approved.
7. That the Medium Term Financial Plan forecast for 2022/23 onwards (Annex 2 to the report) and proposed actions to address the forecast revenue budget gap be noted.
8. That the modified housing benefit schemes, whereby prescribed war disablement pensions and war widow’s pensions are disregarded, be continued.
9. That the Executive RECOMMENDS to the Council the adoption of a new council tax policy to apply a 300% council premium for properties that have been empty for more than 10 years with effect from 1 April 2021.