Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Finance and Governance; and the Executive Member for Corporate Policy and Resources.
The Executive Member for Corporate Policy and Resources, Councillor Lewanski, outlined the Council’s performance up to the end of Quarter 4 (January to March 2021).
Councillor Lewanski highlighted that:
· Of the 12 indicators reported on in Q4, all were on target or within the agreed tolerance.
· The Q4 report also included three contextual performance indicators for the Executive’s awareness.
· The report was considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 17 June 2021. The Committee made no formal observations or recommendations to the Executive although it asked for more information about definitions of affordable housing and the number of affordable housing completions.
Visiting Member and Chair of Overview and Scrutiny, Councillor Harrison, noted that affordable housing was considered an important issue for the Committee. One of the areas related to homelessness which had showed a decrease compared to Quarter 3. More information and an update from the Portfolio Holder for Housing & Support, Councillor Neame, had been requested. Councillor Neame confirmed that she would be responding to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Councillor Harrison also highlighted that Overview and Scrutiny Committee Members had noted the high number of referrals from the National Fraud Initiative on fraud cases. The Committee had had assurance from the Acting Head of Paid Service that robust action was taken against individuals making fraudulent claims such as claiming for Single Person households for Council Tax rebates.
The Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Finance and Governance, Councillor Schofield, outlined the provisional Revenue and Capital budget outturn for last year.
Councillor Schofield highlighted the following points to Executive Members:
· It had been a challenging year as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic which was reflected in the final budget outturn position.
· The impacts of the pandemic had been closely monitored throughout the year and for 2020/21 and 2021/22 they should be contained within the additional funding provided to date the Government. But use of Reserves may yet be necessary to offset future ongoing costs or income losses if additional funding is not provided by the Government over the medium term.
· For Service budgets, the full year outturn was £17.9m against a management budget of £16.0m resulting in an overspend of £1.9m (12%). A key reason for this overspend was the inclusion of income losses as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
· For Central budgets, the outturn was £6.9m against a management budget of £9.7m resulting in an underspend of £2.8m (29%). This underspend was mainly as a result of an underspend in Treasury Management costs and an underspend against Budget Contingencies.
· The Capital Programme outturn position was £25.8m which was £99.4m (80%) below the approved Programme for the year. The variance was as a result of £98.6m slippage and a net underspend of £0.7m. The slippage will be carried forward to be included in the Programme for 2021/22 onwards.
· Responses to the advance questions from Overview and Scrutiny were circulated before the meeting.
Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chair, Councillor Harrison, recognised that it had been a challenging year but finished better than expected although the Government had not made up all the revenue shortfall. It was noted that the Covid-related costs had been separated out in the budget. Also, the Collection Fund was going to be in deficit this year due to COVID-19 and the deficit recovery would be spread over three years. The service budgets of ICT and Legal were underspent. The underspend in ICT was due to projects that were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic response with other areas being prioritised. The Committee was interested in the hybrid working project. It was also noted that the Council was proposing to build up Reserves to cover Covid costs in future years. Land at Reading Arch Road had been purchased as part of commercial investments. The summary giving income losses and revenue lost or recovered was welcomed by the Committee.
RESOLVED that the Executive:
1. Notes Key Performance Indicator performance for Q4 2020/21 as detailed in the report and annex 1;
2. Notes the Revenue budget outturn for 2020/21 as detailed in the report and at Annex 2 and approve the recommended budget carry-forwards to 2021/22;
3. Notes the Capital Programme outturn for 2020/21 as detailed in the report and at Annex 3;
4. Notes the forecast year-end Revenue Reserves position; including the new Reserves that have been established to manage COVID-19 funds.