To propose a budget for approval for the 2019/20 financial year.
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 a range of issues were considered, including an update on the Government’s Fair Funding Review and future arrangements for Business Rates Retention. It was noted that the outcomes from both consultations was expected to be announced in early autumn 2019 and would determine the arrangements for local government funding for 2020/21 onwards. An update on the negotiations with employee representatives, concerning the provision for a pay award, was also provided.
(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.
Reason for decision: The Council is required to set a budget by 11th March each year.
Alternative options: To amend or reject any or all of the budget proposals.