Agenda item

2020/21 Budget Planning Report for Services within the remit of the Corporate Services, Commerce and Communities Policy Overview Committee


The Financial Planning Manager introduced the report that introduced the current stage of development of budget planning work with regard to services within the remit of the Corporate Services, Commerce and Communities Policy Overview Committee.


The Committee heard that the report was being presented a little later than in previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Financial Planning Manager noted that the General Fund had an anticipated £20m saving requirement over the next two years, allowing for an assumed Council Tax increase and the Adult Social Care Precept.


Members were informed that this position was unlikely to move materially heading into the budget setting cycle, despite the COVID-19 pressures currently experienced. The Financial Planning Manager stated that the Council were facing pressures of around £26m in terms of the impact of COVID-19 on income streams and the direct cost to the Council of some of the measures taken to respond and support the local community. However, the Committee was informed that all but £3m of that planned expenditure has been covered by grant funding from Government, and there is a remaining balance of £9m set aside in earmarked reserves to manage anything that Government grants are not available for.


Outside of COVID-19 pressures, the Financial Planning Manager confirmed that the Council were £360k under spent at this point in the year and on track. The Committee heard that, outside of the Council’s General Fund, the housing revenue account continued to be backed by a fully funded 30-year business plan, and the Council is confident that it has the underwriting from the Department for Education to ensure that often reported pressure on high needs and SEND within the school’s budget is not a concern for the General Fund and would not directly hit budget setting for the Council’s own operations.


The Financial Planning Manager noted that a number of service transformation proposals were expected, along with zero based reviews, savings related to procurement and managing demand, and ensuring that fees and charges are set at an appropriate level. The final budget proposals will be approved at Cabinet in December, and will then go to public consultation and will return to the Committee in January for final comments.


Councillors sought clarification on the use of cash balances against reported expenditure, and were informed that this was a planned use of reserves following the Council’s actions to build up their balance in the early 2010s, so it only used money that was set aside for this purpose and was part of the Council’s strategy. Additionally, the Financial Planning Manager confirmed that the savings programme will adapt to what was required through the year.


Responding to questioning from the Committee, the Financial Planning Manager also noted that a rise in Council tax would not bridge the shortfall in itself, and would communicate these figures to the Committee, along with the figures that outlined the acquisition of new dwellings in the Borough.


RESOLVED: That the financial context in which the 2021/22 budget setting process will take place in advance of detailed saving proposals being developed and approved at Cabinet in December 2020 was noted.

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