Agenda item

2021/2022 Budget Proposals For Services Within The Remit Of Corporate Services, Commerce & Communities Policy Overview Committee


Councillor Martin Goddard had declared a non-pecuniary interest in this item therefore left the meeting prior to the presentation and discussion.


Iain Watters, Financial Planning Manager, presented the budget report. Members were informed that Cabinet had agreed the budget proposals in December 2020; these were not out for public consultation. Key headlines in the report included:


1)    The Chancellor’s spending review 2020 had set out a £1m uplift in grant funding for the local authority;

2)    An extra 1% had been added to the Social Care Precept to assist with the impact of the pandemic;

3)    The Chancellor had set out a pay freeze in terms of the inflationary element of salary for all public sector workers;

4)    Hillingdon’s budget gap which had stood at £19m in September 2020, had reduced to £16m following these changes.


In terms of the Cabinet’s budget proposals, Members heard that £8m of savings were proposed; these were mainly efficiency savings based around transformation of services. The only item which was a shift in policy was a £500,000 saving from winding down the local first-time buyers’ scheme. A 4.8% uplift in Council tax was proposed which included the additional 3% in the Social Care Precept and a 1.8% increase in core Council tax. A release of £2m from balances was proposed. The older people’s discount for Council tax would be protected but Council tax would not be frozen for this group. It was reported that the Council was less reliant on general balances than had been expected in September 2020. It was expected that there would be £28m of general balances going forward.  Looking beyond the 2021-22 financial year, it was expected that some 12.6m of savings in 2022/3 and 2023/4 would be required which was a high number but not an impossible target.


In terms of the services within the Committee’s remit, savings were proposed mainly around back office efficiencies. These related mainly to revenues and benefits automation to make back office processes more efficient, a review of the technical administration and business support services, energy savings and efficiencies around printing and mail.


In terms of new investment, an uplift in spending on CCTV was proposed and.  charges were proposed when people requested CCTV footage for example for insurance purposes.


In response to questions from the Committee, it was confirmed that the revenues, benefits and technical administration departments were services which had been the subjects of substantial bid reviews some 4 or 5 years previously. Members were informed that the previous reviews had been around management structure whereas the current proposals related to efficiencies in business processes. It was reported that in the current year an approximate £3m underspend had been recorded; primarily as a result of new working practices due to the pandemic. It was confirmed that the budget for 2021/22 had not been predicated on the basis of this continuing. It had been assumed that, overall, the local authority would be able to secure funding from Central Government to cover the net additional costs relating to Covid-19. If the Government funding did not cover this, £9m had been set aside as a safety net.


In response to the Committee’s requests for clarification, it was confirmed that, in terms of business rates, the impact on the public purse was primarily being borne by Central Government. Rates continued to be collected from Heathrow despite the current difficulties experienced in aviation due to the pandemic. Safety net mechanisms were in place to protect individual local authorities. In terms of CCTV cameras, it was confirmed that obsolete CCTV cameras were gradually being replaced.


It was agreed that the POC’s comments regarding the budget proposals be drafted by the Chairman for consideration by the Committee at the meeting in February 2021.


RESOLVED: That the 2021/22 budget proposals for services within the Corporate Services, Commerce and Communities POC be noted and comments be drafted by the Chairman in advance of the February meeting.

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