Agenda item

Cabinet's Budget Proposals for 2023/2024


Mr Andy Goodwin, the Council’s Interim Financial Planning Manager, advised that, at the Health and Social Care Select Committee on 12 October 2022, he had presented the emerging challenges with regard to the Council’s budget.  On 15 December 2022, Cabinet had requested the comments of individual Select Committees on the draft budget proposals relating to their areas of responsibility.


The Committee was advised that the budget had been affected by a challenging economic environment, both in terms of exceptional inflationary pressures and legacy Covid impacts as well as the impact of the cost of living crisis and the impact on residents’ financial situation.  Exceptional inflationary requirements for social care placements of around 8% had been partially mitigated by an underspend in the Health and Social Care portfolio, with an increase in income attributed to contributions from the CCG and the associated client contributions.  The pay award would also have an impact on the services within the remit of the Committee. 


In February 2022, it had been anticipated that the Council would need to make £10m of savings in 2023/2024 but this had subsequently doubled to £20m, £2.4m of which would need to be found from services that fell within the Health and Social Care Select Committee’s remit.  The Council was looking to spend about £115.5m on services in 2023/2024 which was an increase of around 2½% on 2022/2023.  The capital budget for 2023/2024 had been set at £14.5m.


In terms of delivering savings, Members queried whether there had been any material change to the national funding position, whether there had been a reduction in demand or if there had been different ways of working employed.  Mr Goodwin advised that there had been a provisional settlement figure in December 2022 which had showed a slight increase but that this would not have a material impact.  Ms Gemma McNamara, the Council’s Director – Service Finance and Transformation, advised that savings had been identified predominantly from mitigating actions in relation to the Covid legacy.  She noted that savings were not about cutting services but were about using reablement to help residents to stay at home (which was a less expensive option). 


Members noted that voluntary sector grants would be moving to a commissioning basis and questioned whether action was being taken to ensure that these organisations were being helped to find other support.  Ms McNamara stated that the key criteria of the voluntary sector grant review was to ensure that the work undertaken met key Council objectives.  The move to a commissioning model provided benefits such as the certainty of a contract period rather than an annual review.  There had been a general fund reduction and consideration was being given to where Public Health grants could be utilised. 


Concern was expressed that the change from voluntary sector grants to a commissioning model would mean that smaller local service providers would not have the knowledge or resources to be able to compete with bigger organisations when submitting bids / tenders.  Ms McNamara advised that it would be important to work with the local voluntary sector and assured Members that there would be a quota of contracts that would be let to smaller businesses. 


With a general increase of 30% of fees and charges, Members questioned whether this would provide an adequate income.  Mr Goodwin advised that the Council had taken a holistic view of its position and had looked at the Council Tax forecast.  Although there were very few fees and charges in health and social care, service expenditure and fees and charges had been reviewed to identify how to bridge the gap. 


It was suggested that a 30% increase in fees and charges would potentially cause some residents a lot of harm when they were already struggling financially.  Members noted that blue badges would be increasing from £2 to £10 (an increase of 400%).  Mr Goodwin advised that the blue badges fell within the remit of the Finance and Corporate Services Select Committee.  Ms McNamara advised that Hillingdon had been charging significantly less for services than its neighbouring authorities and that not all services would be increasing by 30%.  These increases would mean that Hillingdon Council Tax payers would no longer be subsidising services that they didn’t use as they were more geared towards cost recovery. 


Of the £13,346k savings within the 2022/2023 budget, 92% had been banked or were on track for delivery in full, with potential risks on 7% (£986k) relating to the leisure centre management fee, reflecting the particular impact of the pandemic on this sector and the ongoing challenges that faced the service.  Ms McNamara advised that the Council had been in negotiations with the supplier so was now in a more stable place to deliver savings. 


It was agreed that the Committee’s comments on the 2023/2024 budget could include the following points:

·         The Committee recognised the financial environment as well as the importance that health and social care had to large parts of the community;

·         The Committee thanked officers for their work on the budget;

·         The Committee thanked those staff who provided health and social care services for their good work;

·         The Committee was keen that the Council monitored performance, impact of spending and lessons learnt (internally and with external partners), evidencing how this was done, especially over an area such as health and social care where there was such a big spend.  The Committee would like a performance update report in six months;

·         The Committee would like assurance that any new commissioning arrangements ensured that smaller local organisations were not being disadvantaged by the new regime;

·         The Committee had received assurances about service continuity and improved ways of working; and

·         The Committee would like the Council to continue to work proactively with the voluntary sector in relation to the changed arrangements.


The Committee agreed to delegate the drafting and submission of the Committee’s budget comments to the Democratic Services Manager in conjunction with the Chairman and in consultation with Councillor Nelson. 



1.    the formation and submission of the Committee’s budget comments be delegated to the Democratic Services Manager in conjunction with the Chairman, and in consultation with the Opposition Lead; and

2.    the budget report received by the Committee in September 2023 include information about performance monitoring, impact of spending and lessons learnt (internally and with external partners), evidencing how this had been done.

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