The Executive Director of Resources presented an update on the budget and Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) 2022/23 to 2024/25.
Cabinet was informed that there were a number of emerging budget pressures, including inflation and salary inflation. In the previous MTFP, there had been an assumption that staff pay increases would be 1 per cent in 2022/23 but it seemed more likely that pay would increase by 2 per cent. Similarly, the cost of utilities bills was likely to increase at a far higher rate than had been envisaged in the previous MTFP. There were further pressures in respect of ICT, with continuing agile working arrangements increasing risks to the Council in respect of ICT security. Therefore, there would be a need for additional expenditure on ICT security measures.
The Council could take certain actions to improve the revenue position moving forward. In this context, Officers were proposing that Council Tax should increase by £5 in 2022/23. There were also opportunities for cost reduction that were in the process of being explored. More detail would be provided in the final MTFP 2022/23 to 2024/25 in February 2022.
During consideration of this item, Members noted that it had recently been announced that another English Council had resolved an industrial dispute with staff working in their Refuse Service by offering an 11 per cent pay increase. Questions were raised about whether similar pay increases might be required in Bromsgrove. The Chief Executive explained that Bromsgrove District Council was part of the National Pay Bargaining scheme and Councils in this scheme made the same pay offer to their staff and it was possible that the other Council had not been part of this scheme. Members were asked to note, however, that the Trades Unions were in the process of consulting with their members about whether to take strike action in respect of pay settlements.
Reference was made to a recent meeting of the Finance and Budget Working Group at which a detailed presentation had been delivered on the subject of the MTFP. The Chairman of the group, Councillor C. Hotham, highlighted the group’s concerns about the lack of financial monitoring reports that had been available in the year concerning the 2021/22 budget. It was acknowledged that there were extenuating circumstances, in terms of staffing levels, which had impacted on this situation. However, concerns were raised that the lack of monitoring information meant that it was difficult for Members to understand the current position of Council budgets. Members were informed that other Councils, including Worcestershire County Council, were struggling to retain staff in Financial Services and action was being taken by Bromsgrove District Council to address this situation.
In concluding the debate on this item, a request was made for Officers to provide the Leader and Deputy Leader with further information about the Council’s earmarked reserves.
RESOLVED that the report be noted.