The Executive Director, Finance and Resources introduced the report and explained that the format was similar to those received in recent months. The recommendations were detailed at page 125 and she confirmed that the preceptor information was awaited and will be made available as soon as the information is received and updated into the resolutions.
In presenting the report she highlighted the following areas:
· The Medium Term Financial Plan provided the framework within which the Council could provide financial funding to support its strategic purposes.
· A number of assumptions had been made in order to bring forward a four year plan. These were detailed within the chart on page 127 of the agenda pack, with supporting explanatory notes and covered a number of areas, including additional pay and inflation, unavoidable costs, revenue bids, additional borrowing costs, identified and unidentified savings.
· The Executive Director, Finance and Resources provided detail around the Negative Support Grant in respect of the removal of the £740k.
· Detail was also provided in respect of the NNDR Income and confirmation that the Worcestershire Business Rate Pilot scheme had been accepted by Central Government and the implications of this to the Council.
· The current projections included an increase of 2.9% on Council Tax.
· Concerns in respect of the New Homes Bonus (NHB) scheme in the future. The amount confirmed that 2019/20 was less than had been anticipated.
· Members were reminded of the Community Bid scheme which had been set up and linked to the payment of new NHB monies and it was confirmed that whilst the current scheme would result in this payment ceasing an assumption had been made that this scheme would continue at £74k per year for the four year period of the current plan.
The Executive Director, Finance and Resources referred Members to the additional papers, which had been tabled at the meeting. This included an amendment to recommendation 2.1.5 and revised table 3.5 (as originally detailed on page 127 of the agenda pack) and revised tables 3.17.1 (as detailed on pages 130 and 131 of the agenda pack). It was explained that these had been revised following discussions at the Corporate Management Team meeting and concerns raised at the Overview and Scrutiny Board’s Finance and Budget Working Group meeting held on 11th February. The Executive Director, Finance and Resources confirmed that she had also discussed the matter with the External Auditors. The concerns had been around the reduction of balances to below the level agreed by Members. Following the discussions it had been agreed that £150k would be released from reserves which would offset the £150k in respect of the costs for the work being carried out by Mott McDonald. This reserve was in respect of economic regeneration funds and as there was already £20m potential borrowing available which could be used for this purpose, it was felt that it was prudent to release the £150k from reserves. In addition a further £300k was to be released from reserves over the period 2020/21 –2021/22
Councillor B. Cooper, Portfolio Holder for Finance took the opportunity to thank the Executive Director, Finance and Resources and her team for their hard work in producing the four year plan. However, he reminded Cabinet that it needed to be aware of the Council’s position going forward and the importance of taking action to address the problems looming in future years. He also raised concerns and the importance of resolving the issues in respect of County Highways, which were impacting on the Council’s financial position in a number of ways, lack of income from planning applications, New Homes Bonus monies, Council Tax income and the cost of the work being carried out by Mott McDonald.
Members reiterated Councillor Cooper’s concern and the urgent need to restore confidence in the work of County Highways.
(a) that the Unavoidable costs as attached at Appendix1 be approved:
(b) that the Revenue Bids as attached at Appendix 2 be approved:
(c) that the Identified savings as attached at Appendix 3 be approved:
(d) that the Capital Programme bids as attached at Appendix 4 be approved:
(e) that the approval of the Pay Policy Statement as attached in Appendix 6 be approved;
(f) that the Council Tax Resolutions as attached at Appendix 7 to include the increase of the Council Tax per Band D @ 2.99% be approved; and
(g) that the release from reserves of £150k to fund Mott Macdonald in 2019/20 only be approved.