The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources suggested that the papers spoke for themselves, but the areas which need to be considered in more detail were listed on page 82 of the agenda pack.
The Head of Finance and Customer Services that the report highlighted the parameters that would be used for setting the Medium Term Financial Plan and that as referred to everyone was going through a period of great uncertainty. The spending review was likely to be only for one year, clarification on New Homes Bonus was still uncertain and the Fairer Funding Review remained unclear. It was therefore difficult to set a four year plan, however the key objectives would remain the same in order to meet the Council’s Strategic Purposes and maintain balances at £2m. the Council would also try to maximise investments and income opportunities and focus on being commercial. There would be a review of the vacant posts, review of fees and charges, identification of savings and pressures to the budget and a review of reserves. In previous years it was noted that there had been issues with the capital programme, a lot of work had been done on this in the previous year and had continued this year. It was anticipated that at Quarter 2 this would be closer to what had been forecast and this would be reviewed and reduced if necessary as it was not acceptable to keep rolling those forward as it impacted on borrowing and forecasting. Budget Managers would also be encouraged to take ownership of fees and charges and to do a proper review with a business case. It was accepted that this would be difficult this year with the Covid-19 situation, but it would be a work in progress.
The overspend was largely due to the car parking position, which everyone was aware of and it was expected that some of this would be claimed back form Central Government and an application had been put in. The Council had received a Covid-19 support grant of £1.1m and it was confirmed that the pay award had bene agreed at 2.75%. It would be prudent to use a figure of 2% going forward.
The graph at 3.11 of the report showed the gaps that would need to be addressed, although it was confirmed that the Council had sufficient reserves to cover these if necessary. However, budget Managers were being contacted to see whether further efficiency savings could be made and excess budgets removed. Reference was made to those who had been significantly under budget the previous year and look at pushing to reduce the budget or if they were carrying a lot of vacancies to delete those posts. This was not good practice and work was being done at CMT to ensure there was an improvement and the budgeting more accurate.
The Deputy Leader asked about the implication of the current situation on the Council Tax position and the need for support to be put in place. It was accepted that this Council did not carry the full weight of the “loss” but concerns were raised moving forward and whether any projections had been made. The Head of Finance and Customer Services responded that due to the arrangements, the Council only shared a relatively small percentage of any losses. Monies from both Central Government and the Council’s own hardship Grants had been paid out. He was happy to circulate the exact figures outside of the meeting. There was a small drop in the percentage of collection figures at the moment compared to the previous four years, but it was hoped that this would go back up again as people got used to paying in a different way, which had changed in some cases due to the pandemic. Officers were being sympathetic to those residents who were struggling in respect of collections and residents were encouraged to reach out and access the support available.
RESOLVED that Cabinet note the parameters to be used to prepare the 2021/22 budget and the framework for the Medium Term Financial Plan to 2024/25.