The Head of Finance and Customer Services gave a presentation which provided an update in respect of the Medium Term Finance Plan 2020/21 to 2023/24. The presentation has been included as an appendix to these minutes. It was explained that this was a work in progress which showed the current position with further work being undertaken over the coming days. The following areas were highlighted:
· Improvements to budget position (including additional New Homes Bonus for one year only and a new Lower Tier Service Grant, again for one year only). It was noted that these grants had not been expected.
· Additional costs which were against the Council’s budget position (the Government had capped the maximum Council Tax percentage increase the Council could make.
· The third slide showed the position in respect of the General Fund Revenue and changes to the budget gap which had taken place. It was highlighted that there was a small use of reserves planned. It was further noted that the Council Tax based had actually shrunk for this year and it was understood this was due to the local Council Tax Reduction Scheme coming into place and Covid-19 driven issues.
· Medium Term Budget Gap currently stood at £79k climbing to £1,153k in 2022/23 and final £1,482 in 2023/24.
· Further detail was provided in respect of the funds planned to be released from reserves and the difference that the Lower Tier Services Grant had made this year. It was noted that the unavoidable pressures included areas such as the lost car parking income due to Covid-19 projected losses from income due to Covid-19. The grants received in respect of Covid-19 had not as yet been factored into the calculations as there continued to be a shortfall from these.
· It was noted that the capital programme was being further revised which would reduce the MRP principal and interest payable. There would also be a reduction in the investment income which was predicated on investing in assets. It was hoped that the market would stabilise over the next 12 months which would hopefully be a safe position for the Council to invest in and receive good value.
· It was noted that there was much work to be done in future year as the gap was significant, this was being worked on at the moment.
· Details were provided in respect of savings being made to date – a significant number of which were from Environmental Services. Other areas continued to review these to see what other savings could be made.
· There were a number of pressures for 2021/22 including the car parking income. It was noted that there was an error in the original business case for Commercial Waste. The service was not underperforming, this was merely a correction.
· There were a number of bids for 2021/22 in respect of ICT support and the Corporate GIS.
Following the presentation the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources commented that the Council was in an excellent position so far taking into consideration that it still had £800k of grants to allocate. It was for Cabinet to decided how this would be used. He thanked officers for bringing the deficit down to a very manageable position. The Leader echoed these comments and thanked officers.
Officers responded to a query in respect of what Polygonisation of BLPUs referred to, it was believed to be in respect of work that was being done in calculating the areas of buildings, but further clarification would be provided outside of the meeting.
The Deputy Leader took the opportunity to highlight the difficulties in preparing a budget let alone in the current circumstances with everyone working remotely and also having to allocate the amount of grants that had been made available and thanked the Head of Finance and Customer Service. It was noted that officers were under an immense amount of pressure and all the work from the team was very much appreciated.
The Chief Executive took the opportunity to thank the Deputy Leader for highlighting this and he reiterated the myriad of grants that the Head of Finance and Customer Services team had had to deal with together with a very challenging audit in this difficult times. Special thanks were given to Kate Goldey, Senior Business Support Accounting Technician who it was noted had gone the extra mile on numerous occasions. He further commented that this was the most difficult time he had known to pull a budget together. This was currently a work in progress but it was hoped that with further work the gaps in years two and three would be reduced, albeit an going piece of work. The Chief Executive also thanked the Head of Finance and Customer Services for stepping up to the role of Section 151 Officer in these difficult and challenging times.
The Leader thanked all those involved and noted the ongoing work that was being done to meet the challenges that everyone was facing and commented that whilst the building was closed the Council certainly was not closed for business, with the productivity levels the highest they had ever been with people working from home.