(Report to follow).
The Head of Financial and Customer Services presented the Medium-Term Financial Plan 2021/22 to 2023/24 and in so doing highlighted the following points for Members’ consideration:
· District Councils could increase Council Tax by a maximum of 2.99 per cent or £5. Officers were proposing that Council Tax should be increased by £5 in Bromsgrove. This would help the Council to have a robust financial position going forward.
· There was a sizeable gap in the budget which was considered a difficult position to start from and had been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainty in respect of grant funding from Central Government.
· There was pressure on the incremental progression which was driven by the increase in pay award at 2.75% instead of the expected 1%.
· Additional pressures, including loss of income from car parking fees, though some of these losses in income from parking had been offset by the financial support provided by Central Government.
· There was a correction to the Business Case in respect of Commercial Waste which had been a result of an increase in costs charged by Severn Trent Water.
· New Revenue bids had been received which were mainly concerned with provision of IT Member Support and Training.
· The Corporate Management Team (CMT) and budget managers had reviewed the Council’s budget and in doing so had identified a number of savings and income opportunities. The cumulative amount of these identified significant savings of £426k.
· A significant grant had been received from the Lower Tiers Services Grant which had not been expected.
· The proposed budget would result in a return of £22,000 to reserves in 2021/22. However, significant gaps remained in 2022/23 and 2023/24. This would result in a substantial amount of work being done in order to address these gaps for future years.
· New Homes Bonus was likely to no longer be available by 2023-4.
· There had been significant capital funding bids for Disabled Facilities Grants in addition to the ‘Green Thread’ bids. However, it was clarified that some of the funding in respect of the electric vehicle charge points was to be funded by using grant funding that had been received.
· Covid-19 and Brexit had impacted on the future financial position of the Council. However, both had been placed on the Risk Register and officers were working on mitigating any risks associated with these.
Following the presentation of the report the Chairman invited the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Enabling to comment, and he explained that it had been a significant piece of work to prepare the budget in such difficult circumstances however, despite this, a balanced budget was still being proposed. He thanked the Head of Finance and Customer Services and his team for their hard work.
Following the presentation, the Board discussed the proposed deferral of the recruitment of two Environmental Services Officer roles which had been presented as part of the Medium-Term Financial Plan. After detailed debate regarding the proposed deferral the following recommendation was proposed by Councillor R. Hunter:
That the two the Environmental Services Officers roles, as outlined in the Medium-Term Finance Plan, be reinstated and not deferred as proposed within the Plan.
On being put to the vote this recommendation was lost.
Members questioned officers in respect of the potential loss of parking revenue in the Town Centre for future years. The Head of Finance and Customer Services reported that it was expected that there would be a decrease in car parking revenue in the first quarter and therefore this had been reflected the core budget.
In response to Members’ questions regarding the Correction to the Disposal Budget on Commercial Waste. It was clarified by the Head of Environmental Services and Housing Property Services that the increase in costs for the disposal of waste were due to the increase in the amount of waste that was being collected in addition to the cost increases charged by Severn Trent Water for the disposal of waste. Members were informed that during the pandemic the Commercial Waste service figures had been slightly distorted but that new customers were still signing up for the service and which would result in a continued increase in income.
During the consideration of this item further clarification was requested in respect of the following:
· Mileage and professional services. Members were informed that the savings in respect of mileage appeared several times within the Plan across various Service Areas and that mileage claims were still being made.
· Fleet Replacement. It was clarified that work had been undertaken in respect of the replacement of the fleet with electric or hybrid vehicles. It was reported that vehicles with these fuel types were considerably more expensive than the current vehicles and further work would be undertaken, and any findings reported back to Members later in 2021.
· Covid-19 Business Grants. Members were informed that the discretionary grants had been reflected within the Plan in addition to the grants received in respect of fees and charges. The process was explained in detail regarding how the grants would be allocated in the future.
RESOLVED to note the report.