To consider the Draft General Fund, Housing Revenue Account and Capital Programme Budgets and the Draft Financial Medium Term Plan (report of the Portfolio Holder Finance and the Executive Director Commercialisation enclosed).
Consultation feedback - electric car charging points;
Query - Council tax – below £5 envelope or 3% whichever the greater.
Members were given a presentation from Christine Marshall outlining the budget setting, including the; General Fund, HRA and Capital Programme.
(Cllr McLean entered the chamber at 18:42)
Public consultation ending
Cabinet 13th February
Members were invited to discuss and question the content of the presentation they had received:
It was questioned that if the costs relating to vehicles were taken out of the reserve then that fund could not be used for anything else. Officers responded that the reserve could be used for any purpose at the desire of the council. Members stated that the issue had been raised due to historical difficulties in fund flexibility, with reserves being ring-fenced strictly.
Members stated that from having read the figures, there was a clear habit of failure with the budget and being able spend the budgeted amount. Therefore members wanted assurances from officers that the budget was realistic. Officers suggested that the year’s budget was tighter, therefore it was suggested there was a low risk of underspend. It was stated that the recent partnership with DWP and Welland Homes successes were examples of how things were improving in this regard.
The increase in employee costs was mentioned and it was questioned if this was due to a rise in high skill employees or due to built-in inflation. Officers claimed that the comparable 2017-18 staff costs figures were not as low as originally suggested due to the inclusion of savings values. This had been corrected in the 2018-19 staff costs. The increased costs were due to various factors including inflation, increased pensions, and new service developments.
Members wanted to know why costs caused a deficit to emerge in 19-20. It was suggested that increasing employee costs were what caused the forecast together with reducing government grant support. Officers suggested some resolutions to this, including raising fees and charges. She also suggested that the estimated deficit bottom line was actually not a bad position to be in, because it was not a deficit that was large enough to require large scale action to resolve.
Members expressed that the reliance upon NNDR New Homes Bonus should be reduced. Officers stated that a degree of reliance upon NNDR NHB was acceptable but that it was not a long term solution.
Members expressed concern over the status of Legal Services, wanting to know if officers were convinced they now had a formula which would deliver a better level of service. Officers suggested that although they had no control over Legal Services, levels of service were good and that they were cheaper than buying in.
Members questioned what plans the council had for using its share of business rates surplus from the pilot. Officers suggested that the authority should try to move to investing in more economic developments and that if the pool performed well it would develop a decent share. It ... view the full minutes text for item 28