Agenda item

Draft Budget, Financial Medium Term Plan and Capital Strategy (Agenda item 9)

Report of Ellen Jolly, Executive Member for Finance & Democratic Services.

Minutes:

The Chairman presented the draft Revenue and Capital budget and Medium Term Plan which the Cabinet was being asked to approve so that the authority could release the papers for consultation.

 

The report set out the assumptions and strategies in delivering the Council’s services over the medium term, whilst recognising the impact that continuing Government cutbacks in local government funding was having on local authorities finances.  Breckland Council had been able to use the savings and efficiencies achieved over the last two years to balance the budget over the next two years.  However, between 2016 and 2019 there would be real challenges ahead to continue to deliver a balanced budget as a significant budget gap would grow if further steps were not taken to address the situation.  The graph on page 34 of the report highlighted what was being called the “Jaws of Doom” and displayed the gap between income and the costs of services.  However, Members and Officers were working on an innovative and comprehensive programme of savings and efficiencies for delivery in the short term to address the emerging funding shortfall.  Longer term, a more fundamental transformation programme would be required as the funding gap would grow to £2.6m without intervention.  It was envisaged that some of the plans to begin addressing these issues would be incorporated into the budget and Medium Term Financial Plan when it came before Cabinet again in the New Year, where Members would be considering the plan again before formally asking Full Council’s approval.

 

The Assistant Director of Finance pointed out that this initial draft budget, if approved, would be put out to consultation on the website where hopefully comments would be received from council tax payers, business rate payers and key stakeholders.  The same report would also be discussed at the forthcoming Audit Committee meeting.  The Chairman had already covered the main key areas but he assured Members that as far as the “Jaws of Doom” were concerned, Breckland Council was not alone as the budget situation across many other authorities was very similar.   It was noted that the forecast grant funding figures would be available following the Autumn Statement announcement.  As far as settlement dates were concerned, the settlement announcement was not expected to be released until 18 December 2013.  The budget would not be approved until the February meetings of Cabinet and Council.

 

The Assistant Director of Finance then went through the report covering the overall revenue budget position, the capital budget, risks and the sensitivities of major variables.  The indicative tax figures on page 44 of Appendix C of the report would be affirmed in January 2014.

 

In response to the Opposition Leader’s question in relation to an authority using its NHB monies to generate their town centres, and whether Breckland Council would be following suit, the Chairman reminded Members of the Local Asset Backed Vehicle (LABV) process that for a local authority was quite innovative.

 

The Overview & Scrutiny Commission Chairman said that he had been having discussions with the Executive Member for Finance & Democratic Services about having wider Member involvement in the budget process and engaging with the Task & Finish Group in how this budget was going to be shaped.  Further to this, in relation to the revenue support grant, which in his opinion was dropping like a proverbial stone, Members were informed  that this would be a piece of work that would be taken forward to the Overview & Scrutiny Commission.

 

The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development highlighted the fact that the Drainage Board might have to adopt more river and felt that this could have a knock on effect on the drainage board levies (page 29 of the agenda).  The Assistant Director of Finance said that he was not aware of this but agreed that this would undoubtedly put more pressure on the levy. Councillor Bambridge, who was also a member of the Internal Drainage Board, said that he had specifically asked this question at the IDBs last meeting and was told that this would not have an immediate effect as the IDB would only be taking over an extra 20% of river at the moment.

 

The Chief Executive was pleased that Breckland Council had a balanced budget for 2015/16 - this was not the case for South Holland District Council. The Council needed to be concentrating on savings to bridge the future gap otherwise this authority would reach a stage where it was actually at the ‘bone’.  He felt that a different organisation was needed and from February 2014 onwards, the whole Transformation Programme would be re-visited. Transformation was not about budget savings it was about describing what Councillors wanted in the future, in other words, what they would like the Council to look like in a few years time.

 

Options

 

No alternative options presented; however, amendments could be made before release for consultation.

 

Reasons

 

To comply with the budgetary and policy framework.

 

RESOLVED that the draft Capital and Revenue budget estimates, the financial Medium Term Plan and the Capital Strategy be released for consultation.

Supporting documents: