Agenda item

Draft budget, medium term plan and capital strategy 2021-22

Report of Councillor Phil Cowen, Executive Member for Finance and Growth.


The Executive Member for Finance and Growth, Councillor Cowen introduced the proposals for the draft budget in preparation for the budget setting for 2021.


Councillor Birt felt that there was not enough information on the carbon audit in respect of capital investment to meet the climate emergency obligations and had concerns that it would be underfunded.  However, he had been pleased to see that services were being maintained during these uncertain times.


In response, Councillor Cowen stated that the Council was committed to a programme for climate emergency. As far as being underfunded was concerned, a balanced budget was being delivered in unprecedented times and the Council was managing in a way, that not only maintained core services, but enhanced them; in addition to providing extra services for residents and businesses within Breckland.


The Chief Accountant added that when the outcome of the carbon audit and the programme of works became available, the request for funding would come forward along with the budget requirements to be approved as a whole.


Councillor Jermy was disappointed with the removal of the extra Council Tax support scheme that had helped residents in need who could not afford to meet the full annual amount. Over the past year, those eligible had been provided with 100% support but now it was being removed, the support level would return to 9.1.5%. He felt that with the money provided from Government, specifically for those unable to meet council tax payments, there may be an option for the Commission to recommend a hardship fund for those who were having difficulty paying their Council Tax and asked for this option to be explored.


The Chief Accountant stated that a Government grant of just under £137,000 had been received and some of that funding could be set aside for that purpose; however, further discussions would have to be had with the Anglia Revenues Partnership to set a workable policy.


Members supported this request.


Councillor Wickerson raised concerns about the climate change report as it was being presented to Council on 25h February 2021, the same date as the budget approval. and asked if the report could be available to Members beforehand.


Councillor Cowen stated that it remained a significant part of the Council’s aspiration to drive the climate change agenda forward and they were fully committed to supporting it.


The report was otherwise noted and approved; subject to the Executive Member for Finance, in consultation with the Chief Accountant and the Anglia Revenues & Benefits Partnership, to establish a hardship fund using 50% of the available resources and the budget be amended accordingly. 




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