Agenda item

Budget, medium term financial plan and capital strategy

Report of Councillor Philip Cowen, Executive Member for Finance & Growth.

 

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Finance and Growth presented the report that sought approval for the Capital and Revenue budget estimates, and the proposed Council Tax and the Financial Medium-Term Plan and Capital Strategy. He added that it was a proposed balanced budget going forward into 2021-2022 which had been a phenomenal achievement for any Council against the backdrop of what had been experienced across the Country during 2020.

 

He explained that within the budget it was proposed there would be an increase of the Council Tax by £4.95 for a band D property, although most people in the District would see a smaller rise.  The draft budget had been set based on principles set out within the report and in most cases front-line services had been enhanced and allowed for projects that would lead to future growth and investment across the District. 

 

Whilst setting the budget, thought had been given to fixed-term temporary staff roles and in particular roles which may need to be continued to support the Council’s priorities.  It had been recognised that in order to continue with the digital programme, that the budget allowed for the two fixed-term posts to move to permanent roles.

 

The Overview and Scrutiny Commission proposed to utilise part of the Government Local Council Tax Scheme (LCTS) one off grant for 2021-22 to create a S13A1c hardship fund for Council Tax to provide exceptional hardship payments (EHP).  The budget included £65,000 that had been set aside to create the hardship fund and work was underway with Anglia Revenues Partnership to determine a policy which was fair and transparent, and targeted the affected working age of LCTS residents (which supports Government intentions) and would be workable to administer.

 

Councillor Hewett congratulated the Executive Member and the Finance team for producing a balanced and exceptional budget in exceptional times.  He appreciated that there would be some residents who may find it difficult to meet the extra 10p per week increase in their Council Tax bills.  He asked how the Council could support those that were most vulnerable at this time.   The Executive Member explained that in the past a Council Tax relief scheme had been supported by Norfolk County Council, but that was would not be the case going forward, and therefore Breckland Council had decided to see what support could be provided.  The issue had been discussed at the Overview and Scrutiny meeting and as a result work was underway with colleagues in Anglia Revenues Partnership to develop a most effective, efficient, and optimum way to support those in need at this time.

 

Councillor Jermy thanked the Executive Member for Finance and Growth for incorporating the recommendation from Overview and Scrutiny into the report.  He went on to say that the financial impact of COVID varied for so many and he particularly liked that the hardship fund would be flexible in its approach.  He noted that the report had stated that efficiency savings would be required in the following years and asked how this would be approached.

 

The Executive Member advised Members that efficiency savings would be required in the coming years.  The Council would continue to look at the Digital journey across all services in order to make services available on the internet more efficient and user friendly which in turn would create further efficiency savings.  In addition, the Worksmart 2020 programme would look to see changes at Elizbeth House, that would allow Officers to work together in a comprehensive and inclusive way and at the same time allowing space to become available to rent out.  He also added that a large proportion of income would be generated from the Commercial Property portfolio and therefore create a maximum return. 

 

Councillor Birt was also pleased to see that the proposal from the Overview and Scrutiny Commission had been included.  He went on to say that he felt public could be confused by the Council Tax and wondered if the information available culminated in that and felt by having the parish precepts included would create a fairer picture. 

 

The Executive Member informed that the chart compared the District Council Tax rates of Local Authorities across Norfolk and was a form that had been completed for many years.  He would ask the Chief Accountant to provide Councillor Birt with additional information on this.

 

Options

1)    That recommendations 1 to 8 above are approved.

2)    That amendments are made before recommendations 1 to 8 above are approved.

3)    That some of the recommendations 1 to 8 are approved.

 

Reasons for Recommendation

To comply with budgetary and policy framework and allow consultation with Members.

 

RESOLVED that CABINET Recommend to FULL COUNCIL:

 

1)    That the Breckland revenue estimates and parish special expenses for 2021-22 and outlined position through to 2024-25 (as set out in Appendix B and E of the report) be approved.

 

2)    That the capital estimates and associated funding for 2020-21 and 2021-22 and outline position through to 2024-25 (as set out in Appendix H of the report) be approved.

 

3)    The fees and charges shown at Appendix D and D2 of the report, for adoption on 1 April 2021 be approved.

 

4)    The Council Tax is set at £98.73 for a Band D property in 2021-22 (a £4.95 per annum increase on 2020-21 levels).

 

5)    The financial Medium Term Plan and associated staffing full time equivalents at Appendix A of the report be approved.

 

6)    The Capital Strategy at Appendix G be approved.

 

7)    To increase the permanent establishment by 2 FTE for 2 Digital roles (front end developer and back end developer) to provide stability and consistency enabling us to deliver our digital roadmap (as detailed in paragraph 1.11 of the report).

 

8)    To set aside £65,000 for a Council Tax (S13A1c) hardship fund for 2021-22 and delegate finalisation of the policy to the Executive Member Finance & Growth and S151 Officer in conjunction with ARP (as detailed in paragraph 1.12 of the report).

 

Supporting documents: