Issue - meetings

Budget, medium term financial plan and capital strategy

Meeting: 25/02/2021 - Council (Item 23)

23 Budget, medium term financial plan and capital strategy (Agenda item 9) pdf icon PDF 119 KB

Report of Councillor Philip Cowen, Executive Member Finance and Growth.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Cowen, the Executive Member for Finance & Growth presented the report.

Budget setting was a balancing process that juggled variables to deliver a set of outcomes that were designed to deliver best value services and programmes for residents and businesses alike for the year ahead and, where possible, projecting into the future.  Twelve months ago, that was the task for this Council, but little did we know then, how the lives of millions of people around the world would be changed in such a dramatic fashion.

Gathered again in 2021, albeit in a virtual world, to undertake the same, and moreover having had to reset the agreed budget in the autumn to reflect the changed circumstances as a consequence of the pandemic. Team Breckland had worked tirelessly throughout the past year to deliver services, support residents and businesses and in circumstances that none would have believed possible.

The budget setting process this year, as ever, had been challenged at ‘star chambers’, debated at Cabinet and scrutinised by the Overview and Scrutiny Commission and now at Full Council. As a result of the various stages that had preceded this meeting, many Members had already seen the content, discussed the various merits of the details contained therein and would be familiar with the report.

The process this year had adopted the same overarching principles as in previous years:

·        Assessing income streams

·        Analysing costs

·        Factoring in government funding

·        Reviewing efficiency options

·        Exploring new challenges

·        Projecting new programmes

However, this time these processes had to be undertaken against the backdrop of the fallout from the pandemic.

Councillor Cowen was pleased to announce with enormous pride that Team Breckland had produced a balanced budget for the year 2021-2022. This achievement had been made without the need for a reduction in the establishment or a dilution in services.  In fact, the reverse, this budget would protect frontline services from cuts, a number of services would be enhanced, an improved waste service, the recruitment of new officers focused on fly tipping, business support, Covid-compliance and support and animal welfare.

The Council had honoured its commitments to its climate change programme and had broadened and enhanced the vulnerability programmes.

In being able to achieve all the above, the Council had utilised some reserves to underpin the budget proposals but without the prudent fiscal management over the past decade this would not have been possible.

This was a balanced budget for the year ahead and in order to maintain service provision, place the district in a place where it could build back stronger and maintain reserves, an increase to the Band D Council tax by £4.95 per annum to £98.73 was being proposed. This would mean that Breckland residents in a Band D property would pay £1.90 per week for the District Council tax but as 75% of residents were in bands A-C their Council Tax would be less.

Budget preparation, at the best of times, was a complex process and this year had brought with it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23


Meeting: 01/02/2021 - Cabinet (Item 25)

25 Budget, medium term financial plan and capital strategy

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

 

Additional documents:

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  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25