To receive a report from the Deputy Chief Executive (S151) presenting to Member’s the updated Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) which covers the period 2022/23 to 2026/27 and options available in order for the Council to set a balanced budget.
The Group had before it, and NOTED, a report * from the Deputy Chief Executive (S151) presenting to Member’s the updated Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) which covered the period 2022/23 to 2026/27 and options available in order for the Council to set a balanced budget.
Before discussing proposed budget savings the Corporate Manager for Finance provided high level detail regarding the Chancellor’s recent budget, this included the following:
· Spending for Government departments would increase by 3.8%, whilst this was better than expected, no detail had been received yet.
· Part of the 3.8% increase would be needed to cover cost inflation linked to the national staff pay award and this was predicted to take up the greater part of that increase.
· Local authorities would be required to retain their current referendum limits of 2% or £5, this would have the effect of capping the Council’s income.
· A number of changes to Business Rate Reliefs were highlighted – but due to current legislation the Council is unable to benefit from them as it is prevented from claiming relief on its own property.
· Whilst the Chancellor’s budget covered a high level 3 year settlement there was no helpful detail yet as to how this would affect local authorities.
The forecasted General Fund shortfall for 2022/2023 was currently £1,072m and was predicted to rise to £1,643m by 2026/2027. A public consultation process had commenced and Members were encouraged to ask their constituents to engage in the process.
Suggested budget savings were presented in Appendix 2 and the Policy Development Group were asked to comment on whether or not they supported those that related to the Economy area or whether they had any alternative saving ideas:
Discussion took place with regard to:
· There was no more ‘low hanging fruit’ to cut, this had already been done in the previous 10 years plus of budget cutting.
· The effect of the pandemic on Council finance was ongoing.
· So much detail was yet to come from central Government.
· Public concern regarding the ‘big numbers’ in relation to Council Tax.
· The number of question marks shown in Appendix 2 in relation to the Economy service areas was noted by the PDG.
· Making sure all available Council owned units were occupied thereby ensuring maximum income.
· The need for the PDG to identify and recommend savings where it could to the Cabinet in order to address the shortfall in the budget.
· The scope of the Economy PDG budget area being limited with its emphasis being more on growth and bringing money in.
· The Council’s retail portfolio was as full as it had ever been.
The Chairman stated that because of the current uncertainties regarding the areas identified in Appendix 2 under the Economy area he did not feel the PDG were able to comment savings options at the current time. He thanked the Deputy Chief Executive (S151) and his team for all that they had done to progress the budget thus far.
Note: * Report previously circulated; copy attached to the signed minutes.