To receive a report from the Deputy Chief Executive (S151) considering the initial draft 2019/20 budget and options available in order for the Council to set a balanced budget and agree a future strategy for further budget reductions for 2020/21 onwards.
The Group had before it, and NOTED, a report * from the Deputy Chief Executive (S151) considering the initial draft 2019/20 budget and options available in order for the Council to set a balanced budget and agree a future strategy for further budget reductions for 2020/21 onwards.
The following overview was provided:
· The initial aggregation of all service budgets currently indicated a General Fund budget gap of £661k.
· 2019/20 would be the fourth and final year of a four year fixed funding settlement which would see a further reduction of £179k bringing Revenue Support Grant to nil for 2019/20.
· The provisional settlement for 2019/20 would be due on 5th December.
· Pay estimates had increased nationally and locally having a negative impact on the budget position for next year.
· A prudent assumption had been made with regard to Business Rate retention.
· Other assumptions had included a slight increase in waste and cemetery fees.
· One of the main risks included a change in the calculation of New Homes Bonus (NHB) which was deemed to be more complicated than it had been previously. Although the Council limited the use of New Homes Bonus to support its revenue budget it did use it extensively to fund its capital programme.
Discussion took place regarding:
· The opportunities Members have had, and continue to have, regarding their input into the budget setting process.
· Members were encouraged to come forward as soon as they could with ideas which may have a positive effect upon the budget, for example, doing things in a different way or following the example of other authorities who may be running a service at a lower cost but providing the same level of service to the customer.
· By 2020/21 the Council would need to be financially self-sufficient. Whilst this presented a difficult financial situation, the Council was still finding ways to do things better and still considering partnership working where it could, for example the Devon Audit Partnership and the Joint Building Control Partnership with North Devon. The Chief Executive confirmed that officers would continue to do some research in this regard, bringing any tentative suggestions to the Cabinet. If these initial ideas were well received then further investigations and research would be undertaken and a detailed proposal brought back to the Cabinet via the Policy Development Group. At all stages Members would be involved in the decisions taken.
· It was stated that whilst these were challenging financial times, they did also present the Council with opportunities to look at doing things differently. It was not necessary to always look upon the financial future negatively.
The following information was requested to be provided to the Group:
· An explanation as to why there was nothing in the budget, under the budget code for PR420, entitled ‘Tiverton Town Centre Regeneration Project’. However, it was explained that the reason for this may be due to the fact that the budget for this might be placed under property and assets and the upgrade of property, that is, the budget for this was under a different heading.