The Panel are to consider the Draft Revenue Budget 2019/20 and the Medium Term Financial Strategy 2020/21 to 2023/24.
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With the aid of a report by the Head of Resources (a copy of which is appended in the Minute Book) the Draft Revenue Budget 2019/20 and the Medium Term Financial Strategy 2020/21 to 2023/24 was presented to the Panel.
The Head of Resources highlighted the key aspects of the budget and in doing so informed the Panel that there are pending developments regarding government funding (revenue support grant, new homes bonus, business rates). In addition, the Council will have a surplus budget in 2019/20 meaning that a contribution is made to the surplus fund in order to cover deficits in following years.
A Member expressed concern that the Council would overspend the budgets for Leisure and Health and Operations as happened in 2018/19. However, it was confirmed that the issue with the 2018/19 budgets for those areas was that income was not as high as anticipated and therefore the income target has been revised to reflect this.
A question was raised as to whether leaving the European Union (EU) had been factored into the budget. The Panel was informed that the budget has been managed as much as possible to reflect the impact that leaving the EU would have, however there are still a number of unknowns which can only be dealt with once they happen.
Reassurance was given, following a query, that the fact that additional employee costs have been budgeted for, this would not predetermine any employee pay negotiations.
Support was expressed for the continuance of the Commercial Investment Strategy, although some Members stated a preference for greater investment within the District’s boundaries. The Executive Councillor for Resources explained that the Council should not limit investment to within the boundary of the District.
Following a question on why not many purchases have been made, the Executive Councillor stated that the strategy requires a yield close to 6% and that there are not many commercial properties that would produce that yield.
It was explained to Members that the New Homes Bonus would move into Commercial Investment Fund. Following a question as to why it wouldn’t be used to mitigate other budget issues, the Panel was informed it was due to unpredictability over New Homes Bonus.
Regarding the most challenging savings proposals, the Executive Councillor stated that the income growth proposals are most challenging and the Council are not certain how the public will react to them.
In response to concerns expressed about the litter bin removal programme, Members were informed that the programme is about finding efficiencies and removing bins that are rarely used.
Concern was expressed that residents would have to pay for a number of additional bin charges, however it was explained that the increases for the green bin only relates to residents who have a second green bin. The replacement bin charge does not cover the full economic cost of replacing a bin and the service will still be subsidised. The bulky waste charge is currently a subsidised service and with the charge will no longer be subsidised.
The Panel was reassured that, although the budget for the apprenticeship scheme will be removed, the Council will continue to invest in the workforce by concentrating on upskilling or reskilling existing members of staff.
Following a query, the Executive Councillor explained that postage and printing savings on Members’ post will be encouraged as savings could be made.
In summary, the Panel agreed that Overview and Scrutiny Members need to closely scrutinise quarterly update reports to ensure that savings targets are being met. The Panel expressed concerns over unknown variables but recognised that limited action could be taken at this stage. The budget was supported by the Panel.
(At 7.08pm, during the consideration of this item, Councillor L A Besley entered the meeting.)
(At 8.23pm, the Chairman of the Panel adjourned the meeting for a break.)
(At 8.29pm, the meeting resumed.)