The Executive Councillor for Resources, Councillor J A Gray to present for approval –
v The 2019/20 Budget and the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for 2020/21 – 2023/24;
v The Fees and Charges Schedule for 2019/20;
v The Treasury Management Strategy, the Capital Strategy and the Investment Strategy including the annual prudential indicators and the Flexible Use of Capital Receipts Strategy for 2019/20;
v The Annual Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) Statement 2019/20;
v The formal resolution to determine the Council Tax for 2019/20.
In accordance with Section 30 (2) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, the Council will be required to approve resolutions as to the levels of Council Tax in 2019/20.
In accordance with the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014, the Council will be asked to resolve that a recorded vote be taken on the conclusion of debate on this item.
(Notes: 30 Minutes Presentation
30 Minutes for Questions).
(The reports were considered by the Cabinet at their meeting on 14th February 2019 and it was agreed that they should be recommended to Council for approval).
(Councillor L A Besley entered the meeting at 7.14pm)
In conjunction with a report by the Head of Resources and PowerPoint presentation (copies of which are appended in the Minute Book), the Executive Councillor for Strategic Resources presented to Members the 2019/20 Revenue Budget, the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for the period 2020/21 to 2023/24, the Fees and Charges schedule for 2019/10, the Treasury Management Strategy, the Capital Strategy, the Investment Strategy and the Flexible Use of Capital Receipts Strategy for 2019/20 and other associated matters for the Council’s consideration and approval.
In accordance with Section (30)2 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, the Council also considered proposals for levels of Council Tax in 2019/20 for various parts of the Huntingdonshire district.
In his opening remarks, Councillor Gray paid tribute the Head of Resources and his Team that had worked hard on the detail of producing the final budget and the efforts involved since the start of proceedings in July 2018. He also thanks his fellow Cabinet colleagues for their support and assistance in their particular areas of expertise, as well as effective contributions from the Overview and Scrutiny Panel Members.
Members’ attention was drawn to the highlights of the budget for the forthcoming year, in particular Councillor Gray reported that the budget gap was now £1.2m by 2023/24 but General Fund reserves was maintained at the 15% minimum requirement. It was noted that the Commercial Investment Strategy was contributing to deliver material benefits and there had been an increase of 20% since its approval in 2015, which was largely attributed to the work of Mrs J Golby, Commercial Estates Manager. Other proposals in the budget included an increase in Council Tax of 2.6% that was deemed affordable for everyone.
Attention was drawn to changes in the budget, including investments in tackling homelessness, intervening earlier to tackle prevention and to ensure that the Council was meeting its statutory obligations. Members also noted the further development of the Waste Management service since the fall in the value of recycled goods and look to develop new innovative ways of working. Councillor Gray reported upon the additional income that was likely to be generated from car parking charges with the change in charging structure through additional dwell times in the car parks. Further savings would be generated from the cessation of highways weed spraying; a contract that had been passed onto us from Cambridgeshire County Council but had been costing the Council more than budget had been allocated by the County Council.
The Council had recognised the importance of leisure and health, through investment in Active Lifestyles and the One Leisure brand to ensure there was access for all to keep active and healthy, thereby reducing pressure on other services such as the NHS. Members further noted the review of the apprenticeship scheme, additional income generated through the Commercial Investment Strategy and the increase in insurance premiums as a result of the fire at Eastfield House and other accidents incurred by the Council.
Looking ahead, Councillor Gray explained that net expenditure was expected to increase by £1.5m over the period of the MTFS and the Council had previously made provision and assumed the withdrawal of the Revenue Support Grant by 2019/20 in the budget and its long term objective of being ‘self-financing’, free from Central Government grant during the course of the MTFS. An adjustment had also been made in the budget of £650k each year to account for the Government’s Fair Funding Review that would impact on 1st April 2020 and fundamentally reviewing the basis on which the distribution of Central Government funding would be allocated to local authorities.
In respect of the Commercial Investment Strategy, the Council planned to continue to invest in acquiring commercial estates with expected net revenue to the Council of £3.2m, but it was reported that it would be impacted by reduction in charges of the lease arrangements in respect of the Oak Tree Centre, Huntingdon.
Other significant income sources were expected from planning income and parking income predicted to rise from £1.42m to £1.73m. Further investments were expected through the Capital Programme, with expected financing of £2.25m in Disabled Facilities grants, One Leisure improvements, investment in new industrial units expected to provide a financial return for the Council, but also creating jobs and adding to the economy of the area.
With regard to the Treasury Management Strategy, Councillor Gray reported that the Council would continue to prudent in its approach to investments, using mainly short-term investments that were highly liquid and as a consequence lower risk. Attention was also drawn to the full list of fees and charges and report by the Council’s Responsible Financial Officer (Section 151) detailing the robustness of the 2019/20 budget and MTFS, with adequate levels of reserves to assist Members in making decisions on the budget and level of Council Tax.
Councillor Gray moved the recommendations which were duly seconded by the Executive Leader, Councillor G J Bull.
In response and on behalf of the HDC Independent Group and Leader of the Principal Opposition Group, Councillor T D Sanderson thanked Councillor Gray for his presentation and the support of the Head of Resources and his Team in preparing an alternative budget that had not been supported. In referring to other ideas that had not been progressed, Councillor Sanderson reported that he was keen to investigate extending an invitation to Town and Parish Councils to share treasury management with the District Council and similarly providing a fund for them to bid into helping fund appropriate facilities for young people. He undertook to explore these ideas further in the new financial year.
In commenting upon the reduction in Central Government support and impact on the Council’s budget, Councillor Sanderson expressed his Groups concern for the increase in car parking charges and potential that High Street retailers may suffer as a result of these increases, as well as clarity as to whether agreement had been reached with the Waitrose car parks in St Ives and St Neots, as well as Sainsbury’s in Huntingdon. He further reported upon his disappointment that there was not support for an increase in Council Tax by 3% and concerns for reduction in Customer Services in Ramsey, Yaxley and St Neots, grants through the Community Chest Fund and felt that the income projects may be a little optimistic.
On behalf of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Mrs S J Conboy reported upon her concerns expressed previously over the past four years, but commended the Section 151 Officer and Councillor Gray for their work in producing this budget knowing the uncertainty of Central Government funding and the unpalatability of knowing that Huntingdonshire was the fourth worse funded authority. She outlined her support for the prudent proposition of an increase in Council Tax and also supported Councillor Sanderson’s further options for Town and Parish Councils to be fully investigated and costed. In commending the clarity of the budget presented, Councillor Mrs Conboy expressed support for the proposals that represented a rational and sensitive approach for Huntingdonshire.
Councillor P Kadewere, on behalf of the Labour Group, recognised the hard work of the Council staff but expressed disappointment that the alternative proposals had not resulted in any substantive changes to the budget that had received cross-party support. He indicated his disappointment similarly with the lack of support for a further increase in Council Tax in light of cuts in Central Government funding.
In response to comments raised previously, Councillor Gray encouraged Councillor Sanderson to take forward his suggestions through the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Panel and suggested that those residents who do not have access to a car should not be subsidising those who park in the Council’s car parks.
In relation to a question raised by Councillor B S Chapman on the closure of St Neots Customer Service Centre, Councillor Gray explained that the residents of St Neots would continue to be served by Officers of the District Council and would be better served through alternative channels or home visits.
Councillor D B Dew thanked Councillor Gray for his presentation and referred to the support provided to Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel through the attendance of Executive Councillors, allowing the ability to deal with questions and issues at that time. He welcomed the submission of an alternative budget and explained that there would be the opportunity to take forward issues for discussion through the Overview and Scrutiny process.
Arising from a comment made by Councillor Gray on impact on residents, Councillor S Wakeford suggested that the cumulative impact was likely to affect residents and opportunity costs had not been fully utilised such as the Community Chest funding.
In relation to a question by Councillor J P Morris on the higher net cost of homelessness benefits of £600k, Councillor Gray explained that a prudent approach had been made to this budget but was hoped that it wouldn’t be required as a result of earlier intervention and an increased provision of affordable homes in the District.
Councillor J D Ablewhite commented upon the strong financial position of the Council and the prudence of the authority compared to other authorities, supported through the delivery of the Commercial Investment Strategy.
In concluding the debate, Councillor Bull, Executive Leader, thanked Councillor Gray in his role as Executive Councillor for Resources and personally for his skills, knowledge and expertise, as well as other Cabinet colleagues, Overview and Scrutiny Panel Members and the opposition for the constructive approach to participation in the budget process. Despite the difficulties that the Council faced, Councillor Bull expressed his support for the prudent budget approach and the good financial position to confront the challenges ahead.
It having been previously moved and seconded, upon being put to the vote it was further
a) that the proposed overall Budget 2019/20 and Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2020/21 to 2023/24 (Appendix 1) to include the Revenue Budgets at Section 2, the Capital Programme at Section 3 and the 2019/20 Fees and Charges at Section 7;
b) that an increase of 2.6% Council Tax for 2019/20 be approved, i.e. the Band D Charge will increase to £142.16;
c) that the Council note the Council Tax Base for the whole Council area and individual Towns and Parishes (para 6.2) as approved by the Chairman of the Corporate Governance Committee on the 3 December 2018 (and subsequent publication as a key decision)
The tax base (T) which is the amount anticipated from a District Council Tax of £1 is
d) that the following amounts calculated by the Council for 2019/20 be approved in accordance with the requirements of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 as amended by the Localism Act 2011 (the Act), the Local Government Finance Act 2012 and associated regulations
(i) the aggregate of the amounts which the Council estimates for the items set out in Section 31A(2) (a) to (f) of the Act
Gross revenue expenditure including benefits, Town/Parish Precepts
(ii) the aggregate of the amounts which the Council estimates for the items set out in Section 31A (3) (a) to (d) of the Act
Revenue income including reimbursement of benefits, specific and general grants, use of reserves and any transfers from the collection fund.
(iii) the amount by which the aggregate at (i) above exceeds the aggregate at (ii) above in accordance with Section 31A (4) of the Act
This is the “Council Tax Requirement” including Parish/Town Precepts (item i minus item ii). It is the cash sum to be funded from District, Town and Parish Council Taxes.
(iv) the Council Tax requirement for 2019/20 divided by the tax base (T) in accordance with Section 31B (1) of the Act
District plus average Town/Parish Council Tax (item iii divided by District taxbase)
(v) the aggregate of all “Special Items” referred to in Section 34(1) of the Act.
The total value of Parish/Town precepts included in i and iii above.
(vi) the Basic Amount of Council Tax for 2019/20 being item iv less item v divided by the tax base (T) in accordance with Section 34 (2) of the Act.
The District Council’s Band D Tax for 2019/20
(vii) the basic amounts of Council Tax for 2019/20 for those parts of the District to which one or more special items (Parish/Town precepts) relate in accordance with Section 34 (3) of the Act are shown by adding the Huntingdonshire District Council amount to the appropriate Parish Council amount in column "band D" set out in Table 1 attached.
(viii) the amounts to be taken into account for 2019/20 in respect of categories of dwellings listed in particular valuation bands in accordance with Section 36 (1) of the Act are shown by adding the Huntingdonshire District Council amount to the appropriate Parish Council amount for each of the valuation bands in the columns "bands A to H" set out in Table 1 attached.
e) that the amounts of precept issued to the Council by Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridgeshire Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Fire Authority and for each Parish Council for each of the categories of dwellings listed in different valuation bands in accordance with Section 40 of the Act shown in para 6.3 attached be noted;
f) that, having regard to the calculations above, the Council, in accordance with Section 30 (2) of the Act, hereby sets the figures shown in para 6.4 as the amounts of Council Tax for 2019/20 for each of the categories of dwelling shown. This is the total Council Tax to be collected, incorporating the requirements of all of the relevant bodies, for each town or parish area;
g) that the Council notes that, in accordance with Section 52ZB of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, the basic amount of its Council Tax for 2019/20 is not excessive. The basic amount at b(vi) above is not excessive as defined by the Government;
Tax Base 2019/20
Abbots Ripton 136
Alconbury Weston 292
Barham & Woolley 30
Brington & Molesworth 167
Buckden (inc Diddington) 1,176
Bythorn & Keyston 145
Denton & Caldecote 26
Folksworth & Washingley 350
Great & Little Gidding 127
Great Gransden 449
Great Paxton 366
Great Staughton 328
Hail Weston 247
Hamerton & Steeple Gidding 51
Hemingford Abbots 330
Hemingford Grey 1,280
Houghton & Wyton 777
Kimbolton & Stonely 597
Kings Ripton 84
Leighton Bromswold 79
Little Paxton 1,553
Offord Cluny & Offord D’Arcy 534
Old Hurst 101
Old Weston 98
St Ives 5,985
St Neots 10,980
Southoe & Midloe 154
Stow Longa 70
The Stukeleys 654
Upton & Coppingford 84
Upwood & The Raveleys 433
Water Newton 45
h) that the future savings targets of £1.2m of Net Expenditure by 2023/24 be approved; and
i) that the 2019/20 Treasury Management, Capital and Investment Strategies, MRP Statement and Flexible Use of Capital Receipts Strategy (Appendix 4) be approved.
In accordance with the Local Authorities (Standing Order) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 the following Members voted for, against or abstained from the Motion -
For the Motion – Ablewhite, Alban, Bellamy, Besley, Bull, Butler, Bywater, Clarke, Conboy, Corney, Criswell, Davies, Dew, Dickinson, Fuller, Gaskin, Gray, Grice, Gulson, Humphrey, Keane, Maslen, Masson, McGuire, Mead, Morris, Neish, Palmer, Prentice, Shrapnel, Tavener, Tysoe, Underwood, Wells, West and White.
Against the Motion – Chapman, Diaz, Johnson, Kadewere and Wakeford.
Abstentions – Banks, Cooper-Marsh, D A Giles, S A Giles, Sanderson, Smith and Terry.