Report of the Cabinet Members for Finance and Housing to approve the Budget proposals in respect of:
· Appendix A– Revenue summary – General Fund (GF) & Housing Revenue Account (HRA)
· Appendix B – Capacity Bids – GF
· Appendix C – Saving proposals - GF
· Appendix D – Capital Programme and financing – GF and HRA
· Appendix E – Reserves – GF and HRA
· Appendix F – Fees & Charges
· Appendix G - Treasury Management Strategy
· Appendix H – Capital Strategy
· Appendix I – Property Investment Policy
· Appendix J - Equality Impact Analysis
· Appendix K – Part B Council Tax Resolution
It was proposed, seconded, and on being put to the vote, agreed, for this item only, to suspend Article 4.11.4 of the Council’s Constitution, which limited the amount of time for which Members could speak to five minutes, and instead allowing them to speak for up to ten minutes.
The Cabinet Member for Finance introduced the ‘Budget 2019/20: a district that works for everyone, delivering opportunity’ and proposed the recommendations within the report. In making his proposition he stated that the proposed Budget supported the Council’s ambition and promise to residents to make the district a better place to live, work and invest. He reminded Members that the Council was legally required to set a balanced budget; he added that the proposals before Members had been robustly scrutinised by the Budget Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
The Cabinet Member for Finance explained that the Council’s reserves were higher than a large number of authorities and that the Budget proposed using a proportion of them to support the Council’s growth ambitions and projects designed to create assets and increase income for the future. The Budget included funding for the acquisition, facilitation and development of strategic sites that brought the Council opportunities to achieve returns through a balanced portfolio. Provision had been made in the Budget for funding to support InvestSK and EnvironmentSK.
Members were advised that 2019/20 was the final year of a four-year settlement with government and the final year of the Council being able to increase Council Tax by £5 on a Band D property. Council Tax proposals had been subject to public consultation earlier in January/February 2019, when 53.3% of respondents supported an increase. The Cabinet Member for Finance added that the Council needed to continue to work hard to find efficiencies and savings to offset reduced Government support from 2020/21. Reference was made to proposals for fees and charges as well as a 1% decrease in housing rents.
The Cabinet Member concluded his proposition by stating that the Budget would also allow delivery of existing priorities, including the cinema and the public realm project. He stated that the Budget was designed to strike a balance between the financial challenges that the Council would face and taking steps to meet those challenges.
In seconding the proposition, the Leader of the Council referred to the design of the Budget which focussed on delivery and ensuring people had the chance to benefit from the new opportunities that the Council was helping to create. He spoke about the progress the Council had made in achieving its aims, which were supported by the adoption of a new Corporate Plan that focussed on resource, capacity and capability. He spoke about the work InvestSK had been undertaking with a range of partners and stakeholders across the district and the imminent launch of DeliverSK. He spoke of a desire to design and commission the best, most competitive services for communities across the district and referred to some specific projects, including the Big Clean
The Leader spoke about creating an organisation that was as efficient and agile as possible to reduce the burden placed on the public purse. He referred to transformation programmes that were underway and the introduction of new technologies like intelligent automation and predictive analytics.
He concluded by referring to his Portfolio and what the Council Tax increase of £5 on a Band D property would help to deliver and how it would help design new services around communities’ needs to ensure that they were clean, safe places where people were proud to live. He added that the Budget would give the Council the means to realise the growing ambition that existed across the district.
One Member, who spoke against the Budget proposals referred to savings proposals for 2018/19 that had not been achieved. Reference was also made to occasions in-year when Members were asked to make revisions to the approved Budget.
Support was expressed for programmes that would see the development of additional Council housing.
A number of Members referred to investment proposals, with some concerns being raised about the achievability of using the full £10m allocation, and the use of borrowing to fund the allocation.
Members referred to the use of reserves and questions raised during the Budget-setting process about its sustainability. One Member expressed support for the use of reserves as he did not consider it appropriate for the Council to increase Council Tax and bank what had not been spent. Reference was also made to questions that had been asked in relation to investment income and whether any income could be anticipated from the cinema in 2019/20. In response to the question, Members were advised that no income would be received from the cinema during 2019/20 to give it the chance to become established.
One Member spoke about the impact of delays associated with Universal Credit on local Foodbanks and the increased demand they had faced in 2018/19. An amendment was proposed that £10,000 be set aside from reserves to support Grantham Foodbank. The seconder agreed to support the amendment on the basis that the amount was increased to £15,000 to support Foodbanks across the district. The proposer agreed.
During brief debate on the amendment, support was expressed for the work of the Foodbanks. Reference was also made to a recent issue regarding the disposal of waste from the Grantham Foodbank and measures that had been put in place to resolve the problems that were being experienced.
A vote was taken on the proposal, proposed by Councillor Morgan and seconded by Councillor Matthew Lee:
“To amend recommendation 1 to increase the Budget requirement to £14.706m to reflect the creation of a £15,000 budget for Foodbank support across South Kesteven. This budget to be funded from the Local Priorities Reserve.”
The vote was carried and the amendment became part of the substantive motion.
One Member referred to a letter he had received as the Chairman of the Rural Overview and Scrutiny Committee. He read excerpts from the letter and appealed to Members to remember the largely rural nature of the district and the residents that lived in those rural areas. He outlined how residents in rural areas felt that there was a disparity between them and residents living in the district’s towns. Some Members highlighted programmes from which rural areas had benefitted.
Comments were made in support of the proposals within the Budget, with the suggestion being made that if there were aspects with which opposition Members were not happy, they could present an alternative Budget. Several Opposition Group Leaders explained why they had chosen not to put forward an opposition Budget.
Several Cabinet Members spoke about projects and activity that fell within their Portfolios that were being supported through the Budget proposals, these included:
· The Property Investment Policy, which would give the Council the opportunity to make purchases during the year
· Improvements that would be made to the Council’s website and the intranet, with consideration being given to the creation of an app
· Investment in IT equipment to support Council staff
· Treating assets commercially to achieve a return
· Service level reviews and using modern technology
· Investment in the visitor economy programme
· The introduction of a new market in Market Deeping
· No increases to car parking charges or penalty charge notices
· No increase in market fees
· The new cinema in Grantham, which had been handed over to the operator earlier in the day
· Provision of university-level education as part of the cinema development project
· The commitment to meet decent homes standards and tackle fuel poverty
· An allocation to invest in social properties
Reference was made to the changes that had been made to the 2018/19 Budget in-year. Several Members who spoke stated that it was important for the Council to be flexible and make adjustments to react to any situations that arose and take advantage of opportunities.
The proposer was given an opportunity to sum-up and in so-doing he reiterated how the Budget would support growth and the local economy of South Kesteven.
A recorded vote was taken in respect of the proposals relating to the General Fund:
For: Councillors Adams, Ashwell, Mrs. Bosworth, Broughton, Mrs. Cartwright, Chivers, K. Cooke, Dilks, Dobson, Exton, Forman, Goral, Jeal, King, Kingman, Lee, Manterfield, Morgan, Neilson, Reid, Robins, Russell, Selby, Jacky Smith, Judy Smith, A. Stokes, I. Stokes, Brian Sumner, Taylor, Ward, Westropp, Wood, L. Wootten, R. Wootten (34)
Against: Councillor Baxter (1)
Abstain: Councillors M. Cook, Craft, Cunningham and Sampson (4)
(Both Councillors Mrs Kaberry-Brown and Sarah Stokes had left the meeting prior to the recorded vote and neither returned).
The proposals were carried. A further vote was taken (by show of hands) on the recommendations relating to the Housing Revenue Account, which was carried. The Council therefore AGREED:
1. To set a General Fund budget requirement of £14.706m for 2019/20 detailed at section 4 of the report to Council (inclusive of special expenses and the creation of a £15,000 Budget to support Foodbanks across South Kesteven with the Budget to be funded from the Local Priorities Reserve)
2. To approve a Council Tax increase of £5 (Band D equivalent) for 2019/20
3. To note the indicative base estimates for 2020/21 and 2021/22 as detailed at section 4 of the report to Council
4. Approve the General Fund Capital programme for 2019/20 to 2021/22 and financing statement detailed at section 4 of the report to Council and shown at Appendix D
5. To approve the movements in General Fund Revenue and Capital reserves and balances detailed at section 8 of the report to Council and shown at Appendix E as amended by point 1 (above)
6. To approve the fees and charges detailed at section 4 of the report to Council and shown at Appendix F
7. To approve the Treasury Management Strategy detailed at section 7 of the report to Council and provided at Appendix G
8. To approve the Capital Strategy detailed at section 6 of the report to Council and provided at Appendix H
9. To approve the Property Investment Policy detailed at section 6 of the report to Council and provided at Appendix I
10. To approve Council Tax recommendations as set out in Part B of the report at Appendix K
Housing Revenue Account
11. To approve dwelling rent decreases of 1% in accordance with Government guideline rent providing an average rent of £77.62 (an average rental decrease of £0.81 per a week)
12. To approve an increase in garage rents of 2.5%
13. To approve an average increase of 2.5% in service charges for communal facilities and communal rooms
14. To approve an increase in shared ownership rents by CPI +1% (4%)
15. To approve the Housing Revenue Account budget for the year 2019/20 and indicative years 2020/21 and 2021/22.
16. Approve the Housing Investment programme for 2019/20 to 2021/22 and the Financing statement detailed at section 6 of the report to Council and as shown at Appendix D
17. To approve the movements in HRA revenue and Capital reserves and balances detailed at section 8 of the report to Council and shown at Appendix E.