Report from the Cabinet Member for Finance.
The Cabinet Member for Finance presented his report which informed members of the outturn position at the end of 2018/19. He drew Members’ attention to the revised version of the covering report, which had been circulated after the publication of the agenda pack. Members noted that the only change was an amendment to the text at paragraph 4.1.
The report included in-year changes to the budget framework, the total costs of provision of service for each directorate, narrative on variances between the budgeted and outturn positions, carry forwards where the budget had not been fully utilised, the HRA position which showed a reduced surplus for 2018/19 and the year end position of the Capital Programme.
Members were given an explanation of accounting adjustments that were made to remove non-cash items form the balance sheet and the impact of valuation of the council’s assets and depreciation.
Table 5 of the report set out by directorate variances of £20,000 and greater against the budgeted position . Members suggested that it would be helpful to include an additional column showing the percentage variance to assist them in determining whether the variance against budgeted levels was significant. Members asked whether the length of the list of variances was normal or whether the volume was exceptional. Members were advised that variances had previously been grouped together, so there would not have been the same level of visibility. Members also noted that the level of variance that was reported was lower than that used by other local authorities. Members were grateful for the increased detail, together with the commentary, and the transparency this brought.
Reference was made to the variance in car parking income and a question raised about the variance associated with One SK. One SK was the Council’s modernisation and transformation programme, moving towards the organisation becoming more agile; it included the rollout of equipment to staff. Unspent funds for 2018/19 associated with the project would be rolled forward into the 2019/20 financial year.
Members’ attention turned to the Capital Programme and the in-year adjustment that had been made to fund the purchase of the Cummins site in Stamford. This purchase had been undertaken utilising temporary internal borrowing. External borrowing would be necessary in the future to replace the displaced funding.
Some concern was expressed about the level of the underspend on disabled facilities grants. Work was underway with colleagues from Lincolnshire County Council to identify the reasons for this, including whether the delays were caused by the lack of occupational therapists’ assessments coming forward. It was hoped that a pilot ‘step up, step down’ project which would support patients coming out of hospital would reduce the level of the balance together with the relaxation of some requirements that would have historically been required to release the funding.
Before members considered the recommendations set out in the report, the committee was given an overview of the carry forwards it was being asked to authorise and changes to the Regeneration Reserve policy to include feasibility work costs in respect of property acquisition and development.
Members were also given an overview of a crowd funding project which had been considered by the Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The Governance and Audit Committee was being asked to set aside £100k to fund a one-off pilot project that enables community projects by providing a platform for community leaders and businesses to fund projects. Spacehive would put a project on their platform and invite interest from the surrounding area that would benefit directly the project. £30k would enable the council to access Spacehive. The remaining £70 could be used by the Council to support any projects. As well as access to their platform, Spacehive bought access to expertise that could be deployed within communities to encourage and promote schemes. The project was designed to complement the Council’s ward member grant scheme and its Community Fund. The Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee was supportive of the principle of the scheme but wanted the opportunity in-year to robustly challenge the programme with the opportunity for the Council to step away from the project at the end of the year if it had not proven successful.
Members asked whether the outturn position of the Councillor Ward grant scheme was available. Information was available on the amount that had been spent and this could be provided to Members. The budget for both the community fund and the Ward Member Grant Scheme had been mainstreamed, which meant that reserve had been closed down.
It was proposed, seconded and AGREED that the Governance and Audit Committee:
1. Approved the Revenue and Capital Outturn report and associated appendices for 2018/19
2. Approved the budget carry forward shown at paragraph 4.5 and reserve movements shown at section 7 of the report of the Cabinet Member for Finance
3. Approved the Capital slippages form the 2018/19 Capital Programme as detailed in the Cabinet Member for Finance’s report and shown in appendices C and E
4. Approved the change of the Regeneration Reserve policy to include financing any feasibility work costs in respect of property acquisition and development