Report of the Cabinet Member for Finance on the draft Budget estimates for 2020/21, revenue and capital, for both the General Fund and the Housing Revenue Account and provides the details that have been included in the budget proposals
Considered the budget proposals for 2020/21 in respect of :
· General Fund – Revenue and Capital
· Housing Revenue Account – Revenue and Capital
Approved consultation in respect of proposed Council Tax levels for 2020/21 for the period 22 January – 14 February 2020
Reasons for decision:
1. The report of the Cabinet Member for Finance on budget proposals for 2020/21 and indicative budgets for 2021/22 and 2022/23 giving details of the draft budget estimates for 2020/21, revenue and capital for both the General Fund and the Housing Revenue Account.
2. The budget proposals detailed in the report were formulated by the Cabinet working closely with Members, senior officers and the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee with the objective to realign resources and spending plans to ensure that the key priorities and aspirations of the Council could be delivered.
3. Recommendations made by the Budget Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 14 January 2020.
4. General Fund – Revenue
· The provisional Finance Settlement for 2020/21 outlined that funding would continue at 2019/20 levels for the rural services delivery grant. The Council was expected to receive £295k for 2020/2021 only
· The anticipated changes to local government funding that could adversely affect some Councils as a result of the finance distribution, had been deferred a year thereby giving a relatively stable financial year (2020/21) before the April 2021 implementation. This had given the Council a further year to realign its resources in the context of reduced funding
· Due to the change in funding arrangements, the Council was planning to be self-sustainable by 2025
5. Council Tax
· Indicative income from Council Tax based on proposals which would be
subject to public consultation from 22 January to 14 February: a £5 increase on a Band D property, a 3% increase on a Band D property or no increase
· The budget proposals were compiled on the assumption that the Cabinet
would wish to recommend a £5 increase on a Band D property in 2020/21
6. Fees and charges
· Draft fees and charges proposals for 2020/21 as set out in Appendix E to the report.
· The report highlighted which charges were statutory and which were discretionary
7. Housing Revenue Account
· Draft proposals for the Housing Revenue Account (HRA)
· Proposals drafted in line with refreshed Housing Strategy to ensure current needs and priorities are reflected
· The overall position as set out at Appendix A(ii) of the report of the Cabinet Member for Finance
· The rent increase is proposed at 2.7% and garage rents are proposed to increase in line with inflation at 3%
8. Capital programme (General Fund and Housing Revenue Account)
· The detailed Capital Programme attached to the report at Appendix C
(General Fund) and (HRA)
· The Council’s ambitions of growth and investment, including the provision of quality leisure services
· The Council is committed to growing the local economy for the benefit of all residents in the district by supporting private sector activity and has various routes to do this, including Gravitas, the Council’s housing-focussed company and via direct investment
· The Capital Strategy over the medium-term, which would focus on the delivery of the growth ambition as set out in the Corporate Strategy and to support the delivery of the enhanced leisure offer across the district
· The Capital Programme includes investment in infrastructure that is vital to maintaining the delivery of quality services such as replacement of vehicles, maintenance of assets and ICT investment
· Ambitions through the HRA Capital Programme to deliver a social housing building programme of £52.6m over a 3 year period, focussed on the continuation of the new build and stock acquisition programme and the objectives of the HRA Business Plan
· The Housing Investment Programme would continue to deliver investment into the housing stock through a range of programmes including kitchen and bathroom replacement, re-roofing and external wall insulation
9. Reserves and balances
· Details of the reserves, used to meet known or predicted liabilities
· The forecast balances and the proposed movements over the next three-year period shown in Appendix D to the report and the main forecast movements for 2020/21 set out within the body of the report (both General Fund and HRA)
· Proposed movement of reserves as set out in Tables 14 (General Fund) and 15 (HRA) of the report
Other options considered and rejected:
The Cabinet Member for Finance presented the draft budget proposals for 2020/21 prior to stakeholder consultation being launched. He explained that the Budget Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee had considered the draft proposals at its 14 January meeting. In its Corporate Strategy, the Council aimed to be self-sustainable by 2025 and the budget strategy was underpinned by this ambition. The budget did not rely on General balances, reserves or New Homes Bonus receipts to fund the delivery of services. This approach placed the Council in a positive place to deal with the funding challenges that lay ahead. With regard to the finance settlement, funding levels would remain the same as this year. He referred to the key budget proposals as follows :-
· Savings from the development of the Customer Experience Strategy
· Reduction in grounds maintenance costs following transfer of the service to an arm’s length company (Environment SK)
· Additional responsibility for taking on grass verge cutting in and around Grantham which would be met by the Grantham taxpayer through the Special Expense Area
· Corporate Management savings
· Savings from the process automation programme
· Procurement savings
· Bringing together grants - reduce the Ward Member Scheme to £500 per Member and reduction of the Community Fund
It was noted that the Council tax consultation would focus on three options: an increase of £5, 3 percent or no increase. The Leader added that the budget proposals were positive and the consultation would be live from 22 January to 14 February 2020.
A non-Cabinet Member stated that the Labour group would be putting forward budget amendments as part of the budget consultation process.
The Leader expressed disappointment at the timing of this input from the Labour group, as he felt all Members had been involved in the budget process for the past few months and there had been opportunities to discuss and put forward different proposals at each stage.
The non-Cabinet Member explained that some issues had come up since previous discussions and they weren’t identified until the budget was presented at this stage. The Member referred to the cutting of the grass verges which may be aesthetically pleasing but she felt having the grass grow was good for biodiversity and this tied in with the work of the Climate Change Task Group. She also mentioned that appropriate land needed to be allocated for travellers.
A Cabinet Member defended the funding for cutting the Grantham verges and advised that more complaints were received last year on having long grass verges than anything else and he had worked with the Cabinet Member for Finance to solve this public concern. He felt it did not negate biodiversity and wildflower planting could be beneficial but the complaints had demonstrated that the people of Grantham preferred to have tidy verges. He advised that the Council was looking at biodiversity through the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee and was hoping to have a Biodiversity Strategy and identify the Council’s needs through that process. He felt that a presentable district was good for growth, visitors and made people feel happier and hopefully it would reduce the number of complaints this summer. The Council would carry out around 14 cuts. It was also noted that Grantham Members had been surveyed on the grass verges issue and the majority were in support of the proposal.
With regard to a travellers’ site, the Leader advised that there was no allocation this year but he would support this in the future when it was needed.
The recommendations in the report were proposed, seconded and AGREED:
1. Considered the budget proposals for 2020/21 in respect of :
· General Fund – Revenue and Capital
· Housing Revenue Account – Revenue and Capital
2. Approved consultation in respect of proposed Council Tax levels for 2020/21 for the period 22 January – 14 February 2020