The Council is required to set a balanced budget and agree the level of Council Tax for 2023/24 and this report contains a summary of the proposals that have been considered for inclusion. The proposals were considered and scrutinised in detail by the Budget Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 9 January 2023. The budget proposals were considered by Cabinet on 10 January and 7 February 2023 and the final proposals are included in this report.
The Chairman of the Council introduced a report containing Budget Proposals for 2023/2024 and indicative budgets for 2024/2025 and 2025/2026. The Council was required to set a balanced budget and agree the level of Council Tax for 2023/2024.
The proposals within the report had first been considered and scrutinised by the Budget Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 9 January 2023, before being debated at Cabinet meetings held on 10 January and 7 February 2023.
Members were informed that recommendations 1-10 were subjected to a recorded vote, under 15.6 of the Council Procedure Rules, contained within Part 4 of the Constitution.
It was moved that Council Procedure Rule 14.4 be suspended to allow the mover of the Budget item to speak for ten minutes when introducing the report, rather than five. After brief discussion and with the permission of the mover, the motion was changed to allow the Leader of the Opposition to also have ten minutes to speak on the item. This was duly seconded, and following a vote and the achievement of a two-thirds majority of those members present, it was AGREED to suspend Council Procedure Rule 14.4.
The Deputy Leader of the Council highlighted the following information within the report:
· A £5 Council Tax increase for an average Band D property was proposed, which equated to 9.6p per week. Of the total Council Tax bill for 2023/24 South Kesteven District Council’s share would be less than 9%.
· The increase for households in Bands A, B and C would be less than £5, with 70% of properties in the District in this category. This represented 6.4p extra per week for a property in Band A - while those in Bands E, F, G and H would see an average increase of between £5 - £10.
· South Kesteven received around 9% of the total Council Tax bill, helping to provide Council services across the District.
· Consultation on the draft proposals was carried out from January 16th to the 30th 2023. Of the 264 people who responded to the consultation, 28% either agreed or strongly agreed to a £5 increase; 11% neither agreed or disagreed; and 61% disagreed or strongly disagreed. Postcode analysis confirms a significant response from the PE6 area in the Deepings, which represented 45% of all responses.
· The 2023/24 budget proposals had been prepared in the context of significant external events placing a detrimental impact on the Council’s financial outlook with inflation, increasing energy prices and employee pay all adding significant cost for the current financial year and beyond.
· Savings included £100,000 from the Street Scene service review and £400,000 in the reduction of running costs by moving the Council offices from St Peter’s Hill. There was also a £200,000 increase in income from the chargeable services the Council provided. In addition, higher interest rates meant an expected better return on investments.
· LeisureSK Ltd required financial support of £500,000 plus staffing costs for 2023/24, all of which related to the uplift in utility costs which could not be offset by income generation. Overall, the total financial impact of the increase in utility prices meant the Council faceda bill of almost £1,300,000 - up around £300,000 on the current year.
· Cost of living pressures had the potential to increase demand for the Council’s services from those who relied on the support provided by local government.
· Unforeseen and unavoidable pressures had seriously impacted the assumptions that underpinned the Medium-Term Financial Plan and the financial position remained uncertain at a national level, as demonstrated by the Office for Budget Responsibility’s economic financial outlook. The proposed short-term solution to these events was to utilise the Budget Stabilisation Reserve for one year only in order to achieve a balanced position for 2023/24. The reserve was created to counter short-term budget pressures arising from financial volatility in the General Fund, either from unforeseen expenditure or reductions in budgeted income projections. The balance at March 31st 2023 was forecasted at £2.904m. £1.534m of this reserve was projected to be utilised in order to achieve a balanced budget for 2023/24.
· The General Fund showed a balanced position for 2023/24 after using reserves, but an unbalanced position for the following years based on current financial forecasts. This issue would be a primary focus for the Council in the coming months.
· The two key elements of the Housing Revenue Account were the rent setting proposals and building in budgets to meet the ongoing compliance requirements of maintaining and investing in the Housing stock.
· The Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget proposals focused on:
o Helping to meet the housing needs of tenants
o Facilitating the delivery of new housing across a range of tenures
o Enabling those whose independence may be at risk to access housing (including their current home) that met their needs
o Encouraging, supporting and regulating the private rental sector to provide well managed, safe homes
o Supporting investment in homes for affordable warmth for tenants
o Meeting compliance requirements and ensuring resources were allocated
o The rental income budgets are set in accordance with the Government’s rent setting guidance formula which has been approved as 7% for 2023/24.
· Further investment in the service to tenants totalled over £1.3m and was met in part from the proposal to increase rents by 7%. Whilst this followed Government guidance and was still lower than inflation, the increase was necessary to ensure that ongoing expenditure pressures could be met from the income the HRA received via rents.
· Approximately 60% of tenants received some level of welfare support through Universal Credit or Housing Benefit; benefit support had increased by over 10% which would enable the rent increase to be met.
· Broadly discretionary charges had increased in line with inflation and were on a cost recovery basis.
· The General Fund contained several projects that were funded by Government grants including the Future High Street Fund, Heritage Action Zone, Disabled Facilities Grants and the recently allocated share of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
· The capital programme contained key investments to support services and included fleet replacement, asset maintenance and investment in Future High Streets and the Heritage Action Zone.
· The HRA capital programme focused on investment in Housing stock; the programme was driven using the knowledge and information received by a recently completed stock condition survey. This included focusing on energy efficiency investment, ensuring ongoing investment in compliance works and scheduled improvements such as replacements of kitchens and bathrooms, replacement roofing and installation of secure and efficient doors and windows. The programme also contained financial commitments to invest in the new-build programme and to put in place funding to deliver schemes at Swinegate, Grantham; Elizabeth Road, Stamford with further schemes currently in development.
· The 2023/24 Treasury Management Strategy which was considered by Governance and Audit Committee on January 30th 2023 was contained within the report, with the committee’s recommendation that Council approves this.
· The Council awaited the outcome of a bid to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in respect of funding in order to deliver energy efficiency measures to 333 homes located across the District. The total scheme costs were £7.2m and a grant funding contribution of £3.4m had been applied for. The project was included in the proposed HRA capital programme and, should the external grant application not be successful, the Council would need to fund the entire scheme from internal resources.
The Deputy Leader of the Council proposed the recommendations contained within the report.
The motion was seconded.
The following points were raised during debate:
· The Chief Finance Officer and his team, and members who had helped shape the Budget were thanked for their input and work in creating the report before members.
· One member made reference to the targeting of five main priorities to support the Council’s ambitions and investment plans. These priorities, and examples of work given under each priority were:
o Growth and the Economy - Grantham would see an allocation of over £6 million in funding to improve its High Street. The wider district would be able to seek funding from the £3.9 million available through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the £540,460 from the rural areas equivalent.
o Housing to Meet the Needs of all Residents - Council homes had been built at Kinoulton Court and Earlesfield Lane in Grantham, Meadow Close in Bourne and Trinity Road in Stamford.
o Clean and Sustainable Environment - £1.2m had been secured to deliver energy efficiency upgrades to targeted homes. Energy efficiency upgrades were being carried out on over 150 Council properties through Green Homes grants. In addition, the move to the Picture House offices resulted in a reduction in the Council’s carbon footprint, particularly when coupled with a hybrid working approach from Council staff which led to fewer car journeys into the office.
o Healthy and Strong Communities - continued improvement of parks and open spaces, along with working closely with partners in the voluntary, private and public sectors.
o High Performing Council - in 2020 the Council self-referred its housing service to the Social Housing Regulator in response to the findings of an in-depth audit commissioned by the Cabinet Members and the Chief Executive. The Council had implemented new systems and processes to ensure repairs and inspections were managed more effectively, commissioned a comprehensive survey of housing stock, and ensured that the right team was in place.
· Whilst this was a balanced Budget, it did rely on reserves to an extent and this situation could not be repeated in the following years. Revenue over the ensuing two years had been reduced.
· It was disappointing that there had not been the creation of a substantial reserve for Communications.
Note: Councillors Charmaine Morgan and Amanda Wheeler arrived at this stage of proceedings.
· One member outlined that they believed business growth, council home funding and improved governance should have taken preference over some of the projects the Council had explored.
Councillor Phil Dilks proposed an amendment to the Budget Proposals, in the form of additional recommendations as follows:
That the Council:
1. Calls on the Police and Crime Commissioner to continue working with the Chief Constable so that all possible options to avoid these cuts are fully considered to ensure community confidence in policing across Lincolnshire is not seriously damaged.
2. Supports calls by Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and Chief Constable for a fairer police funding formula to be introduced by the Government without delay and for interim additional funding to be provided by the Home Office to those police forces which are seriously disadvantaged by the current system and in the meantime:
3. Puts aside a one-off sum of up to £100,000 to be used to minimise the impact of cuts to the Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) service upon anti-social behaviour across South Kesteven to be funded from the Local Priority Reserve.
The amendment was seconded.
In debating the amendment, the following points were noted:
· Fairer funding for Lincolnshire Police was being sought, with regard to the lower Budget settlement from Government. PCSOs were a valuable part of the Council family, the Police and Crime Commissioner in particular placed neighbourhood policing at the heart of the policing plan.
· In recent years there had been as many as 140 PCSOs across Lincolnshire; now there were 91, and this number was soon to be cut to 50. PCSOs provided value for money and a uniformed presence in communities, alongside loyal service. Members needed to do all they could to protect communities from crime.
· In relation to recommendation three it was pointed out that the PCC could raise their own precept to fund their services.
· Community safety was an area of priority; historically it was having officers on the street looking after this issue, but now that role has been taken over by CCTV.
· In the recent past Bourne had lost all of its PCSOs; a panel set up to look at the priorities of the service was attended by members of the Council, but it had subsequently been wound up by Lincolnshire Police.
· Debates on issues of this type could be held at Overview and Scrutiny Committees as well as at Council. In this instance, Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee would be a relevant forum.
· PCSOs numbers were important particularly with the number of police officers due to increase.
Recommendations 1 and 2 of the amendment did not impact the Budget directly, and therefore did not require a recorded vote. Having already been moved and seconded, it was AGREED to add those new recommendations into the substantive motion.
A recorded vote on recommendation 3 of the amendment was required as it related to the Council’s budget, the results of which were as follows:
For: Councillors Ashley Baxter, Harrish Bisnauthsing, Pam Bosworth, Louise Clack, Richard Cleaver, John Dawson, Phil Dilks, Paul Fellows, Philip Knowles, Virginia Moran, Charmaine Morgan, Ian Selby, Lee Steptoe, Murray Turner, Amanda Wheeler (15)
Against: Councillors George Chivers, Kelham Cooke, Helen Crawford, Barry Dobson, Breda Griffin, Graham Jeal, Gloria Johnson, Anna Kelly, Jane Kingman, Nikki Manterfield, Penny Milnes, Julia Reid, Robert Reid, Kaffy Rice-Oxley, Susan Sandall, Judy Stevens, Adam Stokes, Ian Stokes, Sarah Trotter, Dean Ward, Hannah Westropp, Hilary Westropp, Mary Whittington, Paul Wood, Sue Woolley, Linda Wootten, Ray Wootten (27)
Abstention: Councillor Ben Green (1)
Note: Councillor Mark Whittington was not present in the Chamber for the recorded vote.
The third recommendation of the amendment was therefore lost.
Note: Councillor Mark Whittington returned to the Chamber.
A further amendment to the Budget Proposals was then proposed by Councillor Virginia Moran:
· The Council to create a reserve of £500,000 for future provision of Leisure Facilities in the Deepings. This to be transferred from the Usable Capital Receipts Reserve.
The amendment was seconded.
In debating the amendment, the following points were noted:
· A fee of £200,000 for the 3g pitch at Linchfield Road in the Deepings had been discussed at previous meetings, including the Council meeting on 24 November 2022. As this money had not been approved, one use for it, and additional monies would be to create a reserve for the future provision of leisure facilities in the Deepings, aiding the efforts of a Community Led Group.
· All of the District’s leisure centres could benefit from the installation of solar panels, allowing them to generate their own electricity. It was confirmed that Grantham’s Meres Leisure Centre already had this renewable provision.
· The proposed £10 million refurbishment of the Deepings Leisure Centre had not proceeded, leading to the closure of the site. This amendment was an opportunity to provide future leisure facilities in this area, without contravening the Constitution’s requirement that a motion did not ‘rescind any resolution passed within the preceding six months.’ This was not an amendment related specifically to the Deepings Leisure Centre or the Linchfield Road playing fields.
· The Section 151 Officer commented that reserves were there to fund expenditure; in this case, the reserve was proposed to fund revenue expenditure rather than a capital scheme. Therefore, the Usable Capital Receipts Reserve could not be used for this purpose.
Note: The meeting adjourned at 2:36pm and reconvened at 2:53pm.
On restarting the meeting, Councillor Moran confirmed that she was happy, upon taking advice from the Section 151 Officer, to reword the amendment in accordance with the appropriate governance arrangements with regard to reserves. The reworded amendment was as follows:
· The Council to create a reserve of £500,000 for future provision of Leisure Facilities in the Deepings. This to be transferred from the Local Priorities Reserve.
The reworded amendment was seconded.
Debate then resumed on the reworded amendment:
· One of the actions within the Corporate Plan was to invest in leisure facilities.
· Lincolnshire County Council owned the Deepings Leisure Centre, but an agreement with South Kesteven District Council to maintain the building had ended in 2014 and had not been renegotiated.
· The Deepings did not benefit from having the same amenities as the other three major towns within the District.
· With the Deepings Leisure Centre now being closed, focus should be transferred to improving the leisure centres in Grantham, Bourne and Stamford.
· If local sports amenities were lost, a significant number of residents were being deprived.
· The income streams for this project had been divided between Lincolnshire County Council, the Government and South Kesteven District Council.
· Conversations on this amendment could have been held in the months prior, rather than it being tabled on the day of the meeting.
A recorded vote on the amendment was required as it related to the Council’s budget, the results of which were as follows:
For: Councillors Ashley Baxter, Louise Clack, Phil Dilks, Virginia Moran, Charmaine Morgan, Ian Selby, Lee Steptoe, Judy Stevens, Amanda Wheeler (9)
Against: Councillors Pam Bosworth, George Chivers, Kelham Cooke, Helen Crawford, John Dawson, Barry Dobson, Ben Green, Breda Griffin, Graham Jeal, Gloria Johnson, Jane Kingman, Nikki Manterfield, Penny Milnes, Julia Reid, Robert Reid, Kaffy Rice-Oxley, Susan Sandall, Adam Stokes, Ian Stokes, Sarah Trotter, Dean Ward, Hannah Westropp, Hilary Westropp, Mark Whittington, Mary Whittington, Paul Wood, Sue Woolley, Linda Wootten, Ray Wootten (29)
Abstentions: Councillors Harrish Bisnauthsing, Richard Cleaver, Paul Fellows, Anna Kelly, Philip Knowles, Murray Turner (6)
The amendment was lost.
Debate then resumed on the substantive motion:
· The measures on the HRA and the moves to bring the Council out of special measures for housing services were welcomed.
· It was a positive move to heavily curtail the printed copies of SK:Today and move this publication to an electronic circulation.
· One member would have liked to have seen further mention of future projects within the report, such as the potential for a new depot, and the works at St. Martin’s Park, Stamford.
· There was no mention of any plans to collect food waste, and it would be a requirement of the Council to do so by 2025. In general, the recycling rate for the Council could be improved.
· 90 extra police officers were soon to be available within the District; these officers would be community based and have community acumen.
· On the housing delivery capital programme within the HRA, there were detailed plans for the next three years. It was an ongoing requirement to have a thirty-year rolling budget.
· 93 new council properties were in the forward programme; 25 of these were scheduled to be delivered in the next year. These figures were independent of the additional 21 houses proposed later on in the meeting as part of the Local Authority Housing Fund bid.
· Mention was made of the proposed increase to the majority of leisure centre fees across Bourne, Grantham and Stamford. Broadly junior and concessionary membership rates had increased, but at Bourne and Stamford the adult membership fees had decreased. The cost of floodlighting had decreased.
· One member was concerned about the staffing levels for CCTV and hoped that this subject would be kept under review. However, the Deputy Leader assured Council that the new CCTV station would be appropriately staffed. A further concern was difficulties associated with planning enforcement.
In summing up the motion, the Deputy Leader responded to some of the queries that had been put during debate:
o There would be a new Corporate Plan following the election on 4 May 2023
o Savings had been made in the Budget proposals
o The draft Climate Action Strategy was due to be considered at Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 14 March 2023
o A report on St. Martin’s Park was due at Council during the next electoral year
A recorded vote on recommendations 1-10 of the motion was required as it related to the Council’s Budget; recommendations 11-21 did not require a recorded vote as they did not directly impact the Budget,
The results of the recorded vote were as follows:
For: Councillors Harrish Bisnauthsing, Pam Bosworth, George Chivers, Kelham Cooke, Helen Crawford, John Dawson, Barry Dobson, Ben Green, Breda Griffin, Graham Jeal, Gloria Johnson, Anna Kelly, Jane Kingman, Philip Knowles, Nikki Manterfield, Penny Milnes, Julia Reid, Robert Reid, Kaffy Rice-Oxley, Susan Sandall, Adam Stokes, Ian Stokes, Sarah Trotter, Dean Ward, Hannah Westropp, Hilary Westropp, Mark Whittington, Mary Whittington, Paul Wood, Sue Woolley, Linda Wootten, Ray Wootten (32)
Against: Councillors Ashley Baxter, Phil Dilks, Virginia Moran, Charmaine Morgan, Lee Steptoe (5)
Abstentions: Councillors Louise Clack, Richard Cleaver, Paul Fellows, Ian Selby, Judy Stevens, Murray Turner, Amanda Wheeler (7)
The remaining recommendations as amended had been moved, seconded, and following the vote they were AGREED:
That Full Council:
1. Sets a General Fund budget requirement of £16.800m for 2023/24 detailed at section 4 of the report and shown in detail at Appendix A (inclusive of special expenses).
2. Approves a Council tax base of 49,329.0 for the South Kesteven District.
3. Proposed a Council Tax level of £178.58 for 2023/24 (Band D property including special expense areas) shown at Appendix I of the report.
4. Notes the indicative base estimates for 2024/25 and 2025/26 as detailed at Appendix A of the report.
5. Approves the fees and charges detailed at section 6 of the report and shown at Appendix B.
6. Approves the General Fund Capital programme for 2023/24 to 2025/26 detailed at section 7 of the report and shown at Appendix C.
7. Approves the General Fund Capital Financing statement detailed at Appendix C of the report.
8. Approves the movements in General Fund Revenue and Capital reserves and balances detailed at section 8 of the report and shown at Appendix D
9. Approves the Treasury Management Strategy Statement detailed at Section 11 of the report and provided at Appendix G
10. Approves the updated Capital Strategy as detailed at Appendix H of the report.
Note: Resolutions 1-10 were subjected to a recorded vote – resolutions 11-21 were subjected to a normal vote via a show of hands.
11. Approves Housing Revenue Account (HRA) dwelling rent increases of 7% in accordance with Government guideline rent providing an average rent of £92.90 per week.
12. Approves an increase in HRA garage rents of 5%.
13. Approves an increase in shared ownership rents by 7%.
14. Approves the HRA Revenue Summary for the year 2023/24 and notes the indicative budgets for 2024/25 and 2025/26 shown at Appendix A of the report.
15. Approves the Housing Capital Investment programme for 2023/24 to 2025/ 26 as detailed at section 7 of the report and as shown at Appendix C.
16. Approves the HRA Capital Financing statement detailed at Appendix C of the report.
17. Approves the Housing Revenue Account Capital Investment Programme budget carry forward of £3.515m from 2022/23 shown at Appendix C of the report.
18. Approves the movements in HRA revenue and Capital reserves and balances detailed at section 9 of the report and shown at Appendix D.
19. Approves a delegation to the Chief Executive, S151 Officer and the Cabinet Member for Housing and Property to accept the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and to amend the Capital Programme Financing Statement as required.
20. Calls on the Police and Crime Commissioner to continue working with the Chief Constable so that all possible options to avoid the cut in PCSO numbers are fully considered to ensure community confidence in policing across Lincolnshire is not seriously damaged.
21. Supports calls by Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and Chief Constable for a fairer police funding formula to be introduced by the Government without delay and for interim additional funding to be provided by the Home Office to those police forces which are seriously disadvantaged by the current system.