Councillor R C Evans, Cabinet Member: Council Finance & Governance, presented the report of the Director: Finance & HR.
RESOLVED that the changes to the capital programme and use of balances detailed in Appendix 1 of the report be approved.
Key Decision identified as Financial Management Report 2020/21 in the Notice of Key Decisions published on 13 August 2020.
Recommendation for Full Council – Not Subject to Call-In
Cllr R C Evans presented the report of the Chief Financial Officer. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) on the country was significant and placed increased demand on many Council services, particularly those
supporting the most vulnerable. The projected pressure was estimated to be around £26.9m, including council tax and business rate shortfalls. The Council had received £15.2m of Government National Emergency Response Funding, which left a residual pressure of £11.7m. There had been considerable work by Council officers to improve the position since the last report to Cabinet in July 2020.
It was noted that there were still many uncertainties and that the projections may change. Cabinet Members acknowledged the Council’s long track record of active financial management and it remains in a strong financial position.
There were a number of variations from the approved budget, the majority of which related to Covid-19. The projected spend on capital projects was 90.6% of the allocated budget at the time of writing the report.
Cabinet Members noted that as well as Covid-19, the impact of Brexit and Local Government Financial System reform being delayed until April 2022 meant it was difficult to accurately project the Council’s financial position in future years.
The Income monitoring position was noted; Covid-19 had significantly impacted on collection rates, with Business Rates, Council Tax and Sales Ledger all behind target. Debt recovery action had been suspended earlier in the year as part of a range of support provided to residents and businesses.
Cabinet Members called for the government to provide funding for the additional expenditure the Council had incurred during the pandemic. Cabinet Members discussed the impact of the pandemic on an already weak foundation of government funding, following ten years of austerity. The Leader highlighted the situation in regards to free school meals and noted that the funding that had been provided from central government had long since run out and it was disingenuous of the local MPs to suggest that free school meals were being provided currently by central government.
The Conservative Group Leader noted that all Local Authorities were in a similar position and stated that the budget had been prepared prior to the pandemic so it was difficult to compare the position to previous years. The Liberal Democrat / Independent Group Leader raised the financial difficulties that other Authorities found themselves in and praised the strong financial position of the Council.
a) The 2020/21 revenue budget position which had been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, be noted
b) The allocation of the budget contingency and balances detailed in Section 5.1 of the report be RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL
c) The position in relation to capital spend and the recommendations that Full Council approve the changes to the capital programme detailed in Appendix 3 of the report be RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL