Cllr L D Carter
Key Decision identified as Service & Financial Planning 2020/21 Proposals in the Notice of Key Decisions published on 4 December 2019.
Councillor L D Carter, Cabinet Member for Finance, Commercial Services and the Economy presented the report of the Interim Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Financial Officer, which noted that a one year service and financial planning strategy for the current financial year had been approved by Council on 28 February 2019 due to proposed major changes to the local government finance system which were due to be implemented from April 2020. Additionally, no Government spending figures had been available beyond the end of the current year. A Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) was expected to be announced during 2019 which would have set out the Government’s priorities over the medium term for public spending, taxation and the national budget deficit. However, the planned changes to the local government finance system had been postponed and were not due to come in to effect until April 2021 and the CSR was also postponed so this period of unprecedented uncertainty facing local government finance had been extended for a further year..
In view of this significant uncertainty over the future of local government finance and what resources may be available to the Council beyond next year, a one year service and financial planning strategy was also proposed for 2020/21. However, capital projects needed to be planned over a longer time horizon in order to achieve the Council’s priorities and ambitions for the community and therefore new capital investment proposals were detailed in the report for 2020/21 and the following three years.
Since 2010, the Council had had to make ongoing budget savings of £117m per annum - equivalent to more than £1,600 for every household in the Borough. The Administration was committed to protecting the most essential services, particularly for vulnerable children and adults and to investing in Telford’s future and in promoting jobs and growth for the Borough. In order to do this, the Council would continue to seek innovative ways to generate income to fund key frontline services.
Key points of the strategy included:-
· A Council tax increase for 2020/21 of 3.99% which included an increase of 2% for the Government’s “Adult Social Care precept”. Council Tax in Telford & Wrekin currently remained the lowest across the Midlands region for the services that the Council provided.
· The Adult Social Care precept would raise £1.35m which would be fully invested in to Adult Social Care services. The general council tax increase would raise £1.34m, giving a total of £2.69m from the total increase in council tax. However, the Council through careful management of its finances would invest over £3.9m extra into Adult Social Care services in the next year.
· Increased investment of £2.958m in Children’s Safeguarding.
· Extra investments of £0.15m revenue funding to support housing initiatives, £0.1m to pump prime work on climate change and just over £0.1m revenue funding for Pride environmental projects.
· In order to fund these new investments, to cover rising demand for many services and inflationary cost pressures a package of budget savings totalling £3.306m in 2020/21 rising to £4.581m in 2021/22 was required, together with
· The prudent use of £1.434m of available revenue balances to ensure a balanced budget for 2020/21 whilst retaining sufficient flexibility for the uncertain future that was faced beyond 2020/21.
Medium Term Capital Programme:-
A programme of capital investment programme totalling more than £234.4m was set out in Appendix 4 to the report. Amongst the capital investments included in the programme were:-
o £60m for a new “Property & Housing Regeneration and Investment Fund” to enable further long-term investments in the development of good quality homes for rent and further expansion of the Council’s Property Investment Portfolio
o £26m invested in an extension to the Council’s Pride Programme of environmental improvements over the next four years
o £2m pa available as a contingency in both 2021/22 and 2022/23 to fund additional priorities such as reducing the Council’s carbon footprint and partnering with government and others on other climate change projects and any additional pressures that arise.
Attached to the report were a number of appendices, including the Capital Investment Programme, details of Reserves and Balances and details of education related Section 106 Agreements.
A consultation period would run from 3 January 2020 through to 31 January 2020 in order that careful consideration could be given to the views expressed by the Council’s Cabinet when preparing their final report and recommendations to Full Council on 5 March 2020.
Members welcomed the report and congratulated the Cabinet Member: Finance, Commercial Services & Economic Development, Senior Management Team and Finance Team for their management of the budget.
RESOLVED that –
(a) the proposed Service and Financial Planning Strategy set out in the report be approved for consultation between 3 January 2020 and 31 January 2020
(b) the high level of uncertainty relating to the medium term financial outlook for the Council due to the significant changes to the local government finance system which will be introduced from April 2021 and because the Government’s one year Spending Round Announcement does not extend beyond the end of next financial year be noted. This high level of uncertainty requires the Council to retain flexibility by limiting new ongoing investments to our highest priorities and retention of as much one-off resource as possible whilst identifying some additional budget savings to ensure a balanced budget for next year.