The Executive Director of Finance and Corporate Resources presented a report updating Members on the Medium Term Financial Plan 2020/21 to 2023/24. The Council was subject to a Section 24 Notice and the recommendations made by the external auditors in that notice needed to be addressed if the notice was to be lifted. In addition, Members were asked to note that there was significant uncertainty with regard to the funding that local government would receive from central government moving forward. One concern for local government was that the revaluation of business rates might be brought forward and this could impact on income for local authorities. However, it was hoped that the Council would benefit financially, as a member of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), from the expansion of the devolution bill.
The budget gap in the general fund in 2020/21 was £1.1 million rising to £1.5 million in 2023/24. Officers had been reviewing additional pressures and potential income. Further detail in respect of this matter would be available for Members’ consideration early in the New Year. Officers were anticipating that the budget for 2020/21 would balance. However, the Council did not have the level of balances needed to balance the budget in the subsequent three years of the plan. Therefore, difficult decisions still needed to be taken by Members if the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan was to balance.
The potential funding that the Council would receive from central government was briefly discussed. Officers advised that the Council had not anticipated the New Homes Bonus funding that the government had awarded to the authority for 2020/21. The government had clarified that this funding would be for one year only and there would be no legacy payments. Therefore, Officers had not incorporated any further New Homes Bonus funding into the Medium Term Financial Plan for 2021/22 to 2023/24. The government had also announced that district Councils could only increase Council Tax by a maximum of 2% in 2020/21, though officers were anticipating that Council Tax could be increased by 2.99% in subsequent years.
There was general consensus amongst Members that district Councils were struggling financially and tended to receive less in financial settlements than County Councils and unitary authorities. It was suggested that a review of local authority funding was needed together with some clear direction from the government about the future of local government moving forward.
the current medium term financial plan gap be noted and officers continue to review the position to enable a balanced budget to be presented to Council on the 24th February 2020.