This report is due to be pre-scrutinised at a meeting of the Budget Scrutiny Working group scheduled to take place on 7th February 2022. Any recommendations arising from that meeting on this subject will be reported in a supplementary pack for the consideration of the Executive Committee.
The Executive Director of Resources presented the draft 2022/23 Budget and Medium Term Financial Plan 2022/23 to 2024/25 for Members’ consideration. The content of the report focused on many areas that had been discussed at recent meetings of the Executive Committee and had been scrutinised in detail at a meeting of the Budget Scrutiny Working Group held on Monday 7th February 2022.
The budget was being developed in a challenging financial context for the Council. This was also occurring at a time of unprecedented levels of uncertainty regarding local government finances moving forward. A new structure had been adopted for the report, designed to improve clarity and transparency, in line with the agreed Member engagement policy for the budget setting process.
The report detailed the anticipated levels of Council balances over the following three years. The anticipated level of balances in 2022/23 and 2023/24 had improved slightly, compared to forecasts made in February 2021. However, there remained a need for significant work to be undertaken as without action, balances would fall below the minimum level of £1.5 million considered necessary for the authority to remain sustainable.
There were a number of key factors that had been taken into account when determining the draft content of the budget. Officers had considered the impact that Covid had had on income to date and had attempted to anticipate the likely impact on demand for services moving forward. In addition, there were other pressures, such as inflation, which would potentially impact on costs of service delivery as well as on staffing costs, through increases to wages. Information had also been included in the report about proposed areas of savings that could be achieved as well as the potential to increase income in certain areas.
Following the presentation of the report, the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Enabling welcomed the figures detailed in the report. He commended the Budget Scrutiny Working Group for their hard work in scrutinising the budget and commented that this helped to ensure that there was transparency and a detailed understanding of the budget amongst many Members. Concerns were raised that no members of the public were present to observe the Executive Committee’s discussions about the budget, however, there would be further opportunities to observe when the final budget was considered later in the month.
Members were asked to note that action would need to start in respect of preparing the 2023/24 budget as soon as the 2022/23 budget had been approved by Council. Given the financial challenges for the Council, it was likely that difficult decisions would need to be made. In order to do this, Members needed to review the value added by Council expenditure in relation to both service delivery and other areas that impacted on the community, such as the implications for residents’ health and wellbeing. Any ideas that either Officers or Members brought forward in respect of the budget would need to be underpinned by detailed business cases.
In concluding the debate in respect of ... view the full minutes text for item 73