The Head of Financial and Customer Services delivered a presentation, a copy of which had been made available in a supplementary pack for consideration at the meeting, in respect of the Council’s Budget Framework for the period 2021/22 to 2024/25.
Members were asked to note the following matters arising in this presentation:
· In 2019/20 overall there had been a £403,000 underspend in the general fund.
· A total of £1.38 million in new reserves had been created, including a new reserve for economic development growth.
· New reserves also included a reserve for service reviews of £150,000 which would help to build more flexibility into the service review process.
· There had been significant savings in Enabling Services in 2019/20, primarily due to staff savings.
· However, there had been an overspend of £486,000 in relation to the Strategic Purpose: Help me Run a Successful Business. This was largely due to a loss in revenue for Rubicon Leisure during the period of the lockdown.
· The income for Rubicon Leisure had increased in recent months. This was largely driven by growth in income from outdoor activities including outdoor theatre events and from activities at Pitcheroak Golf Course.
· Capital reserves in the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) had been reduced by £3 million.
· There was a significant amount of uncertainty in relation to the position of the HRA moving forward as there had been a decline in the amount of rent that had been paid to the Council by tenants during the lockdown.
· The government had provided £13.5 million funding for business rates relief. The Council and other precepting authorities were projected to lose up to £2 million from business rates during the year.
· A loss of £1.6 million in income from Council Tax was also expected, which would impact on both the Council and other precepting authorities.
· Officers had calculated the projected budget gap for each of the years in the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) for 2021/22 to 2024/25. A significant gap was anticipated for 2024/25 as Officers were expecting that the Council would receive no income from the New Homes Bonus (NHB) that year.
· The capital programme had been significantly underspent in recent years and would be reviewed by the Council’s Corporate Management Team (CMT) on an ongoing basis.
· Officers had attempted to assess budget pressures arising from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, though there was some uncertainty in relation to this as it was not known whether there would be a second outbreak locally.
· The potential for the Council to receive a one year settlement from the Government had been taken into account when considering the projections for the MTFP.
Following the presentation Members discussed a number of issues in detail:
· The purpose of the £2 million business rates reserve and the potential for this to be used to cover the projected losses in income from business rates. Officers explained that this reserve was for another purpose and agreed to clarify this outside the meeting.
· The funding from Government available to the Council and the need for clarity moving forward about funding for local government.
· The amount of business grants relief that had been provided locally. Officers agreed to provide this information outside the meeting.
· The reduction in rent payments to the Council during the pandemic and the availability of Government funding to support the HRA. Officers explained that the Council had outlined the situation and the impact on the HRA at a recent meeting with officials representing the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
· The services provided by Rubicon Leisure and the help that Members could provide in promoting and using these services.
the report be noted.