The Head of Financial and Customer Services delivered a presentation on the subject of the Medium Term Financial Plan 2021/22 to 2023/24. During the delivery of this presentation the following matters were highlighted for Members’ consideration:
· Officers were undertaking a lot of work in respect of the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan, though this remained a work in progress.
· Some additional contributions had been received unexpectedly in the form of New Homes Bonus (NHB) funding, though this was for a one year period only.
· There would be a reduction in the costs of borrowing for the Council as Officers were not anticipating that a number of capital projects would be delivered during the Covid-19 pandemic.
· The Government had announced that district Councils could increase Council tax by 1.99 per cent or by £5. The Council had opted to increase Council tax by £5 as this would result in a slightly greater level of return.
· The Lower Tier Services Grant would provide some additional financial support moving forward. This represented top slicing in respect of the previous NHB scheme.
· On the date of the meeting Officers were proposing to use funding from balances and reserves to balance the budget. However, this was not a sustainable position and therefore Officers were aiming to identify alternative measures in order to balance the budget moving forward.
· Should the Council use funding from reserves to balance the budget there was a risk that this would result in the Council’s reserves being below the minimum level that had been set for the Council.
· The budget gap was £242,000 for 2021/22 rising to £1.3 million in 2023/24. Therefore, difficult decisions would need to be taken in order to balance the budget.
· Pressures arising from the Covid-19 pandemic had been taken into account when reviewing the budget position.
· Officers had identified some potential savings. However, many of these were very small and more ambitious ideas were needed moving forward.
· The main pressures included footpath maintenance costs, street lighting, Members’ allowances and Members’ National Insurance contributions.
· In respect of the HRA, a key assumption was that there would be an improvement in the turnaround times for void properties.
· Officers were anticipating that funding would be returned to balances in the HRA.
The Committee subsequently discussed the report and reference was made to the level of grant funding that the Council had received from the Government to help address the costs arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. Officers clarified that in total, £1,952 million had been received by the Council in five tranches from the Government. In addition, the Council had recently received £157,000 to make up for lost income from fees and charges.
Reference was also made to bad debts and the impact that this could have on the Council’s budget. Officers explained that the Medium Term Financial Plan took into account anticipated returns from Council tax and non domestic rates. Any deficit in the collection fund was taken into account as part of these calculations.
The position of Rubicon Leisure Limited and the financial support that the Council was providing to the company was also discussed during the meeting. The Committee was informed that the management fee for the company had been incorporated into the Medium Term Financial Plan. However, there was an ongoing review of the company taking place and the management fee would be taken into account as part of that process.
The Financial Services team were thanked for their hard work in respect of the budget. The Chief Executive explained that this was an incredibly challenging time for local government finances. The work on this budget was taking place during a global pandemic, which had impacted on the Council’s finances and ability to deliver savings. During the pandemic, new ways of working had been identified and this could potentially create opportunities for the Council to achieve further savings moving forward. The Committee was informed that Redditch Borough Council had received less financial support from the Government than many other lower tier authorities. As the Borough had many areas with high levels of deprivation it was suggested that there was particular need for further assistance to be provided to Redditch Borough Council in order to assist the local population.
Members noted that additional financial assistance was available to the community from other sources of funding that did not involve the Council. This included financial support available from the Cultural Recovery Fund and the Worcestershire Community Foundation. Furthermore, residents could apply for a £500 payment if they were required to self-isolate having tested positive for Covid-19. The Council had distributed £14.5 million of grant funding to businesses impacted by the pandemic and it was hoped that this would help businesses to remain sustainable moving forward.
the report be noted.
(During consideration of this item there was a brief pause in the meeting, from 7.35 – 7.47 pm, due to problems with the live stream. The Committee did not discuss any business during this period and the final slide of the presentation was revisited in order to provide the information for the consideration of the public.)