The Interim Section 151 Officer presented a report detailing the Council’s planned approach to financial monitoring in the 2022/23 financial year.
The Executive Committee was informed that financial monitoring reports would be presented on a regular basis for the consideration of Members. The reports would incorporate information about a full suite of financial indicators. The reports would also contain red, amber and green (RAG) ratings for the indicators and would include comparative data in relation to the previous period.
The Council had a revenue budget of £10.5 million and a capital budget of £4.5 million. There was also capital funding which had been carried over from 2020-2021, when many capital projects had been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, the Council, as the accountable body, was in receipt of over £15 million Town’s Funding, which could only be used on specific projects for the redevelopment of Redditch town centre.
The Council had a Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) which detailed the authority’s anticipated financial position over the following three year period. Should no action be taken, the Council’s balances were projected to fall to just over £200,000, which was lower than the minimum levels considered acceptable for the Council. To ensure that the Council had a balanced budget moving forward, action would need to be taken to achieve £1.5 million savings over the full three-year period of the plan. The Government had indicated that Councils would be receiving a two-year settlement in December 2022, although it was unlikely that this would help to cover the full gap in the budget.
To address the anticipated issues within the MTFP, work had already commenced on organisational business plans and reviews of the base budget. The Interim Section 151 Officer had already held discussions with four Heads of Service about potential opportunities to achieve savings or secure additional income in their departments. Heads of Service were giving consideration to changes that could be made to service delivery in light of lessons learned and opportunities created during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following the presentation of the report, Members discussed the significant level of savings that would need to be achieved over the three years of the MTFP. Members were advised that some difficult decisions would need to be taken in order to achieve a balanced budget position moving forward. All the services that were delivered by the Council were important but if all services provided by the Council continued to be delivered in the same manner as at present the authority would not be financially sustainable moving forward. There would be a number of ideas explored by Officers before a draft budget was presented to the Executive Committee in the autumn, in which options would be presented for Members’ consideration. Consideration would also be given to the contribution that District and Borough Councils made to health prevention work and the potential for alternative sources of funding to be provided to support the authority’s delivery of these services. The draft budget position would then be subject to public consultation before a final set of budget proposals was presented in January/February 2023.
Reference was made to the Covid grant funding that the Council had received from the Government during the pandemic and the extent to which this had been utilised to date. Officers clarified that some, but not all, of this funding had already been allocated. Officers were also reviewing potential options available to the Council in respect of Council Tax and Non Domestic Rates (NNDR) arrears.
1) to note that future monitoring returns will be in the “on system” format;
2) to approve the approach being taken by Officers to balance the 2022/23 budget and future years budget deficit positions; and
3) to approve the addition to the monitoring report of the additional financial health indicators.