(A report by Paul Julian, Head of Financial Services)
Portfolio Holder: Councillor Aaron Spencer
That the draft budget and associated documents be published for consultation, specifically:
Portfolio Holder and Officer
RB / PJ
REASON FOR DECISION
Councillor Aaron Spencer introduced a report by the Head of Financial Services which outlined the 2018/2019 revenue and capital position for the General Fund and the proposals for the setting of discretionary fees and charges, which would be published for public consultation prior to a final report being submitted to the Cabinet, and Council for formal approval, in February 2018.
The Local Government Act 2003 introduced a requirement for the Chief Financial Officer to report on the robustness of the budget. The estimates had been prepared in a prudent manner, although it was highlighted that there were a number of elements outside of the Council’s control. These had been identified within the report and would be mitigated through the budget monitoring and risk management processes of the Council.
It was noted that there were significant areas of uncertainty in the coming years, including the impacts of the EU Referendum and Brexit, the 2017 Business Rate revaluation outcomes locally, and the details of the announcement for the further localisation of business rates and new funding regime from 2020.
Having taken advantage of the Government’s four-year settlement announcement, the Council had been able to plan for the reduction in government funding in a measured manner in the period to 2020. The Council had robust risk management processes in place and alongside the quarterly performance reporting would update the likely future impacts as the situation became clearer.
In developing the Council’s budget proposals for 2018/19, it had managed inflationary pressures on operational costs and pressures on some areas of income collection. This included the need for additional resources for refuse collection due to the increasing number of properties built in the Borough over recent years.
In order to deliver a balanced budget beyond 2018/19 and develop proposals for a secure medium term financial position the Council would seek more innovative opportunities to achieve the annual budget reductions required without adversely affecting service delivery. Reports would be presented for deliberation and approval as projects were worked up. This would likely include working in partnership with local neighbouring authorities, increasing the Council’s investment in Property Funds and investigating appropriate commercial opportunities.
The extent of funding reductions to date and the need to maintain progress would require the Council to review and refresh the Transformation Programme and look at alternative means of securing revenue to maintain the provision of local services. It was likely that this would include scheme which would see the Council borrowing monies for the first time in many years, with the ability to do this set out in the Treasury Management Strategy appended to the report. Before any borrowing was undertaken due diligence would be carried out and reports presented to Members on the proposal to be agreed.
Following the announcement of four year figures for the Revenue Support Grant, significant reductions in future years had been included in the MTFS, with the grant being phased out in 2020/21. The details of the Revenue Support Grant received from Government and scale of overall reductions was explained in Section 4 of the report.
The following key proposals contained within the budget report were noted by Cabinet as part of the introduction: -
· A rise in Council Tax of just below 3% with Band D council tax being £183.60;
· A balanced budget for 2018/19 incorporating on-going savings of over £900,000 made from the Transformation Programme;
· Budget gap of £0.8m by 2022/23 representing a significant challenge for the Council from 2018/19 onwards in maintaining service provision to the most vulnerable;
· The successful Controlling Migration Fund monies would help support various initiatives to assist the local community;
· The positive announcement of the success of the Lincolnshire bid for 100% localisation pilot statues in 2018/19 should result in additional funding to support economic development initiatives, which along with the Boston Barrier, would help attract business growth to the Borough over the coming years;
· Boston Town Area Committee was due to meet on 31 January to consider the requirements for the Special Expense Account for 2018/19;
· A sustainable and affordable capital programme had been formulated and the revenue consequences built into the revenue budget;
· The capital programme showed a diminishing programme in future years as resources became scarcer, although the Controlling migration Fund monies had enabled investment in leisure facilities. The programme recognised that funds would be required to renew the refuse fleet, the exact timing would be incorporated into future reports;
· Majority of fees and charges were not proposed to be increased for 2018/19;
The draft budget would be published on the Council’s website for consultation with all stakeholders, including the local business community. In addition Members would be consulted through various forums including the Corporate and Community Committee and Audit and Governance Committee. Following the consultation process comments received would be taken into account in preparing and recommending the proposed budget for Cabinet to review on 21 February and for formal approval to Council on 26 February 2018.
Councillor Rylott commented that tourism had been included as a priority within the Council’s Corporate Plan, but this was very difficult to drive forward without an allocated budget.
Councillor Brookes expressed his appreciation that investment in operational services had been specifically identified within the proposed budget, which would alleviate pressure on the service, particularly in respect of refuse collection.
OTHER OPTIONS OR ALTERNATIVES CONSIDERED
RECORD OF ANY CONFLICT OF INTEREST
RECORD OF ANY DISPENSATION GRANTED