Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources
To consider the attached report.
Contact Officer: Nuala Donnelly (01296) 585164
(1) That the Finance and Services Scrutiny Committee be thanked for its input to the budget setting process.
(2) That Council be recommended to:-
(1) Approve the budget for 2019/2020 and the Medium Term Financial Plan as set out in summary form in the Appendix attached to the Cabinet report.
(2) Approve an increase in Council Tax of £5 (3.35%) for 2019/2020, the maximum allowable for lower tier councils.
(3) Approve the use of £1.48m of New Homes Bonus to meet the costs of the Connected Knowledge Programme in 2019/2020.
(4) Approve the proposed fees and charges as set in Appendix E to the Cabinet report.
(5) Approve the level of Band D Special Expenses charge for 2019/2020 as set out in Appendix F to the Cabinet report.
(b) Reason(s) for Decision(s)
The Council is statutorily required to set a budget for 2019/2020 and plan for expenditure in subsequent years based upon the Medium Term Financial Plan. The Budget proposals reflect the transition to a new unitary authority.
(c) Alternative Options Considered
The development of the budget proposals has involved a number of key elements of choice as set out in previous reports to Cabinet.
(d) Relevant Scrutiny Committee
Finance and Services. The Committee Chairman attended Cabinet to elaborate upon his Committee’s deliberations. Cabinet accepted all the comments of the Scrutiny Committee and in particular:-
· It was confirmed that the business cases of all of the projects that formed part of the Connected Knowledge Programme were analysed carefully by a programme management board and were and would continue to be assessed having regard to the likely requirements of the new unitary authority. The Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources would be invited to attend meetings of the programme management board.
· It was agreed that the sum of £10,759 should be re-instated in the budget for funding to a number of voluntary and community sector organisations including the Citizens Advice Bureau and that in order to give those organisations some certainty whilst the new council was being established, this funding should be for a two year period.
The budget proposals will now be subject to consideration by full Council and are not therefore subject to call-in.
(e) Conflicts of Interest / Dispensation(s)
As a member of an organisation that contributed financially towards the work of the CAB, Councillor Mordue declared a personal interest in this item insofar as it affected the future funding arrangements for this organisation.
The report to Cabinet on 18 December, 2018, had presented a set of initial budget proposals. That report had highlighted uncertainty around a number of issues, particularly further reductions in Government Grant, retained business rates and New Homes Bonus. Since the December meeting, work had continued to refine the budget assumptions. In practice, little had changed materially at a service level. The significant elements of the final budget proposals were around the impact of the Government Grant numbers and changes to other centrally funded support.
As set out previously, it was intended to support the Connected Knowledge Programme through the use of NHB reserves. The Programme underpinned many of the components of service delivery and commercial AVDC, and therefore the ability to meet the financial agenda of the Council over the coming years. The final recommended budget had been attached to the Cabinet report as Appendix A1. A summary of the changes, savings and pressures which had been used to arrive at the summary position had been attached as Appendices A2, C and D.
The Government had announced the draft Grant settlement for councils on 13 December, 2018. Despite some indications that there might be significant changes to reflect on-going pressures on the wider local government sector, the Government had largely honoured its commitments contained within the four year settlement and had left the pre-announced Grant numbers mostly unchanged. The important numbers of Revenue Support Grant and Baselined Business Rates were virtually the same as those that had been announced for 2019/20 last year, within the four year settlement. As had been anticipated, the Government had also provided extra resources in 2019/20 to cancel the negative RSG adjustment to tariffs and top-up. the confirmed impact of the change would benefit the Council by £687,000. This would be a non-recurrent re-aligning of funding.
Cabinet had previously agreed that the funding should be ring fenced to support likely and known pressures during 2019/20, to include £0.3m to support the on-going housing growth agenda in Aylesbury Vale and the associated infrastructure schemes, such as HS2, East-West Rail and the Oxford/Cambridge Expressway. Cabinet felt that the remaining £0.4m should be allocated to meet the costs of the car park changes (replacement equipment) detailed in the Car Park Strategy.
The Government had also announced consultations on the further progression of the Fair Funding Review in advance of the provisional 2019/20 settlement, and the redesign of business rates retention by the end of the year. A new system (Fair Funding), based on the Government consultation, would be introduced in 2020/21 alongside a Government wide Comprehensive Funding review.
The Fair Funding review would affect how funding was allocated and redistributed between local authorities from 2020 onwards. It was expected to use three main cost drivers: population, deprivation and sparsity, together with additional cost drivers related to specific local authority services.
Alongside the new methodology, in 2020/21, a new phase for the business rates retention programme would also be introduced. The aim was for local authorities to retain ... view the full minutes text for item 1