The chair explained that there
was one appendix that is confidential (A6). It contained officer
estimates of costs of the pandemic. If this needed further
discussion it would need to be in closed session at the end of the
Councillor Rawlins, Cabinet
member for Finance, introduced the report.
The budget was constrained by
less officer time being available and was very much a Covid-19
budget. That said, bringing together a
budget was a major task and the officers were thanked for their
work. The Interim Head of finance had set the scene in the
The Cabinet report presented
for scrutiny brought together all relevant information to allow
Cabinet to recommend to Council a revenue budget for 2021/22 and a
capital programme for 2021/22 to 2025/26. It recommended the
prudential indicators to be set by the council in accordance with
‘the Prudential Code’ introduced as part of the Local
Government Act 2003.
It also contained the opinion
of the council’s chief financial officer on the robustness of
estimates and adequacy of the council’s financial reserves
and contained the Medium-Term Financial Plan (MTFP) which provided
details of the forward budget model for the next five
In last year’s budget,
there was a £2.2 million deficit. This climbed to £6.5
million deficit by 2024/25, leaving £7.7 million of
unallocated revenue reserves remaining.
This year’s budget
assumed that the unallocated revenue reserves at the end of 2024/25
would be £17 million, and £11 million at the end of
2025/26. The burning of reserves was an existential threat
long-term. We projected that £21 million of reserves will be
used up over the five-year MTFP period.
We will be seeking a long-term
sustainable framework from Government to provide understandable
security to councils. Addressing these shortfalls was a
There was a corporate plan in
place now to guide the future. There was progress on a number of
projects despite the limit on resources, and some projects needed
to be scoped.
- £5 increase in
council tax was proposed - maximum increase allowed.
- Commercial property
income has fallen due to Covid-19.
- There had been a
slightly better settlement from government than was anticipated,
leading to a more positive outlook.
- Base budget net
expenditure grew by £2.6 million from 2019/20 base to
2021/22. Much of this will be tied down directly to Covid-19 costs.
We had taken account of funding that had already been committed to
- Paragraph 53 –
revenue per resident is £131 per resident – we can
apply 2.5 residents to each home = £328 cost per home. Last
year was £126 per resident. Costs for South Oxfordshire are
There was some positive
- New office
- 5Cs negotiations
progress and repatriating of staff
- Sales fees and
charges items do feed beneficially into the budget.
- Proper stewardship of
- Grounds maintenance
Total net cost of Covid-19 to
the council in this budget was £1.9 million.
The Interim Head of Finance
reminded the committee that the council had a statutory duty to set
The chair led the committee
through the report page by page, for questions.
- Page 12 –
paragraph 53 regarding revenue costs. Councillor Rawlins explained
how South Oxfordshire charging is low compared for other English
shire district councils.
- If we were limited by
an annual maximum £5 increase in council tax, how long would
it take to reach the average for a shire district council?
Discussions would be had about phasing in changes.
- Appendix A1 –
this was a key summary page.
- Page 22 – any
information on uplift for Cornerstone service charge? Cabinet
member Councillor Filipova-Rivers answered that it was increased in
2019/20 and was being discussed with Hammersons.
- Appendix A2 showed
savings and also investment in council properties. This will impact
positively on insurance savings.
- Page 24 – the
budget 2020/21 for 2020/21 included the global resettlement scheme
and but did not appear in this report – had this moved due to
Covid-19? Cabinet member Councillor David Rouane explained that the
resettlement scheme was funded, in the programme and was an ongoing
cost. Lately people haven’t been travelling so we have
resettled less people. If the service was continuing, with no
change, it would not appear in the schedule.
- Domestic abuse
services - can we note we need to seek more funding due to the
increase in need during lockdown? Cabinet member Councillor David
Rouane advised that the council bought into a county-wide service.
We will need to renegotiate soon, and that will be reflected in
budget at the contract end. Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC)
funding to Community Safety Partnership (CSP) should continue but
there was uncertainty to services, not change at this
- Page 27 –
committee was pleased to hear of two new enforcement officers being
- Car parking fees on
page 28 – Appendix A5 - £35,000 per year for South
Oxfordshire – the Interim Head of Finance confirmed that this
is the budgeted increase in income. Estimates were based on future
charges and usage. This was a prudent income estimate.
- Councillor Rawlins
explained that New Homes Bonus (NHB) funding included a
contribution from the council of £214,000, which had gone
towards the affordable homes pot of money. NHB in its current form
was due to cease. Treasury income was used in the year after it is
earned This was reflected through transfers to/from earmarked
- On capital –
the numbers for new offices relate to Crowmarsh – a budget
for the new building will be determined in due course.
Officers were commended for
achieving a budget to present in these difficult
The committee motioned and
voted in favour of noting the contents of the Cabinet report and