To consider the report of the head of finance (attached).
The committee considered the head of finance’s report. This brought together all relevant information to allow Cabinet to recommend to Council a revenue budget for 2019/20 and a capital programme for 2019/20 to 2023/24. The report also 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 and included the Medium Term Financial Plan (MFTP), which provided details of the forward budget model for the next five years.
Councillor David Dodds, the Cabinet member for finance, introduced the report. Also present to answer questions were Mark Stone, chief executive, William Jacobs, head of finance, Simon Hewings, strategic finance manager, and Richard Spraggett, senior finance business partner.
In his introduction, the Cabinet member expressed regret at being unable to repeat last year’s cross-party working on the budget due to delays in producing the budget. He thanked the officers and, in particular, Simon Hewings, for ensuring the budget could be finalised given the delays experienced.
The committee was advised that there was considerable uncertainty regarding future funding. 2019/20 marked the last year of the four year funding settlement, and was also the final year of the New Homes Bonus (NHB) scheme in its current form. It was not yet known what funding would be receivable in future from government.
Members expressed concern that the use of reserves to balance the MFTP was not sustainable beyond the medium term. The Cabinet member outlined steps being taken to reduce expenditure, by reducing the Communities’ grants budget by £500,000 per annum, and increasing income, by supporting the development of a more commercial approach for the council.
In response to members’ questions about the development of a more commercial approach, the chief executive reported that, subject to the revenue budget bid being approved, a range of options would be drawn up and presented to members.
The Cabinet member reported that the administration had always looked for possible savings and would continue to do so. Accordingly, the council had commissioned the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) to support it in challenging the budget.
RESOLVED: to note the report