Report number: CAB/WS/21/008
Portfolio holder: Councillor Sarah Broughton
Lead officer: Rachael Mann
Recommended to Council (23 February 2021):
1. the revenue and capital budget for 2021 to 2025, plus 2020 to 2021 capital projects that subsequently require to be carried forward at the year end, attached at Attachment A and as detailed in Attachment D (Appendices 1-5), Attachment E (Appendices 1-3) and Attachment F to Report number: CAB/WS/21/008, be approved.
2. Having taken into account the conclusions of the Assistant Director’s (Resources and Performance) report on the adequacy of reserves and the robustness of budget estimates (Attachment C) and the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) (Attachment D), particularly the Scenario Planning and Sensitivity Analysis (Attachment D, Appendix 5) and all other information contained in Report number: CAB/WS/21/008, the Cabinet recommends an average £4.99 increase in Band D council tax across both predecessor areas of St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath. This assumption is based on the option to harmonise the two predecessor areas by April 2022. The level of Band D council tax for 2021 to 2022, therefore, be recommended to be set at £185.40 for the predecessor area of St Edmundsbury and £175.59 for the predecessor area of Forest Heath. (The level of council tax beyond 2021 to 2022 will be set in accordance with the annual budget process for the relevant financial year).
3. The Assistant Director (Resources and Performance), in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Resources and Performance, be authorised to vire funds between existing Earmarked Reserves (as set out at Attachment D, Appendix 3) as deemed appropriate throughout the medium term financial planning period.
4. Approval be given to the Flexible Use of Capital Receipts Strategy (as set out in Attachment G).
The Cabinet considered the above report, which presented the proposals for Budget and Council Tax Setting in 2021 to 2022 and the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2021 to 2025.
Councillor Sarah Broughton, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Performance drew relevant issues to the attention of the Cabinet, including that Report number: CAB/WS/21/008 provided details of the Council’s proposed revenue and capital budgets for 2021 to 2022 and in the medium term, and the Cabinet was required to recommend to Council approval of the 2021 to 2022 budget for the authority, including establishing the level of council tax required to help fund the Council’s activities over the next year.
As minuted under minute 220. above, the Cabinet supported the key budget assumptions and proposals for securing a balanced budget for 2021 to 2022, as previously considered and recommended by the Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee and incorporated into Report No: CAB/WS/21/005.
The 2021 to 2022 budget had been prepared in the context of not only the significant challenges facing local government, such as reductions in national funding streams, but also a national and worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK, a number of events had occurred which had had a significant impact on all local government, including West Suffolk Council’s financial position in the current financial year and these were expected to continue into 2021 to 2022. Some of these had been restrictions imposed by Government which would continue to affect the Council’s investments, assets and services; and other events had been announcements of Government financial support.
The Council had played a vital role in responding to the pandemic, in supporting businesses and communities for example, as well as running essential services during challenging conditions. Further details were provided in section 1 of the report, including the impact of Covid-19 on the Council’s financial position which would not be fully known for a significant time.
The medium term plans had also been prepared in the context of significant uncertainties around Government policy, examples of which were contained in section 1.8 of the report, while continuing to acknowledge the economic impact, challenges, uncertainties and unknowns of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Councils nationally were expected to achieve a balanced budget through savings and producing local income to fund services due to reduced Government funding. This year, as a one off to assist with the expected continued impact of Covid-19, the Council would see an increase in funding from the Government. However, members noted this would not completely neutralise the impact expected from the pandemic. Nor would it address the financial challenges that already existed for local government following a decade of funding reductions and increases in the demand for services such as housing and homelessness support.
Despite this and the additional pressures presented by Covid-19, through prudent budgeting, a review of the Council’s vacant posts, investment as well as transformation, West Suffolk Council was in a good financial position. However, while this meant a balanced budget could be set ... view the full minutes text for item 223