Agenda item

2022 to 2023 Performance Report (Quarter 1)

Report number: PAS/WS/22/013


[Councillor Andy Neal left the meeting at 6.28pm during the consideration of this item.]


The Committee received Report number PAS/WS/22/013, which set out the impact of Covid-19, the Quarter 1 performance and the 2022 to 2023 revenue and capital positions.


The Covid-19 outbreak had had a significant impact on the council’s financial position.  Whilst the council was now in the process of recovering from the pandemic, the effects were likely to be felt for years to come.  In addition, the cost-of-living crisis, which the Ukraine War had exacerbated, was not only impacting on communities and businesses, but also adversely putting pressure on the council’s budgets.


All of these elements, as well as national public behavioural changes in travel, shopping and working created by these issues, had had an adverse impact on businesses, retail and public services nationally.  Income generation for public services across the UK had been severely impacted by a combination of all these challenges we well as recent issues, such as national and local lockdowns.  West Suffolk Council was not alone in continuing to face these issues although there were good signs of recovery by services and areas – some stronger than others.  This included income from leisure and cultural events; trade waste and the garden waste service.  In addition, other services were recovering, such as car parks and markets.  However, the challenges outlined effected services and localities in different ways.


For 2022 to 2023 the central government funding which had helped to partly mitigate the effects of the pandemic, such as the Sales, Fees and Charges Compensation and the Covid-19 Support Grant were no longer available, meaning the council had to make provision to fully cover any reduced income and increased costs from within its own budgets.  As part of the 2022 to 2023 budget setting process the made had made provision for the sum of around £0.5m in its budgets for the ongoing impacts of Covid-19.  This provision was to be funded by a contribution from the council’s general fund (a reserve fund that the council traditionally kept at around £5m to meet emergency issues such as this) and had been factored into the year-end forecasts in the report.


Attached to the Quarter 1 performance and forecast year-end financial position for 2022 to 2023 were a number of appendices as follows:


-      Appendix A: Key Performance Indicator Dashboards

-      Appendix B: Income and expenditure report

-      Appendix C: Capital programme

-      Appendix D: Earmarked reserves

-      Appendix E: Strategic risk register

-      Exempt Appendix F: Aged debt over 90 days


The Service Manager (Policy, Projects and Performance) explained that a lot of the changes behind the key performance indicators were behavioural, and it was hard to get to the evidence as to why people were changing their behaviour.  Therefore, officers would be looking at a deeper dive into the evidence available to try and ascertain the changes in performance.  She then drew the Committee’s attention to a number of key performance indicators as follows:


-      Cross-cutting performance: local economic context

·      Shop vacancy rates in West Suffolk towns were all below the national average of 12 per cent or in the case of Newmarket, the same as the national average.


-      Housing and Strategic Health:

·      Households in bed and breakfast accommodation – these were below target and down from the previous quarter.

·      Households in temporary accommodation – this was above target.

·      Homelessness prevention cases – this was at its lowest for four years.

·      Discharge of homelessness duty into private rented sector – this was the highest for 12 months.

·      Youth homelessness – this was increasing and officers would be keeping an eye on this indicator.


-      Resources and Property:

·      Business rates collection was back to pre-COVID levels.

·      Fraud collection by Anglia Revenues Partnership was above 2021-2022, but below pre-COVID levels.

·      Use of e-forms for revenues and benefits – this was high due to energy rebate applications.

·      Low void levels in the commercial estate.


-      Governance:

·      Sick days were high due to COVID absences.


-      Regulation and environment:

·      Toggam solar farm had generated electricity at its highest rate since 2018-2019.


The Committee considered the report in detail and asked a number of questions to which responses were provided.  In particular discussions were held on investments in Barley Homes; the council’s general fund; managing the council deficit and the current volatile market.


In response to a question raised relating to e-forms and whether the trend would continue to increase, officers advised it was hoped the trend would continue to increase.  For example, work on council tax had shown an increase in the take-up of direct debit payments. 


The Committee discussed the cost-of-living crisis etc. meaning the council was likely to see more people presenting as homeless and questioned what the council was doing in terms of resourcing the team in order to cope with an increase in cases.  In response officers agreed to provide a written response.

At the conclusion of the discussions, the Committee noted the forecast 2022 to 2023 revenue and capital positions as detailed in Report number PAS/WS/22/013 and attached appendices.

Supporting documents: