Agenda item

2023 to 2024 Performance Report (Quarter 1)

Report number: PAS/WS/23/014



The Cabinet Member for Resources presented report number PAS/WS/23/014, which included a forecast for the year-end 2023 to 2024 position and performance dashboard covering the period April to June 2023.


The report included an update under the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on fuel used, which was raised at the Committee’s June 2023 meeting.


She then highlighted a number of KPIs, which members might wish to be aware of over the coming months, being:


·         A new monitoring system was in place to provide more precise estimates on the Council’s usage of gas and electricity.


·         Universal Credit Claimants: The first quarter of the year had seen the highest number of claimants in West Suffolk over the four-year monitoring period.  This was a contextual indicator provided by the DWP.  However, it was important for the Council both in terms of anticipating increased demand for services such as homelessness and in terms of informing the design of programmes such as economic development and families and communities.


·         Homelessness: The bottom right graph showed how the rates of homelessness acceptances in West Suffolk compared with Suffolk and England.  There was a lag time associated with the figures as they were produced by central government and where therefore not as timely as the Council’s data but showed how things stood at the end of December 2022.  This comparison was important in terms of planning the Council’s homelessness and housing options services and how it needed to continue to focus on preventing homelessness.


The Cabinet Member informed the Committee if there were issues where it would like to ask questions, and the relevant information was not available tonight or where further information was needed, written responses would be provided to the Committee.  Or the Committee could invite the relevant Portfolio Holder to a future meeting for further discussions.


Attached to the Quarter 1 performance and the financial forecast for the year-end 2023 to 2024 position 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 Committee considered the KPI’s and asked questions to which responses were provided.  


In response to a question raised on page 80 of the report, on why fuel usage had increased, it was agreed that a written response would be provided.


In response to a question raised on page 84 of the report, on why there was no footfall data for Haverhill, Mildenhall, Brandon or Clare, the Cabinet Member explained that the footfall data were provided by the Bury St Edmunds and the Newmarket BIDs.  However, the Cabinet Member agreed to look into the cost of monitoring footfall in the other towns and how to provide better comparisons on footfall data.


In response to a question raised on page 97 of the report, on why the percentage of affordable housing units delivered on sites of 10 or more units was showing as a flat line, it was explained that this was because the Council was consistently delivering on its 30 per cent target. Members suggested it would be better to show how many affordable houses had been built during the year.  Officers agreed to include numbers of affordable house built in the commentary box for future quarterly reporting.


In response to a question raised on page 102 of the report, on employee numbers, officers agreed to change the scale on the head count and would include the net change in the commentary box for future quarterly reporting.


The Cabinet Member for Resources then presented the financial element of the report and explained this was the first report for this financial year which showed the initial trends and variances against the budget which was agreed by Council in February 2023.  Actual financial results up to 31 June 2023 had been used to forecast the full year delivery and rationale for any variances against the budget.


At this stage in the year the forecast was for a deficit of £372,000 which was just over 1% of the Council’s total income.  Whist this was a shortfall, management were looking at options to bring this back to a balanced position by the year end.


In comparison to previous years the major income lines were all forecast to be on or near budget.  The variances that the Council was seeking were related to particular issues rather than larger nationwide trends.  The variances included:


-      The loss of income relating to some vacant retail units.

-      Utility cost rises within the operational estate.

-      The slowdown in local property market impacting on land charge; building control and section 106 income.

-      There was a favourable variance coming from lower fuel costs currently available.


The Council was forecasting to spend £30.2m of its capital budget of £56.7m for the financial year.  This was predominantly due to the timing of opportunities for “investing for growth” fund and the lower than anticipated use of the Barley Homes loan facility.


Earmarked reserves were forecast to be £45.8m against a closing budget position of £43.2m.  This increase was driven by the expectation that additional external borrowing would not be required in the year and the budgeted interest payable budget would not be required in full.  There was also significant significantly higher interest receivable (£0.9m) which had been moved to the capital project financing reserve.  This was held to mitigate the risk of higher interest rates on borrowing in the near future when the Council would be looking to borrow externally again in the next 12 to 24 months.


Appendix E, relating to the strategic risk register recorded all strategic risks that might impact the ability to deliver Council services.  The relative impact and probability of each risk was reviewed each quarter along with all the mitigating controls and actions.  There was one new risk which had been added in Quarter 1, relating to the transition of the administration and the risk inherent with a significant number of new members and change of political control.  The actions and controls included the training and inductions of members.  This risk was anticipated to be a temporary including in the risk register.


The Committee considered the financial aspects of the report and asked questions to which responses were provided.  In particular discussions were held on expenditure (third party payments); vacant properties; staff vacancies and exit interviews.


In response to a question raised about the decrease in income and whether this was still related to covid, the Cabinet Member explained that there was still a slight lag in income recovery, compounded by the current cost of living crisis.


In response to a question raised on recycling rates and increasing recycling in diverse materials, which in turn would increase revenue, the Cabinet Member advised that recycling was under review and was being looked at by the Environment and Sustainability Working Group, as well as the operations team.  Officers would discuss with the Director of Operations on ways to maximise more recycling.  The Council was waiting on new Government legislation to improve the consistence of collections, which had been deferred until 2025. 


In response to a question raised on whether the Council had a policy to promote staff from within, members were informed that the Council had in place for all services succession planning and a number of roles were filled from within the existing workforce, but external advertisement was still appropriate.  


Detailed discussions took place on the Council’s budget which was already in deficit in quarter one by £0.4m from a balanced budget at the start of the financial year 2023 to 2024 and wages were increasing.  The report explained that officers were looking at potential cost saving opportunities and efficiencies, but some members were concerned about the early deficit and questioned whether the tough decisions were being taken now as the Council needed to get to grips with the deficit at an early stage.


In response the Cabinet Member explained that she was working with officers and other Cabinet members to address the current in year deficit and a number of options were available. 


There being no decision required, the Committee noted the forecast 2023 to 2024 revenue and capital positions as detailed in report number PAS/WS/23/014 and appendices and that Cabinet be asked to manage the deficit at an early stage to bring it back to a balanced budget.

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