Agenda item

*Budget 2021/22

To consider and decide on the recommendations as set out in the attached report.

Decision:

            RESOLVED – That Full Council be recommended:

 

1.     That the changes to the base budget along with the assumptions and approach set out throughout the report be approved.

2.     That the responses to the budget consultation set out at Appendix C to the report be approved;

3.     That the rolling forward of the capital programme including additional gross funding of £2,834,600 for new schemes list within the report be approved; and

4.     That an increase in the Base Amount of Council Tax of £5 per annum for a Band D property be approved.

 

REASON FOR DECISION: To deliver a sustainable budget to deliver the Council’s key objectives.

Minutes:

Lee Colyer, Director of Finance, Policy and Development introduced the report that provided an update to the budget projections for the 2021/22 budget.

 

Discussion and responses to Members questions included the following:

 

-       The budget had been developed over a 9 month period with 3 reports going Cabinet via the Cabinet Advisory Boards and Overview and Scrutiny.

-       Since approval of the draft budget, Government had set out the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement which confirmed the Council Tax threshold for this Council of £5 over the rate for the current year.

-       The Government expected the Council to increase Council Tax by £5 in their assessment of the spending power and resources this Council would have available to deliver Local Services. 

-       The final settlement would be confirmed by Parliament and a debate was currently scheduled for 10 February 2021.

-       A final allocation of New Homes Bonus of £454k would be received which would help to reduce the use of reserves in balancing the Revenue Budget.

-       The Government had stated the replacement for New Homes Bonus would move towards a new scheme that would be ‘a new more targeted approach that rewards Local Authorities where they are ambitious in delivering the homes we need’.

-       In terms of Business Rates, the system that rewarded Local Authorities that attracted investment into their area and delivered growth would continue for a further year.  TWBC would continue to be part of the Kent Business Rates Pool.

-       The latest financial impact from the pandemic on the Council’s income streams was included in the report and with further national lockdowns and disruption the picture was unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future.

-       Unemployment and collection rates were holding up better than anticipated. 

-       £1.935m would still be required from Reserves to fund the provision of local services for next year.  This was an improvement on the £3m identified in the draft budget.

-       The Council’s asset still required substantial investment with additional gross project funding of £2.8m.  This was in addition to rolling forward the existing Capital Programme.

-       The report included a table (A List) of schemes which for health and safety reasons or where external funding was in place, would require funding. 

-       The report also included a B list of £2m worth of works that would be required to keep the Town Hall, Assembly Hall, Car Parks and Leisure Centres operational.

-       This was all in addition to the £1m the Council spent on planned and responsive repairs to its assets.

-       The temporary use of Reserves and the additional Capital Schemes would reduce the level of Reserves held by the Council. 

-       Fortunately the Council entered the pandemic from a sound financial position with a track record of balancing the Revenue Budget.  However, Reserves could only be used once and the legacy of the pandemic would be the cost of providing existing services would be greater than the level of income raised each year by this Council.

-       It would therefore be necessary to act to bring the Revenue Budget back into balance, without reliance on Reserves from April 2022. 

-       The drain on Reserves was further exacerbated by the unsustainable costs of existing assets.  A review would be required to identify those that had sufficient demand and purpose to continue to invest, and those that should be repurposed or sold.

-       When appropriate to do so, Reserves should be replenished.

-       A public survey had been undertaken to test the budget strategy including the temporary use of Reserves to protect local services for 2021/22.  The survey also tested the level of Council Tax the public felt appropriate and how to fund the local response to the climate change emergency.

-       The public was asked how they would allocate funding for services should income levels not recover due to the consequences of the pandemic.

-       The responses received from the survey totalled 575 (compared with 199 last year).

-       Public opinion supported the use of Reserves (91%).  Support was also received for the £5 increase in Council Tax (74%).

-       In addition, respondents said they would support a reduction in all Council services from April 2022 in order to balance the budget, with the exception of Community Safety and Public Conveniences.

-       Respondents had indicated that they would accept a significant reduction in a number of services including, Committee, Mayoral and Member Services, Museum, Planning and Building Control and Property and Maintenance Costs.

-       There was strong support for setting fees and charges locally (69%).

-       There was agreement on the importance of climate change and recognition that any action would require savings from existing budgets and an increase in income in order to fund this.

 

 

RESOLVED – That Full Council be recommended:

 

1.    That the changes to the base budget along with the assumptions and approach set out throughout the report be approved.

2.    That the responses to the budget consultation set out at Appendix C to the report be approved;

3.    That the rolling forward of the capital programme including additional gross funding of £2,834,600 for new schemes list within the report be approved; and

4.    That an increase in the Base Amount of Council Tax of £5 per annum for a Band D property be approved.

 

REASON FOR DECISION: To deliver a sustainable budget to deliver the Council’s key objectives.

Supporting documents: