To consider and provide a recommendation to Cabinet on the proposals set out in the attached report.
Lee Colyer, Director of Finance, Policy and Development introduced the report set out in the agenda.
Discussion and questions from Members included the following:
- Every year, the Council undertook a budget public consultation exercise. This set out the cost of all Council Services and asked where reductions should take place in order to balance the budget. The public had consistently stated they would like to see savings in the cost of Councillors, Democratic Services and a reduction in the number of the Council’s property assets.
- It was hoped the Local Government Financial Settlement would include something about the New Homes Bonus Scheme. The Government had indicated there would be a replacement scheme next year but to date no information had been given as to what the replacement scheme would be. It was however hoped that the Council it would get the final year next year.
- Due to the effects of the pandemic and unless the economy recovered to pre pandemic levels the Council would have to make fundamental adjustments to its finances.
- The level of income the Council currently received was not sufficient to fund all the services it currently provided. As such the Council needed to significantly reduce its level of expenditure in order to achieve a balanced budget over the medium term.
- The sum of £292k referred to in table 2.24 of the report referred to the cost of the Amelia Scott building becoming operational. The Council would be able to better determine what income could be generated by the Amelia Scott once it was open.
- It was hoped that the proposed improvements to the Town Hall would generate income.
- The purpose of setting out the details of the Medium Term Financial Strategy was to ensure that measures were taken to ensure that the Council was able to balance its budget and reserves were not fully depleted. The Council was fortunate that it had over £100m in property assets, it operated in a prosperous part of the country and it provided a wide range of diverse services that were way beyond the statutory requirements. This allowed the Council to take decisions that would bring the budget back within balance.
- Should the necessary measures not be taken the Council’s reserves would run out in 2028/29. However it was the Council’s responsibility that this did not occur and there were no plans going forward that the Council would run at a deficit.
- Other than due to the pandemic there was only one recollected time the Council had incurred unexpected costs and it became necessary to draw on its reserves. This was due to an unexpected reduction in the Council’s Revenue Support Grant. This affected the budget in the short term, but over the medium term, financial savings and adjustments were made to ensure the budget returned to a balanced budget.
- The Council was an early adopter of digital transformation and over the last 5-years it had resulted in lower administrative costs. The Council would continue to look for digital opportunities and make savings where it could.
- The Council had endeavoured to ensure the budget was balanced but that it also helped support the town in its recovery following the pandemic. The demand for car parking was not yet known and it was therefore decided not to make any changes to the charges at this time.
RESOLVED – That the recommendations to Cabinet as set out in the report be supported.