To consider the draft budget proposals for the financial years 2019/20 to 2023/24 and proposed pay scales from 1 April 2019 resulting from the national local government pay settlement for 2018/20.
Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Finance Portfolio Holder, presented a first draft budget for 2019/20 to 2023/24.
The budget projections had been updated to reflect the ending of the Second Homes Agreement with the County Council, which reduced income across all years from 2019/20 by approximately £700,000. A number of additional budget pressures, growth bids and savings proposals had been identified that were outlined in the Appendices to the report. The Capital Programme had been adjusted to reflect projects where there was a well-developed business case, where work was unavoidable or where a degree of outline approval had already been indicated or was shortly expected. There were, additionally, a number of schemes where the business cases were not yet sufficiently advanced to include within the Medium Term Financial Plan capital budget. There was one change to the 2018/19 capital budget as, due to high demand, it was necessary to increase the Disabled Facilities Grant funding budget through the transfer of £191,000 of unallocated budget from the Affordable Homes budget. The resulting revised Capital Programme was presented in detail at Appendix 6 to the report. The report presented a draft position and work would continue to incorporate further changes into subsequent budget reports, such as the government grant position which was not yet known. The final Draft Budget Report would incorporate the consideration of the internal and external consultation and be presented to Cabinet on 23 January 2019, prior to final recommendations being made to Council on 26 February 2019.
Approval was also sought from Council for the proposed pay scales from 1 April 2019 resulting from the national local government pay settlement for 2018/20 and consideration by the Human Resources Committee on 11 December 2018.
The Government had published the provisional Local Government finance settlement for 2019/20 earlier in December. The settlement had included notification that the Cumbria business rate pilot bid had been unsuccessful but it was expected that the existing Cumbria business rate pool would continue for 2019/20. No additional income had been included in the draft budget relating to the pilot bid.
In moving the recommendations contained within the report, Councillor Jarvis informed Members that the Council was currently financially robust and thanked officers for their work. However, future uncertainties could not be ignored, and potential severe cuts in funding and the need to address them, at the same time minimising the impact on residents, would be a major challenge. He was seconded by Councillor Giles Archibald.
Councillor Matt Severn expressed support for the motion and, in particular, commended officers for their work in relation to the prioritised capital bids relating to loans to housing associations utilising the Right to Buy receipts accumulated to date and the development of additional homelessness accommodation for families. He was pleased that the Council was addressing the homelessness crisis. Councillor Jonathan Brook also commended Councillor Jarvis and officers for their work and highlighted the fact that South Lakeland District Council would, from 1 April 2019, pay its staff the equivalent of the foundation living wage. Councillor Giles Archibald spoke in praise of Councillor Dyan Jones who had first raised the issue of the foundation living wage and echoed thanks to Councillor Jarvis and officers for their work. He also drew attention to the Capital Programme and all the additional work which was being carried out by the Council due to good financial management.
RESOLVED – That
(1) it be noted that the development of the Budget is an iterative process between now and Council on 26 February 2019. The assumptions, proposals and calculations included within it will be subject to change as more information from internal and external sources is provided and decisions around the final proposals can be made;
(2) the proposals contained in the report to achieve a balanced budget in 2019/20 be noted;
(3) the projected deficit position of circa £590,000 in 2020/21 rising to circa £2.6m by 2023/24 (this is after the Customer Connect savings have been included), as set out in Appendix 2 to the report, be noted;
(4) it be noted that proposals (1) and (2) form the basis of statutory consultation with stakeholders;
(5) the amended 2018/19 Capital Programme as presented at Appendix 6 to the report, be approved, noting that the future years programme is still under development; and
(6) the proposed pay scales from 1 April 2019 onwards, as set out in Appendix 9 to the report, be approved.