Note – In accordance with the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 and the consequential change to Council’s Rules of Procedure, this item will automatically be subject to a recorded vote in respect of setting the Council Tax and on any amendments proposed at the meeting.
To consider the recommendations from Cabinet to determine the Council’s Budget for 2019/20 onwards, including fees and charges, the Capital Programme, the Pay Policy and the Chief Finance Officer’s Advice on the Robustness of Estimates and the Adequacy of Reserves.
Prior to discussion on the item, revised copies of Appendix No.4 to the report, Pay Policy Statement 2019/20, were distributed to Members.
The Finance Portfolio Holder, Councillor Andrew Jarvis, presented the draft budget proposals for 2019/20 onwards, including fees and charges, the Capital Programme, the Pay Policy and the Chief Finance Officer’s Advice on the Robustness of Estimates and the Adequacy of Reserves. The proposals set out a net revenue budget for 2019/20 of £14,005,200, including a £5 (2.6%) increase in the Band D Council Tax for District Council Services. This increase was consistent with expectations of Central Government set out in the multi-year settlement for 2016/17 onwards, but was below the latest expectation of Central Government of an increase of below 3%.
The draft budgets had been considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 11 January 2019. Further reports had also been considered by the Lake Administration Committee, Licensing Committee and Planning Committee. At its meeting on 6 February 2019, Cabinet had recommended the draft budget to Council for approval.
Councillor Jarvis highlighted a number of areas within the report, drawing attention to the key changes incorporated since the December update to Council which were shown in Appendix 1 to the report. This included the £200,000 revenue cost impact of the South Lakeland House/Kendal Town Hall refurbishment, particularly due to lower rental income during changes and a £50,000 cost for contribution to carbon reduction schemes. This was more than offset from a £120,000 higher financial settlement than had been expected, £200,000 lower interest projections and £110,000 lower base budget costs. Consequently, a small contribution of £42,000 to reserves was expected, rather than the Council being required to use reserves.
Councillor Jarvis pointed out that although there was a balanced budget in 2019/20, from 2020 onwards there was a deteriorating picture, with a projected deficit of £620,000 in 2020/21, rising to £2m by 2023/24, despite Customer Connect rising to over £1.5m each year. This gap had significantly reduced from that presented in December and now included the full impact of savings from key investment projects, notably South Lakeland House/Kendal Town Hall refurbishment and Ulverston Leisure Centre. The gap was almost entirely the result of prudent assumptions of reductions in funding through the Government cutting the amount of Non-Domestic Rates retained by the Council. The extent to which this materialised will only become clear when details of the new funding settlement for local authorities was announced, later in the year.
Councillor Jarvis drew attention to the Council’s ambitious Capital Programme, also outlining a number of schemes where the business cases were not yet sufficiently advanced to include within the Medium Term Financial Plan capital budget.
Councillor Jarvis informed Members that the budget showed that the Council was in robust financial health and was prudently planning for the changes in local government funding that lay ahead. This balanced budget was only possible due to the necessary actions having been taken to restructure and generate savings. He pointed out that no alternative budget had been proposed by opposition Members and closed in saying that the Budget before Council was the right budget for the people of South Lakeland. This was the outcome of a long process of work over the past nine months and Councillor Jarvis thanked officers for their hard work.
Councillor Jarvis moved the recommendations contained within the report. He was seconded by Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, who thanked all involved in the work on the Budget. He stressed that work would continue on finding savings and pointed out that the Customer Connect Programme was on track to deliver a saving of £1.55m. He commended the contents of the Capital Programme which supported projects throughout the District.
Councillor Ben Berry explained that in previous years, the alternative budgets presented by the opposition, had been condemned, their contents then being adopted and implemented in the following year by the administration, He drew attention to the original budget for New Road of £430,000 which had subsequently been revised to £286,000; to the £340,000 for car park ticket machines following which most of the functionality had been removed; to K Village and the loss of £100,000; and to the cost of £47,000 relating to the error regarding disabled parking administration. Councillor Berry alluded to the plans for the refurbishment of South Lakeland House/Kendal Town Hall which, he suggested, was a poor way to spend Council Tax payers’ money. He referred to the contents of the Corporate Financial Monitoring Report discussed at Minute No.C/73 above and expressed concern at the figures shown for the two main services provided by the Council, Planning, showing a £24,000 overspend on staffing and an income shortfall of £128,000, and Waste Collection, showing an overspend of £128,000. Councillor Berry drew attention to the section within the report on Government funding and highlighted a number of areas where increases or additional grants had been allocated, for example the Rural Services Delivery Grant, reimbursement for the additional cost of Small Business Rate Relief and Brexit costs. He elaborated on the contents of the previous alternative budgets proposed by the opposition and subsequently implemented by the administration, for example Wifi for town centres; reduced charges for under-used car parks; Braithwaite Fold Caravan Site works; and Building Control Budget, however, pointed out that the only thing which had not adopted by the administration was keeping the Council Tax low. Councillor Berry closed, outlining the aspirations of opposition Members to turn the Council into a real environmental force for good, focussing on good jobs, celebrating tourism and delivering the A590 economic corridor and keeping the Council Tax low and cancelling the South Lakeland House/Kendal Town Hall redevelopment, instead investing in the people of South Lakeland.
Councillor Matt Severn spoke in support of the Budget, in particular praising the inclusion of £6m within the Capital Programme in relation to loans to housing associations utilising the Right to Buy receipts accumulated to date and the £461,000 in relation to developing additional homelessness accommodation for families. He also commended the £9.2m in relation to Ulverston Leisure Centre.
Councillor Chris Hogg, although grateful for Government funding, however, also drew attention to vast cuts in Government grants to local authorities. He highlighted the devastating results of a 0% rise in Council Tax at Northamptonshire Council and explained that there was an additional cost for delivery of services in rural areas.
In response to a query raised by Councillor David Webster, the Director People and Places provided clarification with regard to the contents of the revised copies of Appendix No.4 to the report, Pay Policy Statement 2019/20. He reported that the Statement had been considered and recommended to full Council for approval by the Human Resources Committee on 12 February 2019. He explained the details of the new arrangements relating to Statutory Officer Remuneration. With regard to the Monitoring Officer role, an additional allowance of 10% of annual salary would be paid to the Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist, with an additional allowance of 5% of annual salary being paid to the Deputy Monitoring Officer. Likewise, an additional allowance of 10% of annual salary would be paid to the Finance Lead Specialist with regard to the role of Section 151 Officer, and an additional allowance of 5% of annual salary to the Deputy Section 151 Officer.
Councillor Peter Thornton referred to a number of previous decisions voted against by opposition Members, for example Mintworks. He stressed that the modern facilities which would be offered by the refurbishment of South Lakeland House/Kendal Town Hall would make savings. He expressed support for the Budget.
Councillor Jarvis pointed out that the Council’s Waste Collection Service was extremely well-rated. He stressed the fact that the refurbishment of South Lakeland House/Kendal Town Hall was not only for use by the District Council and drew attention to the potential impacts of not carrying out the work resulting in a year on year cost to the Council Tax payer. Councillor Jarvis again commended the Budget to Members.
The Solicitor to the Council provided additional clarification with regard to the revised Appendix 4 circulated at the start of the item, pointing out that the figure shown within the section on Statutory Officer Remuneration for the allowance for the Returning Officer in respect of District and Parish Council elections now read £3,538.68 and not £3,327.84 as shown in the Appendix attached to the report. She also clarified that the Monitoring Officer and Section 151 officer and deputy roles would transfer from 1 June 2019.
In accordance with the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 and the Council’s Rules of Procedure, a recorded vote was taken on the recommendations as follows:–
The following Members voted in favour (29) – Councillors Giles Archibald; Rupert Audland; Helen Chaffey; Stephen Coleman; Tracy Coward; Philip Dixon; Alvin Finch; Eamonn Hennessy; Hazel Hodgson; Chris Hogg; Rachael Hogg; Vicky Hughes; Anne Hutton; Andrew Jarvis; Dyan Jones; Dave Khan; Helen Ladhams; Pete McSweeney; Ian Mitchell; Eric Morrell; Jon Owen; Doug Rathbone; Vivienne Rees; Matt Severn; Peter Thornton; Graham Vincent; David Webster; Mark Wilson; and Shirley-Anne Wilson.
The following Members voted against (12) – Councillors Caroline Airey; James Airey; Pat Bell; Ben Berry; Matt Brereton; Sheila Capstick; Brian Cooper; Tom Harvey; John Holmes; Kevin Holmes; Helen Irving; and Kevin Lancaster.
The following Members abstained (2) – Councillors Anne Hall and Amanda Rigg.
RESOLVED – That
(1) a Net Revenue Budget for 2019/20 of £14,005,200, as set out in Section 2 of the Draft Budget Book (Appendix 1 to the report) be adopted;
(2) the £5 (2.6%) increase in the Band D Council Tax to £195.63 for District Council Services for 2019/20 be approved as part of a balanced revenue budget;
(3) the detailed service budgets as set out in Section 3 of the Draft Budget Book be approved;
(4) the latest Collection Fund Estimates, Parish Council precepts and Parish Council taxes for 2019/20, as set out in Section 4 of the Draft Budget Book, be noted;
(5) the Capital Programme, as set out in Section 5 of the Draft Budget Book, be approved;
(6) the Reserves, as set out in Section 6 of the Draft Budget Book, be approved;
(7) the Fees and Charges Book for 2019/20, as set out in Appendix 2 to the report, be approved;
(8) the Chief Finance Officer’s Statutory Report on setting the 2019/20 Budget, as set out in Appendix 3 to the report, be noted;
(9) the Statutory Pay Policy Statement, as set out in the revised Appendix 4 to the report circulated at the meeting, be adopted and published; and
(10) it be noted that the proposals contained in the report have been incorporated into the Procurement Schedule, Prudential Indicators and Treasury Management Framework elsewhere on the agenda.