To consider the projected year end position based on performance to the end of Quarter 1 2019/20 and officers’ planned actions to ensure a balanced budget by the end of the financial year.
The Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder, Councillor Andrew Jarvis, presented the Corporate Financial Monitoring report for Quarter One of 2019/20, highlighting the Council’s expenditure and income during the first three months of the financial year, but also including current projections of expenditure for the remainder of the year.
The report had also been considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 16 August 2019 and by Cabinet on 11 September 2019.
Councillor Jarvis took the opportunity to provide Cabinet with a brief update on the budget for 2020/21 and subsequent years. He referred to the Autumn Statement in which the Chancellor had confirmed that there would be a one year settlement for Local Government, with the restructuring and reset of Non-Domestic Rates being postponed to 2021/22. There were important details that remained unclear, for example around the continuation of Council’s ability to increase Council Tax by £5, or of business rates pooling. However, the initial indication was that this temporary settlement would leave the Council in a better financial position than in the Medium Term Financial Plan presented to Council in July 2019. Councillor Jarvis, however, reminded Members that this showed a £620,000 deficit for 2020/21, and the Council’s first priority was to close this. Councillor Jarvis said that considerable uncertainty around the settlement also remained. Councillor Jarvis also made reference to the move by the Government earlier in the day to increase Council borrowing rates by 1% point for all new borrowing. He undertook to keep Cabinet and Council updated on next year’s budget.
Councillor Jarvis, in closing, thanked the Finance Team for their work and moved that the report be noted.
Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, seconded the motion, also thanking Councillor Jarvis and officers. Councillor Archibald expressed pride in the work achieved by the Council for the community in relation to playgrounds, kerbside recycling and locality budgets, to name but a few. He pointed out that this work, carried out in partnership with other organisations, was possible due to the fact that the Council was, and continued to be, managed in a financially prudent manner.
It was suggested that the Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder might, in future, consider circulating any updates to his report to Members on the day before the meeting in the form of a late representation. Councillor Jarvis explained, however, that the material provided verbally was not new and that he was simply emphasising key points contained within the report.
In response to a query relating to collection of sundry debts and the need for the Council to reduce the figure to nil, Councillor Jarvis informed Members that the Lake Administration Committee had, on 4 October 2019, been provided with a detailed report on action being taken in relation to encroachments on a debt by debt basis, and that other debts continued to be pursued. The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) added that officers worked hard to pursue debts by all means possible, by contacting the debtor, through enforcement agents or direct pursuit in Court, with a few debts resulting in charges against property; the Council was reluctant to write-off any debts. A plea was raised regarding the need, in the spirit of sensitivity, to ensure that enforcement agents collecting goods from those in debt should not do so after dark.
Councillor Jarvis responded to a query as to whether there had been any direct communication from the Government in relation to a forthcoming multi-year settlement. He explained that he had received communication in relation to 2020/21 but, with regard to the multi-year financial settlement, he had heard nothing, which was of concern. Councillor Jarvis’ attention was drawn to the fact that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which was due to meet on 25 October 2019, would be considering the Quarter 2 Financial Update and asking in-depth questions.
RESOLVED – That the contents of the report be noted.