Decision Maker: Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Decision status: For Determination
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
To note the Council’s financial
performance for 2021/22 and to review movements to and from
reserves and the carry forward of budgets to 2022/23.
The Finance and Assets Portfolio Holder introduced the report, acknowledging that it had been a tough year that stretched resources – particularly in the response to COVID-19 and large amounts of grants combined with preparation for Local Government Reorganisation. He thanked officers for their continued hard work.
Speaking on the Revenue Budget, the Portfolio Holder reminded members that the report looked at spend during the year and any carry forward into 2022/23. He informed members that the budget was set during the pandemic at a time where it wasn’t clear what the full impact would be. As a result large contingencies were set aside to cover losses which ultimately were not required, resulting in an overall underspend for the year.
In terms of Capital Expenditure, the Portfolio Holder noted that there was a revised budget of £15m, with £11m spent in the year. The Portfolio holder noted the large underspend, but highlighted the huge spend of £11m on various projects such as Kendal Town Hall, Flood Defence schemes and Cross-a-moor roundabout.
In responding to a question on employment problems impacting on expenditure, the Portfolio Holder noted that it was key to ensure resources were being prioritised and that the Council was acting ahead of events to ensure that the appropriate staff were in place. He suggested that the committee could invite officers to take a look at what is being done administratively.
Responding to the question of what happens to projects that aren’t completed prior to the vesting day in April 2023, the Portfolio Holder confirmed that that money could not be ring-fenced. He continued noting that it was a significant issue that was yet to be resolved, but work was being done to ensure March 31 2023 did not become a hard stop for projects.
Members queried why the Ulverston Leisure Centre project was on hold, noting that local residents were disappointed that nothing had been done yet. The Portfolio holder responded by clarifying that no promises were made regarding expenditure on the project, but rather it was agreed to look at a business case for the project. He continued noting that any decision would now be the responsibility of the new unitary authority, but acknowledged the strong need for a replacement pool and that there was still a firm intention to do something.
Members continued querying whether improvements to the sports fields and courts would be going ahead. The Portfolio Holder responded to confirm it was his understanding that those works were within the budget, and to provide some reassurance he informed members that the unitary authority had given general consent for works up to £2 million which included leisure centre and sports facilities works.
Members thanked the Portfolio Holder and officers for the work that went into Cross-a-moor junction, which was due to open on the day of the meeting.
In relation to the Shared Prosperity Fund bid, members queried what projects and funding levels were being applied for. The Portfolio Holder responded noting that he had not had sight of a list of specific projects as the Council had only applied under certain ‘themes’ at present. He also confirmed that expenditure would likely not be on Council activity but rather spent through partners, and that expenditure and delivery would be the responsibility of the unitary authority. Members continued by querying what measures were in place to ensure member engagement. The Portfolio Holder responded noting that he believed the matter would come to Cabinet, but at this stage the council only needed to notify the government which themes it would be applying under. The Director of Strategy, Innovation and Resources added that he would be happy to raise the matter and provide a written response on member engagement and further details on the funding bid.
Members drew attention to the large overspend on salaries, further highlighting that money spent on salaries for the planning department were increasing and not decreasing.
The Section 151 officer responded by informing members that the specialist planning team had a number of vacancies during the year and that agency staff had been used to carry out these functions as well as for COVID-19 Test and Trace and the Outbreak Management Fund. The Portfolio Holder added that a large portion of the overspend had been offset by grant income.
Responding to a question on the lease for Braithwaite Fold Caravan Park, the Portfolio Holder confirmed that the lease had been signed over a year ago, and would transfer over to the new unitary authority. He noted that the leaseholder was investing in upgrading the site and that the Council would continue to receive income from the site.
Members passed on concerns raised by residents in relation to the planning department, noting that some people were unhappy with the current service provided. The Director of Strategy, Innovation and Resources updated the meeting with latest planning performance and confirmed that if details of particular cases were provided he would raise internally.
RESOLVED – That the outturn figures and variance explanations set out in the report and appendices be noted.
Report author: Claire Chouchoulas
Publication date: 17/08/2022
Date of decision: 08/07/2022
Decided at meeting: 08/07/2022 - Overview and Scrutiny Committee