To consider the draft budget proposals for the financial years 2021/22 to 2025/26.
The Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder presented the 2021/22 to 2025/26 Five Year Draft Budget. The expected outcome was that the Council would be in a position to deliver the priorities set out in the Council Plan within its resources. This would enable the statutory requirement to agree a balanced budget and to set the appropriate Council Tax level for 2021/22.
The Customer Connect programme had substantially reduced future budget deficits. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a fundamental impact on the Council’s financial position. The Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder explained that although the Government had introduced a number of one-off grants to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 as part of the local government settlement, these were insufficient to cover the full extent of the additional costs and income lost due to the pandemic. He added that the government had also further delayed the reform of local government funding and that options were being developed to balance future budget deficits.
The Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder explained that whilst work was still needed on the budget, it wasn’t expected to impact on the ability of the Council to recommend a balanced budget to Council. He added that a balanced budget would put the Council in the best place to move into the next financial year and continue to invest in our communities which had been run through a diverse and impressive programme this year. The Portfolio Holder commended the Council for its commitment to investing in communities and thanked officers in the Finance team for their continual hard work during these difficult times.
Members discussed the impact of a potential unitary authority on the budget and the work of the Council and the prudent financial management that has allowed the Council to maintain the key priorities and improve the lives of residents despite making difficult decisions.
The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist informed Members of the comments of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (O&S). Overview and Scrutiny Committee Members raised a question on the timing of the proposed increase to parking fees but agreed the budget report, adding a rider that they accepted the sensitivity of car park charging, and given the current situation and the fact that it has been 8 years since last raised there is little option. The Overview and Scrutiny Committee added that they would continue to monitor car parking ahead of incoming proposals for the improvement of Kendal.
Further discussion raised comments on the context of the draft budget and in particular the increase to parking charges, the buffering of car parking charges from the Town Council and Business Improvement District (BID) in Ulverston and the Council. Members discussed using tactical detail in parking charges and the challenge of presenting a balanced budget package.
The Leader asked the meeting if the motion was agreed. There was no dissent.
RESOLVED – That
(1) the proposals contained in the report to achieve a balanced budget in 2021/22 be noted; and
(2) the Draft Budget 2021/22 to 2025/26 be recommended to Council for approval, subject to any further amendments arising from Government announcements and the final calculation of business rates income due.
Reasons for Decision
This report sets out the first draft Budget to enable the consideration of how the Council’s priorities will be delivered. Setting a sound framework for budget preparation assists in the delivery of all corporate outcomes. This strategy has been developed within the context of the MTFP.
Alternation Options Considered and Rejected
This report presents alternative options in relation to potential budget pressures and savings, new capital programme bids, one off revenue growth bids and fees and charges. The proposals together aim to meet the Council’s statutory duty to set a balanced Budget for 2021/22.