To note the Council's financial performance for 2020/21 and to approve movements to and from reserves and any carry forward of budgets to 2021/22.
The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) presented the Revenue and Capital Outturn 2020/21 report which set out the Council’s financial performance for 2020/21 and the impact on reserves. She highlighted the huge impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the hard work of the finance team in applying for and administering grants to local businesses. The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) highlighted the Finance Team for their work during a challenging period and added that despite the complex situation, the Council was in a better positon than had been expected earlier in the year.
Attention was drawn to the significant impact of Covid-19 on the Council’s finances with £134 million of additional support from the Government to the Council and South Lakeland area. The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) reminded Members of the additional budget of £2 million which had been funded by use of the General Reserve and approved by Cabinet and Council in June 2020 and explained that the expected net cost of Covid-19 to the Council had been reduced to £1.3 million in February 2021. She informed Members that mainly due to additional grants and contributions received, the estimated cost was now £259,000.
Members sought clarification on the deficit and whether it included grants that had been available through the government. The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) noted that various pots of money had come through the Council’s accounts, some of which were untouchable, some to be paid out as per government instruction and others where the Council was granted flexibility on who to pay and how much. She noted that grants had either been paid, or where they had not been the Council was expecting or waiting to repay them.
Members sought information on how much money had been given out by the government. The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) noted that this figure would be included in the statement of accounts rather than the outturn report, but confirmed that £114 million had been paid out. She also undertook to circulate a summary of the figures to Members.
Members brought attention to page 28 section 3.9 on leisure services and noted that there had been a long wait to receive funding. They asked whether the extra money was enough for leisure services to deal with recent impacts and for them to continue delivering services across the district. Members further asked whether any additional money coming through could be used to support communities with social separation and safe spaces.
The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) informed Members that in regard to the leisure centre and GLL money had been paid through grants and no other requests for funding had been received. She also noted that local authorities were sending letters to MHCLG to raise this issues for consideration as part of the spending review, highlighting leisure services as big part of the levelling up agenda. She finished by informing Members that as part of the Medium Term Financial Plan money had been secured through the ‘Welcome Back Fund’ to fund a safe return to the high streets.
Members raised concerns in regard to the Capital Programme, querying the Council’s commitment to projects like the leisure centres and Grange Lido. The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) informed Members that whilst she was unable to provide an answer, care was taken to ensure that the projects remained in the Capital Programme.
The Director of Strategy, Innovation and Resources also added that it was difficult to provide a definitive answer as the Council awaited an announcement on Local Government Reorganisation (LGR), and commitments going forward may be dependent on this announcement.
Members highlighted the projects for Grange Lido and Ulverston Leisure Centre and queried whether progress could be made on the projects prior to any LGR announcement. The Director of Strategy, Innovation and Resources responded noting that progress was being made where possible and needed.
RESOLVED – That
(1) the outturn figures and variance explanations be noted; and
(2) the comments made by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be taken forward as appropriate for consideration by Council.