Agenda item

2022/23 to 2026/27 Draft Budget

To consider the first draft budget proposals for 2022/23.

Minutes:

The Council, at its meeting on 27 July 2021, had agreed to the proposed Budget Strategy for the current year’s budget process as part of the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP).  The Budget Strategy set out some broad principles which were being used in the preparation of the 2022/23 – 2026/27 Budget.

 

The report, introduced by Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Finance and Assets Portfolio Holder, presented a draft position.  Work would continue to incorporate further changes into subsequent budget reports, particularly further impacts of Local Government Reorganisation (LGR), Covid-19 and the central government grant position which was not yet clear.  The position set out in the report would form the basis of consultation.  The Overview and Scrutiny Committee would consider the report at its meeting on 4 February 2022.  The final Draft Budget Report would incorporate the consideration of the internal and external consultation received at that time and be presented to the 9 February 2022 Cabinet meeting.  Any further amendments would be delegated to the Leader and Portfolio Holder in consultation with the Section 151 officer prior to the report’s consideration at the Council meeting on 22 February 2022.  The Council would be requested to approve the final Budget at its meeting on 22 February 2022.  The budget timetable was presented for information at Appendix 2 to the report.

 

Although the Council’s services, income, expenditure, assets and liabilities would transfer to the new Westmorland and Furness Council on 1 April 2023 as part of LGR, the draft budgets still included projections for a full 5-years based on the current structure and arrangements.  This reflected good practice and the requirement to consider the long term sustainability of local services through long term financial planning regardless of the provider of those services and the statutory responsibility to set balanced budgets.

 

Councillor Jarvis highlighted a number of areas within the report.  He referred to the Revenue Budget and the current projected deficit of £173,000 for the next financial year.  He reminded Members, however, that the budget was an iterative process and that work would take place over the coming months to close this gap.  Officers were though, he said, projecting very significant deficits from April 2023 onwards which would need to be reviewed in the context of the new unitary council.

 

Councillor Jarvis turned to capital expenditure, informing Members that the forecast and plan had been reviewed and was reflected in Appendix 8 to the report.  This showed expected spend this year falling from nearly £27m to just over £14.5m.  He highlighted a number of capital projects, pointing out that nearly £16m of capital investment was envisaged next year.  He stressed that even though the life of this Council was limited, it would continue to invest for the benefits of its residents, ensuring that work was underway so that it had to be completed by its successor council.

 

Despite the many challenges faced, Councillor Jarvis felt that this budget showed that the Council was going into reorganisation in sound financial health.  He thanked officers for their work on ensuring this and the Finance Team for preparing this budget.  Councillor Jarvis moved the recommendations contained within the report, including an amendment to Recommendation No.(2) to authorise the Chief Executive to appoint to temporary positions within the agreed budget, details of which had been circulated to Members at the start of the meeting.  He was seconded by Councillor Jonathan Cornthwaite.

 

A number of questions were raised, with written responses being promised.  Councillor Mark Wilson asked whether the community toilet scheme was progressing in any shape or form.  Councillor Mark Wilson also asked for clarity on the Council’s proposed investment in properties in Ulverston, referring to the capital proposals C2, C3 and C4 in which the commentary suggested that the Council’s investment was dependent on Ulverston Community Enterprise and long term lease.  Both Councillor Jarvis and Councillor Robin Ashcroft, Economy, Culture and Leisure Portfolio Holder, were, however, able to indicate that in relation to the Council’s proposed investment in Ulverston, it was the Council’s intention to invest subject to completion of a satisfactory business plan by Ulverston Community Enterprise although pointing out that negotiations would take time.

 

Clarification having been sought regarding the £2m shown within the draft budget for Ulverston Leisure Centre, Councillor Jarvis explained that this was for the first phase of work.  The Director of Strategy, Innovation and Resources explained that application of GKS’s contribution would shortly be considered by Cabinet.

 

It was unanimously

 

RESOLVED – That

 

(1)        it be noted that the development of the Budget is an iterative process between now and Council on 22 February 2022.  The assumptions, proposals and calculations included within it will be subject to change as more information from internal and external sources is provided and decisions around the final proposals can be made;

 

(2)        the proposals contained in this report and Appendices 3 to 9 to the report to achieve a balanced budget from April 2022 be noted;

 

(3)        the proposals for Fees and Charges from April 2022 set out in Appendix 9 to the report be noted;

 

(4)        the projected deficits starting at £175,000 2022/23 rising to circa £3.1m by 2026/27 be noted;

 

(5)        Council be requested to approve the additional budget for staff, as set out in Appendix 4 to the report, to be funded from the increased balance on General Reserve arising from 2020/21 outturn amendments identified during audit;

 

(6)        Council be requested to approve the amendments to the Capital Programme as set out in Section 4 and Appendix 8 to the report;

 

(7)        the decision on whether to continue membership of Cumbria business rate pool (this will be a key decision to be included in the next Forward Plan) be delegated to the Finance Lead Specialist and Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder; and

 

(8)        Resolutions (1), (2) and (3) above be approved to form the basis of consultation with stakeholders.

Supporting documents: