The Director of Finance submits the draft General Fund Revenue Budget 2020/21 to 2021/22, which will be considered at the meeting of Council on 19 February 2020, (attached at Appendix E).
The following draft minute extracts, detailing the respective Scrutiny Commissions’ discussions on the draft General Fund Revenue Budget report, will be circulated as soon as they are available:
· Neighbourhood Services Scrutiny Commission – 15 January 2020 (Appendix E1)
· Heritage, Culture, Leisure and Sport Scrutiny Commission – 21 January 2020 (Appendix E2)
· Children, Young People and Schools Scrutiny Commission – 28 January 2020 (Appendix E3)
· Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Commission – 30 January 2020 (Appendix E4)
· Adult Social Care Scrutiny Commission – 4 February 2020 (Appendix E5)
· Economic Development, Transport and Tourism Scrutiny Commission – 5 February 2020 (Appendix E6)
This Committee is recommended to consider the draft budget and the comments made by the Scrutiny Commissions, and to pass its comments on these to the meeting of Council on 19 February for consideration.
The Director of Finance submitted the draft General Fund Revenue Budget 2020/21 to 2021/22, which would be considered at the meeting of Council on 19 February 2020.
Members were reminded that draft minute extracts, detailing Scrutiny Commissions’ discussions on the draft General Fund Revenue Budget report, had been circulated separately. The City Mayor advised the Committee that he had considered the comments made by the Scrutiny Commissions and would be drafting a response to be presented at the Budget Council meeting on 19 February 2020.
The Director of Finance introduced the report, explaining that the Council had approved a one-year budget for 2019/20, as it had been expected that the system of local government funding would change during that period. However, due to other national political priorities during the year, this review had been deferred and would be implemented from 2021/22 at the earliest. Consequently, it was being proposed that a one-year budget be agreed for 2020/21.
The Director reminded Members that the Council had adopted a managed reserves strategy for a number of years. Under this, money had been put in to reserves where possible, to enable structured and planned spending decisions to be taken. The programme of spending reviews adopted over the last few years also had been beneficial, as it meant that the funding gap in the proposed budget was manageable. This programme of reviews needed to continue though.
It was noted that approximately 65% of the Council’s expenditure was on adult and children’s social care. In recognition of the increasing demands and pressures on these services, the draft General Fund revenue budget included growth in both areas. An additional £17million was being made available, this being £3million for adult social care and £14million for children’s social care, due to the increasing number and complexity of cases. These figures were based on trends and predictions for service demands.
Members were advised that there had been an underspend on adult social care during 2018/19, due to the early completion of a spending review. As a result, a phased saving had been delivered earlier than anticipated.
The final 2020/21 local government finance settlement had only been announced by the government on 7 February 2020. This had been slightly more favourable than anticipated, so the Council’s funding gap for 2020/21 was now £2.4million, rather than the £5.6million set out in the draft budget report.
However, due to other urgent parliamentary business, the local government finance settlement had not been laid before parliament on 12 February as planned and now would be debated after the parliamentary recess. Consequently, all local authorities would have to agree their budgets for 2020/21 before parliamentary approval of the settlement had been obtained. It therefore was possible that aspects of the budget could need to be reconsidered by Council if the settlement changed significantly from that proposed, although this was highly unlikely.
The Committee noted the discussion that had been held at the Economic Development, Transport and Tourism Scrutiny Commission regarding the impact that the proposed increase in Council Tax would have on households and the consequent effect on the local economy, (minute 59, “Draft General Fund Revenue Budget 2020/21 - 2021/22”, 5 February 2020 referred). The Commission had suggested that consideration could be given to using the projected Collection Fund surplus to support vulnerable households, for example by transferring it to the Council Tax Support Scheme, which it was projected would reduce by £0.7m. The Collection Fund surplus was used to support the overall budget and therefore already was taken into consideration, but the City Mayor advised the Committee that he was making a commitment to work with officers to look at other ways in which additional support to those facing financial hardship could be included as part of the General Fund revenue budget for 2020/21.
The Director of Finance assured Members that Council Tax support funds and discretionary relief continued to be funded, along with the Crisis Support Scheme, (through which goods and services were provided to those eligible). The Council had as an explicit policy for each scheme and those who meet the required eligibility criteria would be supported regardless of budget parameters.
It was proposed by the Chair, seconded by Councillor Kitterick and AGREED that:
1) the Director of Finance be asked to circulate information to all Councillors on support available through the Council’s various hardship funds; and
2) this Committee supports the recommendations set out in the report for the General Fund Revenue Budget 2020/21, but asks Council to take this Committee’s comments recorded above and the attached comments of the Scrutiny Commissions into consideration when considering the recommended budget proposals.