Agenda item

2022/23 Budget Update


The Chief Executive spoke to the Budget Update report before the Committee stressing the need for the Council to address the financial challenges it faced, as emphasised by the Leader at the start of the meeting. The two external assurance reports commissioned by the Government were both critical of the Council on its leadership and governance and financial position, stating that the Council had tried over the past years to deliver the same level of services despite not having the financial means to do so. Wirral was only one of eleven councils in England to have requested exceptional financial support from the Government for 2020/21 and 2021/22. He went on to outline the work undertaken by both officers and Members, since the publication of the reports in November, to address the challenges faced and to establish and then maintain a sound financial footing for the Council.


The Director of Resources introduced the report, which was part of the Council’s formal budget process, as set out in the constitution and in accordance with the legal requirements to set a balanced and sustainable budget for 2022/23.


The Committee on 25 October 2021 agreed to ask for the views of residents, businesses, and all those with a stake in the future of Wirral, about what council services mattered most to them to help develop the budget plan. This consultation had run from 2 to 28 November 2021 and the outcomes were provided in an appendix to the report. 


At the Committee on 25 October 2021, and in line with the external assurance review recommendations to provide sensitivity analysis, three potential budget scenarios were presented as to what the budget gap could be for 2022/23.  The rationale for the three scenarios was to present assumptions based on known information at the time in advance of the draft Local Government Finance Settlement being published and in advance of the compilation of proposals for pressures and growth items and savings and income for the 2022/23 budget.


The Draft Local Government Finance Settlement was published on 16 December, 2021 and budget proposals had been developed in response to the previously outlined budget gap. The report provided an updated position on the draft budget for 2022/23 and related statutory consultation with the final budget proposals to be presented to the Committee on 15 February, 2022 for recommendation to full Council. A process of review and challenge was ongoing, to ensure that the final proposals made were fully scrutinised and fit and proper in terms of readiness for decision-making.


An appendix to the report provided details of all the current proposals for consideration prior to the need to make decisions on how the budget for 2022/23 should be formulated. Setting out the potential budget proposals in the report ensured statutory consultation could be carried out in advance of setting the 2022/23 annual budget.


Information in the report also provided the opportunity for the Policy and Services Committees, at their meetings in January 2022, to provide feedback on the budget proposals for this Committee to take into consideration in recommending a legal budget to Full Council at its meeting on 28 February, 2022.


Members commented upon the report and the need to address the difficulties the Council faced, including the structural deficit which the Council had.


The Chief Executive and Director of Resources responded to a number of comments from Members


The Chair reiterated the fact that the report before the Committee contained proposals, and they were at this stage, being asked to agree the proposals going forward for consultation.


On a motion by the Chair, seconded by Councillor Yvonne Nolan, it was -


Resolved – That this Committee:


(1)  notes the outcome of the draft Local Government Financial Settlement for 2022/23, in advance of the final Settlement which is due later in January 2022;


(2)  recognises the extent of the Council’s financial challenge and structural deficit, which needs to be eliminated;


(3)  notes the savings and income proposals that could address the 2022/23 budget gap;


(4)  notes the outcome of the November 2021 consultation;


(5)  consults on the draft budget proposals for 2022-23, under section 65 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992.

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