Issue - decisions
Council Budget 2015/16
Councillor Phil Davies introduced a report by the Director of Resources which set out an overview of the Council’s future financial position. The report provided an update to the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) approved in March 2014 and outlined the approach to operate within the finance available. The Cabinet noted that it would consider the Council’s Budget for 2015/16 at its meeting on 10 February 2015 and that the Council would consider it at its meeting on 24 February 2015.
The Cabinet noted that the MTFS provided an overview of the Council’s financial position and the strategy required to operate within the finance available. The Council set a detailed budget for the forthcoming financial year but the annual process fitted within financial plans for a longer timeframe to ensure decisions taken had due regard to future sustainability and were part of a more strategic approach to the future challenges.
The report set out an update to the MTFS and provided the context in which budget decisions for the period 2015/18 were being made. This followed the decisions the Council had taken over the last five years against a changing and challenging local government financial environment. The future response to further reductions in funding, planned through the setting of the 2015/16 budget was detailed in the report and elsewhere on the agenda.
The Cabinet noted that the MTFS approved for 2014/17 reflected the financial projections for the Council based on the SR 2013, a forecast impact of the changes to local government finance that commenced in April 2014 and budget assumptions. The forecast was that the Council would have an overall deficit of £83 million for the period 2014/17.
The Cabinet was informed that the revised position now being updated highlighted a gap of £70 million for the period 2015/18. The previous forecast gap had been updated for information released in the summer and the Council’s agreed budget saving options. Further revisions had come from the announcement of the indicative grant figures for 2015/16 and the addition of the anticipated budget gap for 2017/18 to give a financial forecast for 2015/18. A summary of the movement in the forecast gap was set out in table format for the Cabinet’s information.
It was clear to the Cabinet that the total financial resources of the Council and partners needed to be maximised, prioritised and channelled to the right areas and activities. As such resources would need to be matched to priorities as identified in the Corporate Plan whilst ensuring that statutory functions continued to be delivered and that enabling functions were provided in the most efficient way.
The Council had already examined and challenged the way services were delivered, looking for improvements in the effectiveness of services to produce savings. It had also challenged the methods of delivery.
The increasing deficit coupled with the ability of the Council to continue to get “the same for less” became increasingly difficult and the emphasis for future years would be on the challenging services the Council continued to fund, integrating with partner organisations in order to get focus on the overall “public purse” and ensuring that efficient ways of working were at the heart of the organisation. Efficiencies alone would not resolve the funding gap. Difficult decisions on the range of services provided would need to be made and the Corporate Plan would set out the vision and framework for those decisions.
The Cabinet noted that the level of General Fund balances and reserves that the Council maintained was critical to its financial resilience. It was important balances and reserves maintained were sufficient to fund costs that occurred be it from planned activities or unexpected events. A review of reserves, provisions and general fund balances was being undertaken as part of the process to set the 2015/16 budget. This would take account of the financial risks anticipated in the coming period 2015/18 and known commitments and plans. The outcome of the review would be reported to the Cabinet at its meeting on 10 February 2015.
The Council had a planned 2014/17 Capital Programme of £92.0 million. The 2015/18 Programme would be reported at the Budget Cabinet meeting. In preparing this, the existing Programme would be revised with the re-profiling of schemes and the resources anticipated being available. New schemes would be considered for inclusion in the Programme.
(1) the forecast funding gap for 2015/18 and that it includes assumptions regarding items still to be determined such as the Local Government Finance Settlement and the determination of levies for 2015/18 be noted; and
(2) further updates relating to the financial position be presented to the Cabinet at its meeting on 10 February 2015.