To consider the head of finance’s report.
Cabinet considered the head of finance’s report on the budget for 2022/23. The report included a draft revenue budget, a capital programme for the period 2022/23 to 2026/27, the prudential indicators, and a medium term financial plan covering 2022/23 to 2026/27. Cabinet was asked to recommend the report to the Council meeting on 16 February 2022.
The Cabinet member for finance began by thanking the head of finance and his team for the work undertaken to prepare the draft budget. He also thanked Cabinet members and other officers involved. He reported that the Scrutiny Committee had considered the draft budget and had made no recommendations or suggestions to Cabinet.
The council had faced significant financial issues in the preparation of this budget. Its council tax was the fifteenth lowest in the country for a shire district and well below the national average; the council was unable to increase its council tax significantly. The council had not benefitted from the business rates retention scheme. Whilst the council had benefitted from the New Homes Bonus scheme, this was under review by the government and was expected to be less generous in future.
The revenue budget set for 2021/22 had been balanced through the use of reserves at a level that was unsustainable over the medium term. For 2022/23, Cabinet wished to set a more sustainable balanced budget. Officers had undertaken a review of all expenditure and income, which resulted in a significant reduction in the base budget. This allowed the council to set a balanced revenue budget for 2022/23 and beyond, with the use of reserves being significantly lower than previously forecast. The Cabinet member believed that this was the first time that the council could claim to be solvent across the five year medium term financial plan period, based on future estimates of government funding. The budget proposals included a sum to fund transformational activities to find efficiencies to further improve the council’s services and financial position. The budget proposed no cuts to services but included revenue growth to support climate initiatives. The council tax for a Band D property would increase by £5, the maximum allowed under the draft referendum rules. The capital programme included several new schemes that would be funded from community infrastructure levy income.
Cabinet members thanked the Cabinet member for finance for his work and thanked the head of finance for his support to councillors throughout the budget preparation period. Cabinet supported the budget, which included several schemes to support the corporate objectives, funds to support climate schemes, improve leisure facilities and children’s play facilities for local communities, and new technology to provide green solutions and save money. Cabinet welcomed the capital schemes funded by the community infrastructure levy, providing much-needed infrastructure. Cabinet was especially pleased that the base budget had been reduced, allowing the council to balance its budget over the five year medium term financial plan, and praised the work that had been put in to achieve this.
RECOMMENDED to Council to:
(a) set the revenue budget for 2022/23, as set out in appendix A.1 to the head of finance’s report to Cabinet on 4 February 2022;
(b) approve the capital programme for 2022/23 to 2026/27, as set out in appendix D.1 to the report, together with the capital programme changes as set out in appendix D.2 and appendix D.3 to the report;
(c) set the council’s prudential limits, as listed in appendix E to the report;
(d) approve the medium-term financial plan to 2026/27, as set out in appendix F to the report; and
(e) agree that the Cabinet member for finance, in conjunction with the head of finance, may make minor adjustments to the report and the prudential indicators, should they prove necessary prior to its submission to Council on 16 February 2022.