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Agenda item

Medium Term Financial Strategy

To recommend to Council the adoption of the Medium Term Financial Strategy. 

Subject To Call In::No - Recommendation to Council

Decision:

That it be RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL that the Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021/22-2025/26 be ADOPTED.

Minutes:

69.1          The report of the Head of Finance and Asset Management, circulated at Pages No. 18-41, attached the Medium Term Financial Strategy for the period 2021/22 to 2025/26 which Members were asked to recommend to Council for adoption.

69.2          The Head of Finance and Asset Management advised that this year the Medium Term Financial Strategy continued to incorporate great uncertainty, not only because of the long term uncertainty of local government finance but now also due to issues including the impact of Coronavirus; potential economic impacts from leaving the European Union; a one year spending review period; a one year delay to the fair funding review and to the introduction of a scheme for the 75% retention of business rates; the future of business rates and the value within the scheme; and clarity on what the New Homes Bonus scheme would be replaced with following its withdrawal. In addition to the national impacts, the Council had its own corporate and service-related financial pressures including salary growth pressure of 2% per year; growing costs of waste collection; increasing demand for additional resources to meet a range of service requirements and pressures; and growth within its services and Council Plan ambitions. It was felt that central government had begun to realise the potentially catastrophic implications of cuts to local government finance but it was not known how/if this would be addressed so the Council would still have some exceptionally difficult decisions to make going forward to match its budget and expenditure.

69.3          In response to a query regarding the consultation undertaken, the Head of Finance and Asset Management advised that the provisional settlement had come out on 19 December and the government welcomed responses from Councils for about a month before it released the actual settlement. In terms of the opportunity to hold a Council Tax referendum, he advised that he had known of a handful of Councils across the country that had taken that route but they had not been successful. Clearly there would need to be a very good argument to go above the Council Tax threshold and get the public to vote in a referendum to agree to that increase. There would be a need to consider all options going forward but he saw this as one of the options near the end of the list which would only be used if absolutely necessary and after the Council had been consulted to see if there was a will to take such action.

69.4          A Member referred to the revenue reserves and questioned whether any of it could be transferred to working balances to help balance the budget. In response, the Head of Finance and Asset Management confirmed that there would be some reserves that could support working balances but some was already being used to support risk elements in the budget such as voids in the Council’s rental properties. The level of reserves held now left the Council in a much better position than it had been previously but if those funds were used to balance the budget this could only be done once so it was better to find ways to produce ongoing income/savings where possible. There would be a need for Members and Officers to look closely at the Council’s priorities and objectives going forward and prioritise the level of its ambitions and this would have to commence sooner rather than later if the Council was to remain financially viable. The Chief Executive reiterated this view and indicated that there would be some extremely challenging questions and difficult solutions over the forthcoming year and that work would have to commence as soon as the 2021/22 budget was agreed.

69.5          Accordingly, it was

Action By:HF&AM

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