Cabinet was provided with an update on the budget position for 2019/20 and subsequent years and invited to make recommendations on the budget for Full Council on 28 February 2019. An update on the Medium Term Financial Strategy and Efficiency Plan (MTFS) and the Capital Strategy, was also provided and Cabinet was asked to agree any amendments for approval by Full Council.
The Cabinet received a technical report from the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive which provided the context for of a number of the recommendations set out in his report. Cabinet also received a report tabled at the meeting from the Leader of the Council which set out the proposed budget and council tax recommendation 2019/20.
Both reports drew on the work undertaken by the Budget Strategy Group, and the Leaders report also drew on issues raised by Scrutiny Boards, when they had scrutinised the budget proposals. Circulated at the meeting was a draft minute from the Resources and Delivering Value Scrutiny Board meeting held on 6 February 2019, which the Leader had considered.
In summary the principle issues which were detailed in the reports, and considered by the Budget Strategy Group included:
· Pressures and mitigating actions from the current year to 2021/22;
· Updates to the medium term financial strategy (MTFS);
· Detailed savings proposals for 2021/22;
· Amendments to previously approved savings proposals for 2019/20 and 2020/21 relating to the Adult Social Care and Health and Managed Growth and Communities portfolios.
On commenting on the proposals the Leader raised the following points:-
Ø The proposals put forward presented a balanced budget which recognised portfolio savings to support the ongoing funding pressures in certain areas such as Adults and Children’s Services;
Ø There was a need to invest more in those services areas where demand was high and difficult to predict, to ensure the needs of the Borough could be met long term;
Ø The proposals also recognised the need to invest in and support the public realm;
Ø The Leader referenced the importance of having a healthy growth strategy and the need for business to contribute more through business rates, which were set by the Government and not the Council. However, he cautioned that businesses could also appeal against business rate evaluations;
Ø In relation to the issues raised by Scrutiny the Leader had considered the concerns of the Stronger Communities and Neighbourhood Services Scrutiny Board regarding the proposals to increase car parking charges in Shirley town centre. He also noted that the Resources and Delivering Value Scrutiny Board shared these concerns;
Ø The Leader was recommending therefore that car parking in Shirley would remain free for the first hour and would then be brought into line with Knowle thereafter. The parking charges in Knowle would be amended to include a free first hour;
Ø The Leader thanked the Budget Strategy Group for their hard work, and the contributions made by Members at the Budget seminar, the Scrutiny Boards and Officers for their contributions.
The Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive advised Members that he had taken the findings of CIPFA’s financial resilience index into account, together with the MTFS itself and the information provided through the budget and scrutiny process, in reaching his conclusion under section 25 of the Local Government Finance Act 2003 that he was satisfied with the robustness of the revenue estimates and the adequacy of the proposed financial reserves.
Members very much welcomed the reports and the approach taken, which recognised saving targets needed to be realistic, that additional spending needed to be justified and reasonable steps needed to be taken to support those service areas facing continuing pressures in demand. Those Cabinet Members benefiting from the extra spending thanked the Leader for recognising the importance of putting people first.
(i) That full Council on 28 February 2019 be Recommended to agree a budget for 2019/20 of £147.620 million, including the forecast balances on the Budget Strategy Reserve set out in paragraph 3.8 of the Leader’s report;
(ii)That full Council on 28 February 2019 be Recommended to approve the Medium Term Financial Strategy and Efficiency Plan 2019/20 – 2021/22, as updated in the Leaders report, and the Corporate Capital Strategy, incorporating the Council’s strategy on the flexible use of capital receipts;
(iii) That full Council on 28 February 2019 be Recommended to approve an increase in the level of the general council tax in 2019/20 of 1.90%;
(iv) That full Council on 28 February 2019 be Recommended to approve an increase in council tax for adult social care in 2019/20 of 1.00%;
(v) That full Council on 28 February 2019 be Recommended to approve Solihull’s element of the council tax in 2019/20 at £1,358.04 (£1,259.73 for general council tax and £98.31 for adult social care);
(vi) That the contribution of £315,000 from the LAA Reward Grant reserve to a Troubled Families reserve, as outlined at paragraph 3.8 of the report of the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive be approved;
(vii)That the creation in 2018/19 of a new Children’s Services reserve of £1.566 million, made up of £927,000 from the LAA Reward Grant reserve and £639,000 of business rates windfall income, as outlined at paragraphs 3.8 and 3.22 of the report of the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive be approved;
(viii) That a contribution of £350,000 from the Budget Strategy Reserve in 2018/19 to fund pressures on unaccompanied asylum seeking children (£250,000) and youth remand (£100,000) services, as outlined at paragraph 3.9 of the report of the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive be approved;
(ix) That the equal apportionment of the £1.487 million one-off social care grant receivable in 2019/20 between adult social care and children’s services, with £743,430 to be allocated to the Adult Social Care and Health portfolio and £743,430 to the Children’s Services, Education and Skills portfolio be approved and delegated the authority for determining how each portfolio’s allocation should be spent be granted to the cabinet members for those portfolios and the Director for Adult Care and Support and the Director of Children’s Services and Skills;
(x) That the allocation of the Brexit preparation funding to the Cabinet Member for Resources and Delivering Value, as outlined in paragraph 3.27 of the report of the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive be approved;
(xi) That the government capital allocations for 2019/20, detailed in the table in paragraph 3.1 of the Corporate Capital Strategy, passported to individual cabinet portfolios for project allocation be noted;
(xii)That full Council on 28 February 2019 be Recommended to approve the fees and charges proposed within each portfolio;
(xiii) That the prudential borrowing requirements for the period of the MTFS, as set out at paragraph 3.32 of the report of the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive be approved; and
(xiv) That the requirement for a recorded vote on the level of council tax at the Full Council meeting on 28 February, be noted.