- Meeting of BMKFA Executive Committee, Wednesday 5th February 2020 10.00 am (Item 8.)
To consider Item 8
The Lead Member for Finance, IT and Procurement advised Members that this report presented the proposed revenue and capital Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) for the Financial Years 2020/21 to 2024/25.
The Principal Accountant Asif Hussain advised Members that a zero-based budget approach identified some key opportunities within the current budgetary constraints. These included increasing the wholetime establishment by up to 20 firefighters in 2020/21, with the potential to increase by a further 10 in the following year (depending on the outcome of the comprehensive spending review). Increasing the Protection Team by 4 FTEs and introducing a Team Leader role and two further FTEs into the Prevention Team. Introducing a Head of Technology, Transformation and Programme Management Office (PMO) to manage, among other matters, the actions required following the Authority’s inspection report.
The council tax and business rate figures were provisional as the statutory deadline for billing authorities to provide this information was 31 January. These had now been finalised and updated appendices 1a, 1b and 2 had been circulated and presented to Members.
Following the updated funding figures, there had been movement in the council tax and business rate funding, the Revenue Support Grant/Business Rates for 2020/21 had been revised upwards from £7.988m to £8.291m (an increase of £303k). Future years forecasts had been updated to account for the increase in the baseline amount (£140k) but not the movement from last year’s deficit to this year’s surplus position (a net increase of £163k).
The Council Tax surplus figure for 2020/21 had been revised downwards from £308k to £274k (a decrease of £34k). The surplus figure projected for future year’s remained at £250k per annum. The Revenue Contribution to Capital budget for 2021/20 had been revised upwards from £1,046k to £1,315k (a net increase of £269k).
The Net Budget Requirement for 2020/21 had therefore increased by £269k, as had the opening Base Budget for 2021/22. The Net Budget Requirement from 2021/22 onwards had increased by £140k per annum (reflecting the increase in business rates baseline).
Members were concerned as to how funding could be increased in future years. The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that lobbying government would continue independently and in conjunction with the LGA and NFCC. It was also confirmed that meetings with local MP’s had been arranged.
The Chief Fire Officer advised Members that the State of the Fire report confirmed that a multi-year settlement would enable fire and rescue authorities to budget with more certainty.
Members were concerned about capital spend and what would be sacrificed if the budget did not increase. The Director of Finance and Assets confirmed that one project that was not currently included in the programme was a major overhaul of High Wycombe Fire Station.
Members asked if it might be better to look for one off capital funding opportunities from the government, for example the upgrade of one fire station. The Director of Finance and Assets agreed to look into this and would bring a paper to a future meeting with options regarding funding for capital spend.
That the Authority be recommended to:
1(a) Note and have due regard to the report and Statement of the Chief Finance Officer (see section 8 of Annex A).
1(b) Approve a Council Tax precept of £65.85 for a band D equivalent property (a 1.98% increase from 2019/20 – equal to 2.5p per week) and the revenue budget as set out in Appendix 1(a).
1(c) Approve the capital programme as set out in Appendix 2.
2 Not hold a referendum to increase Council Tax above the 2% threshold for 2020/21.
3 Note that a referendum may need to be considered for 2021/22 depending on the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review.