- Meeting of Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority, Wednesday, 9th December, 2020 11.00 am (Item 7c)
“That the Financial Strategy 2020-21 to 2024-25 is recommended to the Fire Authority for approval.”
Subject to the following amendments being made prior to publication: i) Page 16 “unknow” to be replaced with “unknown” ii) Page 32 the following text to be added to the comments in the first row of the table “The decrease in the Bank of England base rate to 0.1% has had a significant impact on interest receivable. Also, during the pandemic the emphasis has increasingly shifted toward liquidity and faster payments to suppliers.” iii) Page 10 Annex 1 (Appendix A) Row F2 “quantitate” to be replaced with “quantitative” iv) Page 14 Annex 1 (Appendix A) Row R1 the word “time” to be removed.
The report considered by the Executive Committee is attached at Item 7(c)
The Director of Finance and Assets advised Members that the Financial Strategy was a new document and it took a long term look at the Authority’s finances and helped guide the medium term financial plan and budget setting. It took information from a number of sources, including HMICFRS reports, audit reports both internal and external and financial analysis. One of the key aspects of the Strategy was that it considered potential medium and longer term scenarios, with a consideration of areas that could be enhanced or scaled back depending on the outcome of future funding settlements.
The Director of Finance and Assets advised Members that the recommendation within the report that “the Service should consult with the people of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes on options to have the most effective and efficient response against the financial environment in which it operates” was addressed through the implementation of the Public Safety Plan 2020-25 and was also covered within this Strategy.
The Strategy also contained the Authority’s reserves strategy, which was a requirement of the National Framework. The main focus of the Strategy was the Action Plan, which highlighted key actions that would be taken over the next five years as a result of undertaking this analysis. Some of the key actions were undertaking a value for money review with an external provider; establishing the Programme Management Office; and a review of the performance reporting arrangements.
The Director of Finance and Assets advised Members that there was a question raised at the Executive Committee around interest receivable. The Strategy showed the budget for the current year at £150K for Treasury Management Investments, but it should be noted that the Authority was expecting this to reduce by £120K for the following year.
The Director of Finance and Assets advised that following the recent Spending Review there were three key points to note. The public sector pay pause would save the Authority £300K; the government would fund 75% of irrecoverable losses on business rates and council tax; and the core referendum threshold would remain at 2% with no specific exemptions mentioned for fire and rescue authorities. The Authority would currently be looking at a deficit of around £1M for next year. The Authority had written to the Minister highlighting these concerns, especially around the lack of council tax flexibility and awaited a response.
A Member asked about the consultation and was advised that this was done as part of the Public Safety Plan and was undertaken through focus groups and in terms of their response on council tax, this was an educated response after members of the pubic had been given the Authority’s financial position and the implications of the cost pressures faced.
A Member asked about employees earning under £24k, would they get the 2% pay rise as stated by the government and was advised that yes, work had already been done to identify individuals effected and the Authority would be complying with the directive from Government.
A Member asked about the council tax base and was advised that the Minister had raised that the Authority had put itself in that position, and the response to the Minister was the Authority had taken those decisions based on the information available at the time. However, the Authority was now in a position where it needed to increase council tax and that was the representation made back to the Minister in a letter and the Authority awaited his response.
A Member asked about the cost of a council tax referendum and was advised that the estimated cost of holding a referendum would be around £600K. This was based on the one referendum which had been undertaken since new regulations came into force. The Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner had sought to increase council tax above the threshold but lost the referendum. Not only was there the cost of holding the referendum, but should it fail, there was the cost of rebilling, which would be a substantial part of the Authority’s reserves.
That the Financial Strategy 2020-21 to 2024-25 be approved, subject to the following amendments being made prior to publication: i) Page 16 “unknow” to be replaced with “unknown” ii) Page 32 the following text to be added to the comments in the first row of the table “The decrease in the Bank of England base rate to 0.1% has had a significant impact on interest receivable. Also, during the pandemic the emphasis has increasingly shifted toward liquidity and faster payments to suppliers.” iii) Page 10 Annex 1 (Appendix A) Row F2 “quantitate” to be replaced with “quantitative” iv) Page 14 Annex 1 (Appendix A) Row R1 the word “time” to be removed.
- ITEM 7c_Financial Strategy Cover Paper [Exec Pre-Brief], item 7c PDF 161 KB
- ITEM 7ci_Financial Strategy Document - Annex 1, item 7c PDF 1 MB
- ITEM 7cii_Financial Strategy Document - Annex 1 Appendix A, item 7c PDF 676 KB