- Meeting of Council, Wednesday, 24th February, 2021 4.00 pm (Item 7.)
- View the declarations of interest for item 7.
Report (pages 53 – 64)
Appendix 1 – Revenue Budget (pages 65 – 78)
Appendix 2 – Capital Programme (page 79 – 92)
Appendix 3 – Detailed Revenue Budget changes (pages 93 – 100)
Appendix 4 – Council Tax Resolution (document to follow)
Appendix 5 – ‘Special Expenses’ budgets and precept (pages 101 – 102)
Appendix 6 – ‘Special Expenses’ activities (pages 103 – 104)
Appendix 7 – Council Tax Reduction Scheme Policy (pages 105 – 242)
Appendix 8 – Buckinghamshire Business Group budget consultation response (pages 243 – 244)
The Chairman invited Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, to introduce the report to members on the proposed 2021/ 22 revenue budget and capital programme for Buckinghamshire Council.
It was noted that the Council Tax Resolution (Appendix 4) was found in the supplementary agenda pack. The following key points were highlighted:
- The budget presented for approval was heavily influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic and had been updated following the third national lockdown and potential ongoing financial impacts.
- The proposals presented were based on the latest estimated funding position, service budget pressures and the key financial risks facing the council both now and in the future. It also took into account the findings from the budget scrutiny inquiry.
- Given the level of uncertainly around future government funding and the difficulties with accurately forecasting the long term implications arising as a result of the pandemic, the proposed revenue budget was for 1 year (2021- 22) only. The overall revenue budget, with each Directorates element expanded, could be found in Appendix 1.
- The proposed capital programme covered the period to 2024-25, as many of the council’s schemes spanned multiple financial years, and was balanced across its 4 years.
- During 2020-21, a thorough review of the capital programme had been undertaken. This reflected that the existing capital programme had been created by amalgamating the existing plans of the 5 legacy Councils. The review undertook to review the strategic alignment of all existing projects and to reprioritise the available funding to better meet the ambition of the Council and has resulted in the removal of some schemes which were not yet committed from the programme. The resulting capital programme would see £569m invested over the 4 years to 2024/25, with £178m of investment in 2021/22. This included key areas of investment in schools (£163m), Strategic Infrastructure and Highways projects (£135m), Strategic Highway Maintenance (£130m), Support for Economic Regeneration (£50m), Waste (largely due to the replacement of Waste Vehicles) (£20m) and Leisure Centres (£15m).
- The overall Capital programme and each Directorates element of the Programme could be seen in Appendix 2. In order to allow schemes which have a robust and financially viable business case to be added to the Capital Programme it was proposed that authority be delegation to Cabinet to add up to £100m worth of schemes to the capital programme, to be funded through prudential borrowing, subject to a robust business case being approved.
- Revenue funding for drainage works had been increased by £2m in 2021-22 to continue to reduce the risk of surface water flooding. There was also an increase of £2m in the Capital Programme for drainage works, giving a total increase in 2021-22 of £4m.
- The budget was heavily influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic and proposed a 1.99% increase in basic Council Tax and a 2% increase for the Adult Social Care Precept; a total increase of 3.99%. However, given the ongoing and well documented pressures for adult social care providers and the increasing number of people in the county needing adult social care services the council will need to revisit this additional 1% as a potential source of additional income when considering the budget for 2022/23.
- Details of all proposed budget changes could be found in Appendix 3.
- The revenue budget included a one-off use of General Fund balances (£2,047k) in order to produce a balanced budget and mitigate financial risks in 2021-22. The budget included significant growth in expenditure on both Adults and Children’s Social Care as a result of the continuing increases in demand, cost and the complexity of cases in these areas.
- General Fund balances would be £45m, which was just under 10% of net operating expenditure.
- The Council Tax Resolution report was presented as Appendix 4. This agreed the Council tax to be collected by the Council, the major preceptors (Fire & Police), Special Expenses and Parish Precepts.
- As a result of the economic changes brought on by the pandemic there had been a reduction in the effective number of Band D equivalent properties in the County as a result of a slowing in new home completions, an increase in the number of claimants of Council Tax reductions, and an expected reduction in the collection rate for Council Tax. This has reduced the baseline for expected Council tax income before the increases above are applied, which sees Council Tax income rise at a slower than expected rate.
- The report included Special Expenses, that were particular costs specific to an area not covered by a local town or parish council (e.g. recreational grounds, allotments, community centres markets etc.) There were three special expense areas within the Council; High Wycombe Town Committee, West Wycombe Church Yard and Aylesbury Town. Following consultation with the relevant committees the proposed budgets and resulting precepts were presented in Appendix 5 and the updated Appendix 6.
- The budget proposals set out how resources would be used by the Council in a robust and prudent manner to achieve the Corporate Plan, the Council’s main strategic business planning document.
- The Final Local Government Settlement had been announced on 4 February 2021. There had been no changes and as such the figures published in the Provisional Settlement which form part of these budget proposals had been confirmed. This included additional funding to reflect the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic into 2021-22. However, the Chancellor in his Economic Statement of 11 January had indicated there were likely to be controls on public spending going forward.
- As expected, it has been announced that there will be a further delay to the Fair Funding Review of Local Government funding and to a move to 75% business rates retention, which were originally expected for 2020/21. Furthermore, there are further delays to the publications of a new policy and funding arrangements for Social Care. These initiatives are expected to have significant impacts on the Council when they are brought forward.
- The Council Tax Reductions Scheme Policy, which needed to be reviewed and approved annually, was unchanged from last year other than to uprate the values used in line with Government changes to welfare benefits that were used in the calculation of CTR (for example the amount of child benefit paid). It was recommended that the Council Tax Reductions Scheme Policy (Appendix 7) be approved.
- The Government had announced that the level of Business Rates would be frozen for 2021/22. The loss of income to the Council resulting from this decision would be compensated for through additional Government grant income. The budget included a reduction in the level of Business Rates collectable. This reflects the impact which the Covid-19 pandemic is having on businesses, with an expected increase in business failures, a move away from ‘bricks and mortar’ business models and increases in appeals and defaults on payments expected in 2021/22.
- There were a number of ongoing impacts from the pandemic that would be felt in the short term, and potentially the medium term, including:
o Income from discretionary and statutory services.
o Rental income from property assets.
o Demand and costs / lost local taxation income of supporting the vulnerable had increased.
o The need to invest in the local economy to support jobs and growth.
- The robustness of existing and new budget proposals will continue to be monitored as part of normal financial management protocols and considering further developments in the pandemic response and recovery plans.
- The Budget Scrutiny Select Committee Inquiry had reviewed the draft budget and capital programme over 3 days in the week commencing 11th January. This had been reported to Cabinet on 16 February, who had responded to the recommendations, which could be found with the Minutes of that meeting.
- In response to the third lockdown and the Budget Scrutiny Inquiry recommendations the final budget included;
o additional funding for Cultural Services.
o additional economic uncertainty contingency against further losses of service income / support for outsourced providers income losses, and to manage demand, price and complexity pressures in Children’s services.
o contingency against losses of property rental income where no government support has been forthcoming and to
o contingency for additional member allowance costs if local elections are postponed further.
- Contingency budgets, which were used to manage risk and uncertainty in the budget had increased in line with the uncertainties resulting from the pandemic, and one-off funding had been used to create a reserve to further mitigate short-term risks.
- That while every effort had been made to ensure the budget proposals were robust, deliverable and support financial sustainability there were significant risks identified in the proposed draft budget. A table identifying these key risks was included with the budget report. A robust risk management approach would be taken to monitor, manage and mitigate these risks through the delivery of these draft budget plans.
The Leader concluded by thanking all members who had been involved in the early development of the budget proposals.
Mr Tett moved the recommendations as per the report. This was seconded by Councillor Mrs Macpherson.
In accordance with Council Procedure Rules, the Chairman then invited Mr S Lambert, as Leader of the Alliance Group) (main opposition group) to comment on the budget proposals. The following main points were noted:
- Mr Lambert thanked the Chief Executive, Directors and all staff for the work that had been undertaken over the past 12 months in very difficult circumstances to establish the new Council.
- That any further monies received from Government relating to the pandemic should be spent on residents and not put into reserves.
- That the proposed revenue budget should have included some information on forecasts and budget thinking for the next 3-4 years.
- Concerns were expressed on the way that some of the Community Boards were functioning, with it being requested that an urgent audit of their governance and arrangements be undertaken by the Audit and Governance Committee.
- That budgets should be restored to fund the Household Recycling Centres, and include a review of the gate fees charged.
- That the flood alleviation funding as part of the capital programme was supported, although a lot more work and funding was still required.
- That an overall total Council Tax increase of 3.99% could also be achieved with a 3% increase of the Adult Social Care precept, accompanied by a smaller increase in basic Council Tax, and assist in supporting adult social care services for the future year.
- That more should be done to devolve services to Town and Parish Councils, Including looking at the need to continue levying Special Expenses for the provision of some services.
- That more should be done to support businesses impacted by Brexit.
- Commented on the drainage works initiatives.
- That the Alliance Group was not supportive of recommendation 4 (giving Cabinet delegation to add up to £100m to be included in the capital programme).
- That the SEND budget proposals were supported, although these provisions should still be increased.
The Chairman thanked Mr S Lambert for his comments and invited Mr M Bateman to speak on behalf of the Labour group. The following main points were noted:
- Mr Bateman thanked the Officers for their hard work on the budget, which had been even more difficult this year due to the pandemic.
- That given the current additional support required by the adult social care services it was surprising that the Adult Social Care precept had not been increased by 3%.
- A number of aspects of the budget were commended including the additional monies for children services, £2m for footpaths, £2m for drainage works and clearing gullies, and for culture.
- That the proposed revenue budget should have included some information on forecasts and budget thinking for future years.
- Concerns were expressed around some of the assumptions associated with future savings.
- That the Council should have considered funding any Council Tax increase this year from reserves.
At the conclusion, the Chairman thanked Mr Bateman for his comments.
It was thereupon proposed by Mr R Stuchbury and seconded by Mr R Raja that Council be recommended to support the proposal for an additional recommendation to be included with the budget as follows:
“That Information is provided to residents regarding the calculation of their council tax bill details which contains the cumulative total of the adult social care precept charged since 2015/16, and what percentage of the overall council tax bill relates to this adult social care precept.”
After an explanation of the rationale for the amendment, it was opened up to debate. At the conclusion of the debate, the amendment was put to a vote and it was declared to be LOST.
It was thereupon proposed by Councillor Bateman and seconded by Councillor Stuchbury that Council be recommended to support the proposal for an additional recommendation to be included with the budget as follows:
“Given the increased volatility of income streams and Government funding future Council Budgets will be Outcome Based, to deliver clear commitments to Buckinghamshire residents in accordance with the Corporate Plan. Those commitments will be established through timely engagement with ALL Council members and delivery against them embraced as a duty of the Council. Any funding gaps identified will lead to additional funding requests to Central Government and where this is not forthcoming, the Council will ensure this is communicated to residents so that they can understand why agreed commitments are not being met.”
After an explanation of the rationale for the amendment, it was opened up to debate. At the conclusion of the debate, the amendment was put to a vote and it was declared to be LOST.
The Chairman then invited questions and comments from other members that had registered to speak. The following issues were highlighted and responded to by the Leader or Cabinet Members:
- The adequacy of funding for mental health issues.
- On the River Wye scheme.
- Encouraging other environmental schemes, in addition to the drainage works initiatives that had been announced.
- The budget impact on homelessness initiatives for the future.
- Better Bucks Programme, which was linked to future savings.
- The need for a High Wycombe Town Council.
- Concerns were raised on the future financial viability of many care homes.
- On the capitalisation of some of the Transport Infrastructure budget (which was referred to the Section 151 Officer, who stated that he was satisfied).
- The Council’s actions on carbon zero initiatives.
- Maintenance of the Wycombe High Street.
- Green bins, Wycombe.
- In support of the regeneration of town centres.
- On the importance of maintaining public paths and footways.
- On the adequacy of the Children’s Services budget.
- Lobbying for Aylesbury to be connected to current railway infrastructure schemes being developed.
- That the Internal Audit team had spent a lot of time this year auditing Covid grants funding.
- On the re-purposing of Council owned land and buildings to assist in delivering more affordable housing.
- On the budget for plain and patch of road services.
The Chairman thanked everyone for their questions and comments, and reminded members that a recorded vote would be taken on the budget. The Chairman also informed Members that he intended to take a recorded vote, en bloc, for all of the budget recommendations. The vote was recorded as follows:
FOR (130): Councillors: J Adey, S Adoh, Z Ahmed, D Anthony, M Appleyard, R Bagge, D Barnes, P Birchley, J Bloom, A Bond, S Bowles, J Brandis, C Branston, D Bray, S Broadbent, N Brown, S Brown, H Bull, T Butcher, D Carroll, B Chapple OBE, S Chapple, S Chhokar, J Chilver, C Clare, L Clarke OBE, M Clarke, A Cole, A Collingwood, M Collins, A Cranmer, E Culverhouse, I Darby, D Dhillon, T Egleton, B Everitt, P Fealey, M Flys, C Ford, B Foster, B Gibbs, J Gladwin, N Glover, T Green, P Griffin, G Hall, M Harker OBE, G Harris, M Harris, C Harriss, M Harrold, G Hollis, Mahboob Hussain JP, A Hussain, Maz Hussain, P Irwin, C Jackson, S Jenkins, D Johncock, C Jones, R Jones, J Jordan, P Kelly, R King, D Knights, J Langley, T Lee, M Lewis, J Lowen-Cooper, J MacBean, A Macpherson, W Mallen, N Marshall, D Martin, P Martin, V Martin, W Matthews, H McCarthy, I McEnnis, T Mills, G Moore, H Mordue, N Naylor, R Newcombe, C Oliver, S Patel, C Paternoster, G Peart BEM, D Pepler, C Poll, G Powell, S Raja, M Rand, S Renshell, B Roberts, C Rouse, J Rush, S Saddique, G Sandy, R Sangster, D Saunders, R Scott, D Shakespeare OBE, M Shaw, D Smith, L Smith BEM, Michael Smith, N Southworth, Sir B Stanier, M Stannard, P Strachan, L Sullivan, M Tett, D Town, A Turner, P Turner, N Varley, A Waite, H Wallace, L Walsh, J Ward, J Waters, J Wertheim, W Whyte, A Wight, F Wilson, R Wilson, M Winn and K Wood.
AGAINST (34): Councillors: K Ahmed, M Asif, A Bacon, M Bateman, A Baughan, M Bezzant, A Christensen, P Cooper, R Farmer, S Graham, M A Hashmi, T Hunter-Watts, Majid Hussain, N Hussain, T Hussain, S Jarvis, P Jones, R Khan, M Knight, S Lambert, D Lyons, L Monger, S Morgan, B Pearce, R Raja, W Raja, S Raven, J Read, R Reed, N Shepherd, Mike Smith, R Stuchbury, M Titterington and J Wassell.
ABSTENTIONS (1): Councillor: A Huxley
1. That the Revenue Budget and Capital Programme (appendices 1-3) be approved.
2. That the Council Tax Resolution (appendix 4) be approved.
3. That the ‘Special Expenses’ budgets, precepts and associated services for Aylesbury Town, High Wycombe Town and West Wycombe Church Yard (appendix 5 and updated appendix 6) be approved.
4. That Cabinet be delegated to make decisions adding up to £100m to be included in the capital programme, to be funded by Prudential Borrowing.
5. That the Council Tax Reduction Scheme Policy (appendix 7) be approved.
- Council Budget - Covering Report, item 7. PDF 758 KB
- Appendix 1 - Revenue budget, item 7. PDF 273 KB
- Appendix 2 - Capital Programme, item 7. PDF 530 KB
- Appendix 3 - Detailled Revenue changes, item 7. PDF 210 KB
- Appendix 4 - Council Tax Resolution, item 7. PDF 142 KB
- Schedule_1, item 7. PDF 136 KB
- Schedule_2, item 7. PDF 162 KB
- Schedule_3, item 7. PDF 279 KB
- Schedule_4, item 7. PDF 207 KB
- Appendix 5 - Special Expenses budgets, item 7. PDF 123 KB
- Appendix 6 - Special Expenses Services, item 7. PDF 8 KB
- Appendix 7 - Council Tax Reduction Scheme 2021-22, item 7. PDF 1 MB
- Appendix 8 - Buckinghamshire Business Group Budget Response, item 7. PDF 191 KB
- Budget Amendments (Council 24 02 2021), item 7. PDF 143 KB
- Appendix 6 - Special Expenses Services (Updated), item 7. PDF 30 KB