To consider a report of Cabinet seeking approval of the mid-year report on Treasury Management activity, for savings proposals and a number of other financial decisions.
The Council considered the report of Cabinet seeking approval of the mid-year report on Treasury Management activity, savings proposals and a number of other decisions.
In presenting the report, the Leader highlighted that operating a two-year financial strategy had served the County Council well in the past and that approach would be continued, a feature of which was the use of reserves to provide flexibility whilst working towards making required savings. Support from central Government did not always meet the cost of providing the County Council’s statutory services. A deficit of circa £80m was anticipated and the reduced threshold for the increase of the adult social care council tax precept (from 2% to 1% next year) presented additional pressure. It was necessary therefore to target resources where most needed; maximising income generation, and continuing the lobbying of MPs. The County Deal, as referred to in the Leader’s earlier report and the opportunities it offered were being explored. The savings proposals had been informed by a public consultation exercise and future consultation on detailed proposals would follow. The Leader handed over to Councillor Steve Forster, Executive Member for Commercial Strategy, Estates and Property to expand on the Savings Programme.
The Executive Member drew Members attention to the increased overall budget which was focussed on delivering statutory services, adult social care and children’s services, and investing in new technology. Other savings measures were related to the ‘new normal’ post Covid and changes to residents’ habits such as a reduction in patronage of community transport services. As referred to by the Leader, the proposals had been influenced by public consultation together with the work of the County Council’s Select Committees. Some of the County Council’s reserves had been used to help support partners for Covid-related purposes and to keep services running. Members attention was also drawn to additional funding for Economy, Transport and Environment to provide more flexibility on planned and reactive road maintenance.
The Group Leaders responded to the proposals and recognised the challenges that the County Council faced. Whilst some of the proposals were to be welcomed, they expressed reservations about the County Council’s commercial strategy, the effect the lobbying of MPs was having and the impact on public health, social care and community services. Some disappointment was expressed about the public consultation exercise; with the statement regarding climate change, and with the allocation of resources for two Assistant to the Executive posts, Platinum Jubilee celebrations and building refurbishment
Councillor House proposed the following Amendment, which was seconded by Councillor Adrian Collett:
Amend recommendation (b) to add at the end “,
with the deletion of budget reduction HQ-23-1 as set out in
Appendix 3 to the Cabinet Report (page 125 of the papers) to
protect support to the voluntary sector, the financial consequences
of which will need to be addressed as part of the development of
the next Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS)”;
2. Delete recommendation (f).
During the course of the ensuing debate, Members expressed both support and concerns about the proposals before them.
In responding to the wide-ranging debate, the Leader reported on the importance of maintaining the County’s heritage which included the maintenance of its historic buildings and acknowledged the point made during the debate that other partners were already providing funding to community organisations. He highlighted the success of previous savings’ programmes and the benefit of having a two-year programme, which provided flexibility to respond to events as and when they occurred. The result of the increase in funding for local government was as a result of strong lobbying of MPs by the County Council and this would continue, particularly regarding social care. In conclusion the Leader confirmed that in identifying service areas for savings, the County Council had focussed on where funding was needed the most such as highways, flooding and coastal defence.
The Leader moved the recommendations.
The Chairman put part 1 and part 2 of the Amendment to the vote separately. The majority of Members present did not support either part 1 or part 2 of the Amendment and it was therefore lost.
The Chairman put the Substantive Recommendations to the vote, taking each recommendation a) to f) in turn. The majority of the Members present supported the Substantive Recommendations which were carried.
That the County Council approved:
a) The mid-year report on treasury management activity at Appendix 2.
savings proposals in Appendix 3, subject to further consultation
and executive decision making where necessary.
funding of £7m from 2022/23 to provide additional resources
for the overall Highways Maintenance budget, with the flexibility
for the Director of Economy, Transport and Environment to allocate
this between Operation Resilience and the reactive maintenance
budget as required.
Investment of £1.7m in 2021/22, £2.4m in 2022/23 and
£3.2m per year from 2023/24 onwards in Children’s
Intensive Workers, to be met from existing corporate growth funding
allocations for Children Looked After. ~
addition of capital investment of up to £22m to the capital
programme in respect of younger adults extra care and the
Woodcot Lodge discharge to assess
facility to be funded by prudential borrowing with repayments
accounted for within the proposed saving.
f) The addition of capital investment of £786,000 to the capital programme in respect of improvement works to the Formal Meeting Chamber, to be funded from cost of change reserves.