Agenda item

General Fund Budget 2021/2022 (Cabinet - 3 February 2021)

Cabinet

 

RECOMMENDED THAT COUNCIL

 

1.              consider the report and, if satisfied, to:

 

(a)   Take into account the detailed budgets presented at Appendix B, and summarised at Appendix A, with an estimated General Fund Gross Operating Expenditure for 2021/2022 of £71.917 million, estimated Gross Operating Income of £49.146 million and estimated General Fund Net Operating Expenditure of £22.771 million;

 

(b)   Acknowledge the key factors which have led to the proposed 2021/2022 General Fund Revenue Budget, with service pressures summarised at Appendix C and offsetting efficiency savings/policy options summarised at Appendix D;

 

(c)   Acknowledge that the 2021/2022 General Fund Revenue Budget gross expenditure is covered by forecast income sources (assuming no change in Government grant) and, therefore, any addition(s) to expenditure that are made by the Cabinet or Council will need to be met from the General Fund Balance;

 

(d)   Approve the 2021/2022 General Fund Revenue Budget taking into account the statement by the Chief Finance Officer on the risks and robustness of the estimates as required under Section 25 of the Local Government Act 2003 (reproduced at Appendix F);

 

(a)   Set the Council Tax Requirement for 2021/2022 at £9,997,693;

 

(b)   Approve an increase in the District element of the Council Tax of £5 per annum, giving an average Band D Council Tax of £155.31, plus the relevant amounts required by the precepts of the Parish Councils, Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridgeshire Police & Crime Commissioner, and the Cambridgeshire Fire Authority;

 

(c)   Approve the estimates of the amounts required to be made under the Non-domestic Rating (Rates Retention) Regulations 2013 as set out in paragraphs 36 to 39;

 

(d)   Approve the acceptance of any grants made during 2021/2022 by the Government under Section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003 in respect of Business Rates; 

 

(e)   Approve the use of the additional income from the Business Rate Pool, estimated at £1,100,000 in 2021/2022, for transfer to the established Renewables Reserve for priority projects;

 

(f)    Subject to any changes to the recommendations above, Full Council approves that:

 

(i)    The 2021/2022 General Fund Revenue Budget based on known commitments at this time and planned levels of Service/functions resulting in a Budget Requirement of £21.722 million;

 

(ii)   The District Council Precept on the Collection Fund (Council Tax Requirement) of £9.998 million in 2021/2022 (based on the Local Government Settlement) and a Band D Council Tax of £155.31.

Decision:

Council AGREED

 

To:

 

(a)   Take into account the detailed budgets presented at Appendix B, and summarised at Appendix A, with an estimated General Fund Gross Operating Expenditure for 2021/2022 of £71.917 million, estimated Gross Operating Income of £49.146 million and estimated General Fund Net Operating Expenditure of £22.771 million;

 

(b)  Acknowledge the key factors which have led to the proposed 2021/2022 General Fund Revenue Budget, with service pressures summarised at Appendix C and offsetting efficiency savings/policy options summarised at Appendix D;

 

(c)   Acknowledge that the 2021/2022 General Fund Revenue Budget gross expenditure is covered by forecast income sources (assuming no change in Government grant) and, therefore, any addition(s) to expenditure that are made by the Cabinet or Council will need to be met from the General Fund Balance;

 

(d)  Approve the 2021/2022 General Fund Revenue Budget taking into account the statement by the Chief Finance Officer on the risks and robustness of the estimates as required under Section 25 of the Local Government Act 2003 (reproduced at Appendix F);

 

(e)   Set the Council Tax Requirement for 2021/2022 at £9,997,693;

 

(f)    Approve an increase in the District element of the Council Tax of £5 per annum, giving an average Band D Council Tax of £155.31, plus the relevant amounts required by the precepts of the Parish Councils, Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridgeshire Police & Crime Commissioner, and the Cambridgeshire Fire Authority;

 

(g)  Approve the estimates of the amounts required to be made under the Non-domestic Rating (Rates Retention) Regulations 2013 as set out in paragraphs 36 to 39;

 

(h)             Approve the acceptance of any grants made during 2021/2022 by the Government under Section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003 in respect of Business Rates; 

 

(i)    Approve the use of the additional income from the Business Rate Pool, estimated at £1,100,000 in 2021/2022, for transfer to the established Renewables Reserve for priority projects;

 

(j)    Subject to any changes to the recommendations above, Full Council approves that:

 

(i)    The 2021/2022 General Fund Revenue Budget based on known commitments at this time and planned levels of Service/functions resulting in a Budget Requirement of £21.722 million;

 

(ii)   The District Council Precept on the Collection Fund (Council Tax Requirement) of £9.998 million in 2021/2022 (based on the Local Government Settlement) and a Band D Council Tax of £155.31.

 

Minutes:

Members considered the recommendation of Cabinet and report on the General Fund Budget for 2021/2022.

 

Councillor John Williams, Lead Cabinet Member for Finance, presented the report. He said the proposed General Fund Revenue Budget for 2021/22 aimed to continue supporting residents and businesses in recovering from the pandemic. It also took account of the Government’s local government financial settlement for the coming financial year, which was dependent on councils increasing council tax bills. The net expenditure for 2021/22 to be met from Government Grants, Business Rates and Local Taxpayers was estimated at nearly £21.7 million. The probable outturn figure for the current financial year was £25.2 million. To help bridge this gap Council Tax payers were being asked to pay an extra 10 pence a week for the average Band D property, bringing their annual council tax bill to £155.31. Nevertheless, the council tax bill would continue to be in the lowest 25 per cent of all district council taxes.

 

Councillor John Williams said that, due to the pandemic, business rate income had decreased and he had concerns that the long term effects of Covid 19 in terms of business failures and property devaluation might impact on Business Rate growth this coming financial year. The Council would continue participating in the Business Rates pooling arrangement with neighbouring district councils and the county council. This arrangement would deliver an estimated additional £1 million.  The Council was not just relying on more money from council tax payers and had embarked on an ambitious four- year plan to transform Council service quality, better realign financial resources to business plan priorities and improve customer service. This would achieve a reduction in net expenditure of over £2.1 million. For Covid 19 the Council had set aside a contingency of a quarter of a million pounds and, as a result of a proposal by the Scrutiny and Overview Committee, Councillor Williams was pleased to incorporate into the General Fund Revenue budget a two-year post for a Welfare and Visiting Advisor to support and enhance the work of the Housing Benefits team. There was more funding for homelessness at this time of economic hardship; for land drainage when there was record-breaking rainfall due to climate change and for staffing support to maximise investment opportunities, which was key to retain financial resilience to deliver place-making and income. Councillor Williams moved the recommendations.

 

Councillor Peter McDonald, Lead Cabinet Member for Business Recovery, seconded the motion.

 

The Chair said he understood the Leader of the Opposition wished to propose an amendment.

 

Councillor Heather Williams proposed an amendment as follows:

 

1. Establish extra Planning Enforcement Support

 

The Council would establish an extra Planning Enforcement Officer, under a permanent contract.

 

2. Funding

 

It is proposed that the amount required of £41,600 be funded from a reduction to the budget within communications for the South Cambridgeshire magazine of £28,100, still leaving budget for 2 copies of the magazine to be printed and delivered each year and where more than one Special Responsibility Allowance is paid to a particular member, in future they receive one allowance. This will produce a saving of £13,500.

 

Councillor Heather Williams said those on Planning Committee were aware that planning enforcement had struggled to keep up with the need, despite best efforts. More resource was needed for enforcement. She was aware short-term provision was being made, but to restore faith, she proposed to fund this this provision permanently. It would be right to reverse the decision to allow two special responsibility allowances, introduced 18 months ago, and therefore this amendment was fully costed.

 

Councillor Graham Cone seconded the amendment. He said the amount sought was not large but would make a big difference.

 

Councillor Sue Ellington spoke on the amendment. She said it was important that the Council was seen to enforce decisions, and the enforcement officers were under significant pressure.

 

Councillor Dr Richard Williams supported the amendment, stating that residents did not like to see lack of rules being enforced.

 

Councillor Dr Tumi Hawkins, Lead Cabinet Member for Planning Policy and Delivery, thanked Councillor Heather Williams for her concern regarding enforcement. Officers were to be commended for doing good work. However what residents thought should be done and what the law provided for were two different things. Currently she was looking at the Council’s enforcement policy as part of an overall restructure being undertaken with the Greater Cambridge Planning Service. An area meeting with the parishes would take place so all could understand what was possible and what was not. Within the enforcement team there were seven posts, of which one was vacant. She did not consider there was a need for the amendment, as there was provision for staff to be in place.

 

Councillor Deborah Roberts said it would be disappointing if the amendment were not accepted. There was concern within parishes about this matter. Parishes and residents did not understand why expected enforcement action was not taken. She would support reducing the number of issues of the Council’s magazine to contribute to funding extra resource, and the doubling of special responsibility allowances was not satisfactory.

 

Councillor Nick Wight said the enforcement team was clearly struggling and the whole point of joint planning arrangements was to make them more robust.

 

The Chair asked Councillor Gavin Clayton if he wished to speak, in view of his earlier internet connectivity problems. Councillor Clayton confirmed he had no comment.

 

A vote was taken on the amendment and votes were cast as follows:

 

In favour (13):

 

Councillors Ruth Betson, Shrobona Bhattacharya, Tom Bygott, Grenville Chamberlain, Graham Cone, Douglas de Lacey, Sue Ellington, Mark Howell, Deborah Roberts, Bunty Waters, Heather Williams, Richard Williams, Nick Wright.

 

 

Against (22):

Councillors Henry Batchelor, John Batchelor, Anna Bradnam, Martin Cahn, Nigel Cathcart, Claire Daunton, Clare Delderfield, Peter Fane, Neil Gough, Bill Handley, Geoff Harvey, Tumi Hawkins, Pippa Heylings, Peter McDonald, Brian Milnes, Dawn Percival, Judith Rippeth, Bridget Smith, Hazel Smith, Aidan van de Weyer, John Williams, Eileen Wilson.

 

Abstain (1):

 

Councillor Gavin Clayton.

 

The Chair declared the amendment to have fallen.

 

Councillor Gavin Clayton spoke on the substantive motion. He thanked Councillor John Williams for including provision for the Visiting Advisor for Welfare and Benefits, which the Labour Group had proposed. This support was important in view of current caseloads. He queried a savings figure for Planning which had been included previously.

 

Councillor Heather Williams said the Council had a year ago advised a cut to the budget for Planning was necessary. That cut should be reversed. Earlier, Councillor John Williams had stated the Council could fund the capital programme, there was a budget shortfall. This was not a fully costed budget. When would the £1 million which had been cut be restored?

 

Councillor Ruth Betson asked, given the fragility of this budget, whether the Lead Member for Finance would guarantee the Council Tax increase would not be over £5 and therefore subject to a referendum.

 

Councillor Sue Ellington referred to the amount of £150K to be given for land drainage. She said she was grateful for support for her ward areas, but questioned whether the funding was sufficient in view of the need for increase clearing due to lack of road sweeping and climate change.

 

Councillor Grenville Chamberlain asked why the table set out at paragraph 26 of the report, setting out movements from the 2020/2021 approved budget, had been substantially remodelled since the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at which it had recently been considered.

 

Councillor Mark Howell referred to a loss of £300K in the housing services provision and the rebalancing of collection rounds so that only one border was involved. He asked for assurance that the loaders would not be expected to do the work of two people, and what would happen to any staff who were no longer needed as a result.

 

Councillor Dr Richard Williams referred to parish precepts and asked whether these were now fixed.

 

Councillor Nick Wright said in recent weeks applications for huge developments at Waterbeach and Bourn Airfield had come forward. It seemed the Council was reliant on housing growth to plug a financial black hole which the administration was making.

 

Councillor Dr Tumi Hawkins said in response to the points raised by Councillor Heather Williams that over £1 million which had previously been allocated to legal services had been carried over, in anticipation of a number of challenges from planning agents. It was prudent to remove that provision rather than to class it as an underspend.

 

Councillor Brian Milnes, Lead Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Licensing, referring to Councillor Sue Ellington’s query, said managing watercourses entailed collaboration with agencies to ensure water courses were dealt with as a whole. A new officer was in post and the team would be split into two in order to work on a scheme of collaboration with the county council and Anglia Water.

 

Councillor John Williams said the sum of £150K referred to by Councillor Gavin Clayton had been placed in the community and wellbeing head within the budget. Further details could be provided direct if Councillor Clayton wished. In respect of the rebalancing of the budget question from Councillor Heather Williams, it was a requirement to set a balanced budget, which this was. In previous years, surpluses had gone into reserves, and appendix A set out how these were being drawn on to achieve balance.

 

Regarding a referendum on council tax, this was out of the question.

 

Regarding the point raise by Councillor Sue Ellington, Councillor John Williams referred her to the environment agency.

 

Regarding the changes to the figures taken to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the meeting of the committee had been some weeks before and he had explained that there would be changes by the time of the Council meeting. The past 12 months had been unusual, and clearly it had taken immense effort to ensure that the budget submitted to this meeting was as good as it could be. He had introduced the summary table, which had not been provided in the past, to identify where there was increased or reduced spending, as a snapshot.

 

With respect to refuse rounds, Councillor John Williams aid the transformation project had reviewed waste collections in order to maximise efficiency and value for money. Another area was litter-picking which was back in-house.

 

Regarding the parish precepts, these had now been set.

 

Regarding growth, there was a five year land supply based on the number of applications approved and the build out rate. Council Tax was based on this growth, which was driven by jobs and the need for new homes.

 

A recorded vote was taken and votes were cast as follows.

 

In favour (24):

 

Councillors Henry Batchelor, John Batchelor, Anna Bradnam, Martin Cahn, Nigel Cathcart, Gavin Clayton, Claire Daunton, Douglas de Lacey, Clare Delderfield, Peter Fane, Neil Gough, Bill Handley, Geoff Harvey, Tumi Hawkins, Pippa Heylings, Peter McDonald, Brian Milnes, Dawn Percival, Judith Rippeth, Bridget Smith, Hazel Smith, Aidan van de Weyer, John Williams, Eileen Wilson.

 

Against (12):

 

Councillors Ruth Betson, Shrobona Bhattacharya, Tom Bygott, Grenville Chamberlain, Graham Cone, Sue Ellington, Mark Howell, Deborah Roberts, Bunty Waters, Heather Williams, Richard Williams, Nick Wright.

 

Abstain (0)

 

Council RESOLVED

 

To:

 

(a)   Take into account the detailed budgets presented at Appendix B, and summarised at Appendix A, with an estimated General Fund Gross Operating Expenditure for 2021/2022 of £71.917 million, estimated Gross Operating Income of £49.146 million and estimated General Fund Net Operating Expenditure of £22.771 million;

 

(b)   Acknowledge the key factors which have led to the proposed 2021/2022 General Fund Revenue Budget, with service pressures summarised at Appendix C and offsetting efficiency savings/policy options summarised at Appendix D;

 

(c)   Acknowledge that the 2021/2022 General Fund Revenue Budget gross expenditure is covered by forecast income sources (assuming no change in Government grant) and, therefore, any addition(s) to expenditure that are made by the Cabinet or Council will need to be met from the General Fund Balance;

 

(d)   Approve the 2021/2022 General Fund Revenue Budget taking into account the statement by the Chief Finance Officer on the risks and robustness of the estimates as required under Section 25 of the Local Government Act 2003 (reproduced at Appendix F);

 

(e)   Set the Council Tax Requirement for 2021/2022 at £9,997,693;

 

(f)    Approve an increase in the District element of the Council Tax of £5 per annum, giving an average Band D Council Tax of £155.31, plus the relevant amounts required by the precepts of the Parish Councils, Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridgeshire Police & Crime Commissioner, and the Cambridgeshire Fire Authority;

 

(g)   Approve the estimates of the amounts required to be made under the Non-domestic Rating (Rates Retention) Regulations 2013 as set out in paragraphs 36 to 39;

 

(h)            Approve the acceptance of any grants made during 2021/2022 by the Government under Section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003 in respect of Business Rates; 

 

(i)    Approve the use of the additional income from the Business Rate Pool, estimated at £1,100,000 in 2021/2022, for transfer to the established Renewables Reserve for priority projects;

 

(j)    Subject to any changes to the recommendations above, Full Council approves that:

 

(i)    The 2021/2022 General Fund Revenue Budget based on known commitments at this time and planned levels of Service/functions resulting in a Budget Requirement of £21.722 million;

 

(ii)   The District Council Precept on the Collection Fund (Council Tax Requirement) of £9.998 million in 2021/2022 (based on the Local Government Settlement) and a Band D Council Tax of £155.31.

 

 

The Chair adjourned the meeting for a short break, from 4.20pm to 4.55pm.

 

Supporting documents: