- Director of Finance to report.
Councillor Akhtar, Deputy Leader, introduced a report by the Director of Finance, which proposed a Revenue Budget for 2014/15 based on the outcome of the Council’s Financial Settlement and provided details of:-
· The Local Government Financial Settlement.
· The new Corporate Priorities and new Budget Principles reflected in the Budget and spending plans.
· The Council’s recommended Revenue Budget for 2014/15.
· Savings proposals from Directorates and Central Services.
· Precepts and levies made on the Council by other authorities.
· Proposed Council Tax levels for the coming financial year.
· Proposed future developments in the 3 year Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2014/15 to 2016/17.
As required by legislation, the report also contained the Director of Finance’s (the Council’s Responsible Financial Officer) assessment of the robustness of the estimates included within the Budget and the adequacy of the reserves for which the Budget provided.
The implications of the Government’s austerity programme, which was seeing unprecedented reductions to local government funding, were now starting to be clear. In Autumn 2010 the Council identified the need for just over £62m of savings from the Council’s budget up until 2014/15. Since then, additional Government funding reductions have mostly increased that to over £93m (a 50% additional increase). So far the Council had had to address funding gaps of £30.3m in 2011/12, £20.4m in 2012/13, £20.2m in 2013/14 and £23.0m in 2014/15.
Moving forward, the Council’s expectation was that it would have an additional estimated resources funding gap of £23m in 2015/16 and that its funding was likely to continue to reduce at a similar rate to that experienced over the last four years, until possibly 2020.
In meeting the year on year significant financial challenges presented, the Council had demonstrated a successful track record in delivering its financial plans. To this end the Council was, in the current year (2013/14), moving towards a balanced budget. However, it was recognised that into the future this would only be sustainable if the Council redefined and refocused its corporate plan priorities (and budget principles that have served it well) and had a new, different relationship with its citizens, residents and other stakeholders.
The Council’s new Corporate Priorities have been developed to provide a focus on essential services and were underpinned by the Council’s new Budget Principles adopted for setting the 2014/15 Budget.
The previous Budget Principles were well served and enabled the Council to protect (to a large extent) front line services to the public which were:-
· Significantly reconfigured and reduced headcount (a 1,024 reduction in posts). Within this support (back-office) services have seen a 28% reduction over four years and front-line services a 12% reduction.
· Reduced management costs by over 20%.
· Re-positioned and reintegrated significant Council Partnerships back into the Council (Rotherham Brought Together (RBT) and 2010 Rotherham Ltd).
· Strengthened the commissioning and procurement arrangements and renegotiated a significant number of contracts to increase value for money to the Council.
· Invested in new technologies to facilitate new ways of working leading to greater efficiencies, improved performance and improved customer engagement.
· Looked for opportunities to develop and offer the services to other public sector bodies through shared services. e.g. the Council provided Human Resources and Payroll services to Doncaster Council and School Academies.
· Reduced or stopped funding to partners for services that were no longer considered to be a priority.
· Significantly rationalised operational buildings to both reduce running costs and the cost of servicing the outstanding debt on capital investment schemes.
The new Budget Principles adopted by Cabinet on 3rd July, 2013 underpinned the new Corporate Priorities to ensure the limited resources were even more effectively targeted. These were to:-
· Focus and deliver on business and jobs growth.
· Help people to help themselves wherever possible.
· Provide early support to prevent needs becoming more serious.
· Continue to adopt strong financial management and governance and tight control on spending.
To enable this, the Council would:-
· Focus on the things most important to all local people.
· Shift scarce resources to areas of greatest need, including targeting and rationing services to a greater extent than at present.
· Limit spending to clearly essential items when tested against the new budget principles.
· Stop doing things that were not important to all local people.
· Promote local – aim to maximise spending power within the Borough across the supply chain.
By continuing to adopt a calm and measured approach and planning ahead it was possible for the Council to protect services for those most in need. Within the Budget, provision was made to:-
· Ensure that safeguarding of children was a top priority through the provision of improved services for children in care and with Special Educational Needs.
· Support vulnerable families and individuals.
· Continue the investment in preventative services and early intervention.
· Reduce the time taken to provide new packages of care and supply equipment, assistive technologies and adaptations to safeguard adults when their life circumstances changed.
· Continue to promote new business start-ups and stimulate the local economy.
· Help Rotherham Credit Unions continue to provide financial support to residents who were in danger of being made homeless because of the economic downturn.
· Continue to invest in infrastructure across the Borough – houses, schools, roads, customer services and town centre regeneration.
Cabinet Members welcomed this budget and in doing so received an update on progress of the consultation process of the Children’s Centres and the potential for the other providers to take these services on going forward.
Cabinet Members also wished to offer their thanks to the Chief Executive and the Director of Finance and their respective teams for their efforts in achieving a balanced budget.
Recommended:- (1) That the General Fund Revenue Budget for 2014/15 of £208.885m to be allocated to services, as set out in this report, be approved.
(2) That an increase (for a first time in four years) in the Council Tax of 1.9% in respect of this Council’s own Budget giving an annual Band D Equivalent Council Tax of £1,253.34 be approved.
(3) That the comments and advice of the Director of Finance, provided in compliance with Section 25 of the Local Government Act 2003, as to the robustness of the estimates included in the Budget and the adequacy of reserves for which the Budget provides be noted and adopted.
(4) That precept figures from South Yorkshire Police Authority, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority and the various Parish Councils and Parish Meetings within the Borough be incorporated, when known, into the recommendations to the Council on 5th March, 2014.
(Councillors Akhtar, Doyle, Hussain, Lakin, McNeely, Rushforth, R. Russell, Smith, Stone and Wyatt voted in favour of the budget decision).