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Agenda item

Budget and Council Tax 2019/20 and Medium Term Financial Strategy

Cabinet Portfolio:                 Leader of the Council

Strategic Directorate:           Finance and Customer Services

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report which was due to be considered by the Cabinet meeting on 18 February 2019 that proposed the Council’s Budget and Council Tax for 2019/20. The proposals were based on the outcome of the Council’s Final Local Government Finance Settlement, budget consultation and the consideration of Directorate budget proposals through the Council’s formal Budget and Scrutiny process alongside a review of the financial planning assumptions within the Medium Term Financial Strategy.

 

In setting the proposed 2019/20 budget, the report sought Cabinet’s endorsement of a recommendation to Council an increase of 2.99% in the Council’s basic Council Tax. The report contained proposals to balance the revenue budget for both 2019/20 and 2020/21. The Budget and Council Tax Report 2018/19 highlighted the need to address a £30m financial gap over the period 2019/20 and 2020/21.

 

The Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Corporate Services and Finance attended the meeting to respond to specific queries from Members in respect of the proposals.

 

Assurances were sought by Members in respect of how realistic the proposals were for reductions in the numbers of looked after children by 2020-21, which predicated significant savings within the budget proposals. In response, it was explained that extensive benchmarking had taken place of practice in other authorities where Children and Young People’s Services had been in a process of recovery and the analysis provided confidence that the numbers in the report were achievable whilst maintaining the safety of the child. Assurances had also been provided by professionals based on the best information available and the service was moving in the right direction in reducing costs.

 

Members sought assurances in respect of monitoring and evaluation in respect of the proposed increase associated with independent adult care sector provision. In response, the Leader expressed the view that there was no reason to believe that the proposal would have an adverse impact. He further reflected on the financial pressures facing the sector, however it was noted that there was presently an over provision within the borough in respect of independent adult care.

 

Reference was made to the report indicating that the Council would pursue a more commercial and outward facing approach to doing business, generating income and leveraging the resources and assets of partners in the borough. Members sought to understand exactly what that meant. In response, the Leader confirmed that the authority would continue to pursue projects from previous years which would take time to be realised. In a supplementary question, reference was made to the work done in Trafford to improve the Sunday market which revolved around an excellent food offer and whether the Council had given consideration to introducing something similar within the borough. In response, the Leader did not believe that anything specific had been considered, but reminded Members of the existing on-street market which traded at a surplus for the Council.

 

Assurances were sought in respect of the proposed capital expenditure on Microsoft Office 365, which was significant in value and in terms of its impact on every service, officer and Member of the Council. An explanation was provided to the Board regarding the rationale for the project and the purchase of software licences for the product. Further assurances were provided in respect of Cabinet Member and senior officer oversight and reporting on the implementation of the project.

 

Reflecting on previous recommendations from Overview and Scrutiny Management Board, the Leader provided a synopsis of the consultation process in respect of the budget proposals, the methodology and how effective social media had been in increasing contact and engagement on the proposals. Whilst there remained lessons for the future, the general feeling was that the process had improved on previous years.

 

Resolved:-

 

1.    That the Cabinet be advised that the recommendations to Council be supported.

Supporting documents: