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Agenda item

RECOMMENDATION FROM CABINET - BUDGET AND COUNCIL TAX 2019-20 AND MEDIUM TERM FINANCIAL STRATEGY

 

To agree the Budget and Council Tax level for the 2019/20 financial year.

Minutes:

Further to Minute No. 109 of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 18th February, 2019 consideration was given to the report which proposed the Council’s Budget and Council Tax for 2019/20.  This was 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 (Overview and Scrutiny Management Board) alongside a review of the financial planning assumptions within the Medium Term Financial Strategy. 

 

The Council remained committed to protecting the most vulnerable children and adults, but despite the positive direction of travel for the Council, the challenges were still significant in the following areas:-

 

·             Children’s social care continued to overspend over and above the significant additional resources that have been provided for the service in recent years.

·             More children than anticipated required care and protection by the local authority.

·             Implications for support services as the increase in looked after children numbers had led to additional legal costs.

·             Adult Care budgets continued to be under pressure due to demographic pressures.

 

In setting the proposed 2019/20 budget, approval was sought for an increase of 2.99% in the Council’s basic Council Tax.

 

The Leader wanted to place on record his thanks to the people whose hard work enabled him to present this budget today; his Cabinet colleagues who have worked hard and selflessly again to deliver the best possible proposals, staff, especially in Finance, and of course Councillor Alam.

 

He explained this was the fifth budget he had presented with the grim gruelling tide of Tory austerity reaching a little higher and a little further.  Each year the steps taken hold off the worst effects from those least able to afford it.

 

A decade of austerity that meant, by the end of the next two years, the Council would have been forced to find cuts and savings amounting to more than £200 million from its budget. That was nearly £800 for every man, woman and child who lived in the borough.

 

Only this week five of the biggest children’s charities in the country joined forces to slam what they called the “devastating and dangerous” funding cuts to Children’s Services across the country.

 

The Leader described how when he became Leader of this Council four years ago, there were a little over 400 children in care. Last year that number hit 660.  Whilst that number had since fallen and steps were being taken to ensure that more vulnerable children were able to stay in a family setting, with the right support, the primary obligation was to children.

 

In setting the budget plans for the next two years, the Council were committing a total of £17 million more than was planned to ensure that the needs of children in the Council’s care were met.

 

In 2014/15, the net revenue budget for the Children’s Services directorate was £42.9 million. Next year it would be £65.4 million.

 

The Leader confirmed that the number of agency social workers in Children’s Services was now well below national average. Changes to Early Help Services were already well underway and the new pathway would ensure that children dealt with fewer professionals, with fewer hand offs and improving their experience. This would reduce costs over time, but it would be done in the right way, in a way that was sustainable.

 

In terms of Adult Social Care, the plans would continue to be followed set out, maximising personal independence, working more closely with partners in the National Health Service and building more specialist housing.

 

In initial proposals, reductions were put forward to reduce the funding for the contracts currently held by Healthwatch and Rotherham Sight and Sound, which together would have totalled nearly £90,000 next year.

 

Strong representations were received during the consultation, including from service users, expressing concern about this reduction and the impact this would have.

 

Those concerns were listened to £55,000 would continue to be provided which should allay some of the fears of those service users.

 

For Environment and Community Safety at every stage it had been strained to save the money without reducing the services that residents relied upon.

 

In Customer Services four out of every five people who signed up for the new garden waste service did so online – with three times as many people registering in the first wave.   It was, therefore, odd that in order to request a bulky waste collection from the Council this could only be achieved by speaking to someone on the telephone.

 

Frontline street cleaning staff performed a great job, in all weathers, and often in very difficult circumstances.  Why could their jobs not be made simpler by allowing them to see the actual pictures of problems that people reported.

 

The Council’s website was outdated and too often people who used services were forced to repeat the same information to different services and departments.  It was frustrating for them and inefficient.  Information technology was, therefore, to be upgraded and it was expected to launch a new Council website in the autumn, making it easier for residents to use the services they wanted to and, therefore, reducing the cost of running them.

 

In Neighbourhoods people’s expectations of their Councillors have changed.  Good Councillors have always been part of their communities, engaged in local issues, hearing local concerns and advocating local solutions.  This was why £30,000 was removed from the Members’ budget when the move was made to the new Neighbourhoods model. 

 

As a result, Wath Councillors were providing investment to improve Montgomery Hall.  Rother Vale Ward Councillors were helping to secure a regular Afternoon IT session at Treeton Community Centre and Sitwell and Boston Castle Members were tackling crime and nuisance on the Duke of Norfolk Estate.  In each area the issues may be different, but the need to work alongside communities was the same.

 

Approval of the budget and financial strategy assumed the carry forward into 2019/20 of any remaining funds from the Community Leadership Fund and delegated Ward Budgets. This was in line with the agreed principle of the allocation of these funds for Neighbourhood Working that the funds were spent according to the priorities of Ward Members.

 

Building on the principle of locality working, proposals would be brought forward in the next few weeks to bring together the HRA funding currently allocated through the Area Housing Panels and provide challenge to work more closely with housing tenants to spend that money wisely to resolve local issues.  This proposal would mean additional resources in the hands of Ward Councillors in every Ward to help deliver the Ward plans set out.

 

Councillor allowances would continue to be frozen in cash terms, keeping the Council’s spend on Councillors below the level it was over a decade ago.

 

From the work within Neighbourhoods speeding traffic was a growing concern, so an additional £450,000 was being allocated from capital investment over the coming three years to address local concerns about speed limits and road safety.

 

South Yorkshire Police would be joining in this work and allocating additional resources available for speeding enforcement.

 

With the need to save money in Streetpride the service would be remodelled so that it was more focussed on providing the right services in each Ward and locality. Teams in Enforcement and Regulatory Services would also be integrated building on the work that had already been done to co-locate staff with the Police in Rawmarsh, Maltby and at Riverside.

 

Only a few months ago the Council heard about the frustration of the family who have seen anti-social behaviour and vandalism to their memorial in Clifton Park. The provision of the CCTV would be funded and the Council would look to see where else in the borough cameras may need to be deployed.

 

In addition to the CCTV, the Sight and Sound and Healthwatch funding and road safety, free parking would also be provided in the town centre every Saturday through the year.  The Council had listened to the public and subsequently responded.

 

However, sometimes matters were made difficult and unpopular and the financial crisis facing Local Government only made that situation worse.

 

The public understood this and as part of the budget consultation, 63% of the people who expressed a view said that in light of the £30 million funding gap being faced, they would be willing to pay at least 3% more Council Tax in order to protect services.

 

Last year the Leader believed the whole future of Local Government hung in the balance and despite the patching up from Central Government it still did.  Within the next year, the Government must decide how Councils were going to be funded in the long term.

 

In the last week, the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed how their plan to remove deprivation from the funding formula moved even more funding away from areas like Rotherham to wealthier parts of the country.  For Rotherham this could mean as much as a further 10% reduction in the assessed need per resident.

 

This was not right as it would hurt those least able to afford it and betrayed the consciences of those who were proposing it.

 

Last year Northamptonshire had just issued their Section 114 notice when they had run out of money.   To those that asked why difficult decisions were being made each year, the Council knew what would happen if those decisions were not taken.

 

Northamptonshire’s Children’s Services were now in their second period of Government intervention. Hundreds of children were reportedly having to wait for months for social work assessments and Ofsted were reporting that staff felt “overwhelmed” and “drowning”, with caseloads in some cases as high as fifty.  Rotherham knew how this felt

 

In contrast with the changes made in Rotherham Ofsted now regarded the services for the most vulnerable children as “transformed”. Significant improvements have been made in the response to child sexual exploitation with services for care leavers reported as “outstanding”.

 

With Rotherham’s history the Council must not be complacent. It’s the public that lost out the most when responsibilities were backed away from. Always those who needed the system to work the most and always those whose voices were heard the least.

 

On behalf of all those people the Council was doing all that it could to give certainty to residents, service users and staff and this budget was the plan.

 

In seconding the budget Councillor Alam confirmed this was a responsible budget for public services that directly impacted on day-to-day lives of people.  The Council had undergone a major improvement journey since May, 2015 and the Corporate Improvement Plan fully implemented.  Services have been transformed and the commitments made today would mean the Council was once again focusing on putting residents first, despite the Government underfunding social care.

 

This was a budget truly fit for purpose and the Council remained committed to protecting the most vulnerable children and adults and delivering value for money.  The budget prioritised how Council, in partnership with residents, could promote Rotherham.  Despite being faced with cuts to Rotherham’s Government grant the Council had to find £30 million over the next two years.  Today the Council was presenting a balanced budget which was realistic.

 

Councillor Alam wished to thank the Leader of the Council for chairing endless working budget meetings, the very inclusive approach, Cabinet Members for their participation and one Council approach, members of the working group, officers of the Council including the Chief Executive, Assistant Chief Executive and the Strategic Director and her team who have worked tirelessly to get the Council to this position and Scrutiny Members.

 

The national picture was grim.  Austerity was not over.  The Government was elected with a promise to reduce the national debt, but this had failed and was damaging those people who were most in need.  The promise was for more cuts to come.  There was no hiding place from the fact that the most vulnerable and poorest members of the community were paying the highest price for this failure. 

 

There were those who were suffering, were in most need with the cuts causing extensive inequality in society where more people were attending food banks and facing poverty. 

 

The £30 million of savings required over next few years were in addition to that that had already be made resulting in a reduced budget.  These were unfair cuts by the Tory Government and a direct discrimination against a Council with high demand needs so it left few options and some difficult decisions on savings.  In doing so frontline services to most vulnerable in communities would be protected and efficiencies sought through the transformation of services which would save the Council resources in the longer term.

 

The savings presented today were a challenge to the Council.   The Council must show it was prepared to think differently, use more accessible IT, put technology at the forefront of change to expand services online and be more inclusive.

 

Savings in resources would be made in the longer term but would also provide user friendly services.  Rotherham’s residents should not have to suffer mercy of this uncaring Central Government.  This budget was a continuation to protect Rotherham's most vulnerable children and adults.

 

Councillor Jepson referred to Page 109 of the document pack relating to the Capital Programme General Fund and its projections to 2023.  It did not appear to reflect the boundary changes in 2020, which in turn would affect the budget amounts if the Ward changes were not applied and the allowances were not taken into account.

 

Councillor John Turner sought special consideration for the Rotherham Sea Cadets who had been in existence for seventy years and he described how support was limited compared to other armed force recruits.

 

Councillor Hoddinott endorsed the view put forward by the Leader and Councillor Alam and the emphasis of this Council becoming more responsive to residents’ concerns whilst protecting the most vulnerable.

 

In terms of her own portfolio area, Councillor Hoddinott described how waste collection and roads made up less than 20% of the Council’s budget.  This Government were lowering taxes, but not investing in vital services.  The  proposals today meant there would be changes as the Council would not be able to do everything it did before. 

 

The Council could not protect the services so in order to save money recycling was improved.  3,967 people were now receiving the new all year round green waste service and it was opportune to the staff and the residents who were making the changes in the bin system.   Plastic was now being recycled with some items more than other Councils.

 

The state of the roads was a common complaint and although the Government had given an extra £1.65 million this year for roads it was far from the investment that was needed.  This was why locally £10 million had been put into the 2020 roads programme with next year seeing £3 million invested equating to three roads being resurfaced every week.  Not only were people seeing their roads improved, but the number of potholes was being reduced since 2016.  This was also the final year of upgrading the street lights to make them more energy efficient and they were paying for themselves with energy bills down by 40%.

 

Councillor Hoddinott was proud of what this Labour Council was delivering and from the apprenticeship scheme five apprentices would join the Council in permanent jobs this year.  In addition, eight highway apprenticeships would join next year. 

 

The Council was hearing the concerns about road safety and last year voted for an increased budget for road crossings which meant the crossing on Bawtry Road would be installed this year.  Councillor Carter voted against this investment last year, but was getting a second chance and his residents may be interested to see whether he voted against the proposals again as the Council invested a further £450,000 into road safety concerns.  Ten new school would see a 20 miles per hour scheme put in place alongside the  extra enforcement from South Yorkshire Police to catch those reckless on the roads.  South Yorkshire Police were also commended for also listening to the Council and its residents’ concerns and putting more resources into tackling off road motorbikes.

 

This Labour Council also decided to protect funding for domestic abuse services.  Indeed in the last year the amount had been increased with bringing in external funding for this important work and 350 victims and survivors had been helped in the last year.  Whilst 2,000 women were being turned away a year from refuges due to the cuts, Rotherham was one of the few places in the country that had retained this facility.

 

Councillor Hoddinott was proud that once again the Council was proposing to not cut domestic abuse services and the protection of the most vulnerable residents was being secured.

 

Councillor Cusworth spoke in favour of the proposals and in her position as Chair of Improving Lives Select Commission she had followed the journey very closely in the improvement of Rotherham’s children's services and whilst difficult decisions had been taken children’s lives were much improved.

 

This Council could not change universal credit or stop the roll out, but as others had already reported the impact of the austerity policies on the most vulnerable people was huge.  It was emphasised this was a political choice not an economic necessity.  It was difficult being a Councillor and not everyone could take those decisions, but Councillor Cusworth was really pleased to see the further investment in children's services as a sound pathway to safely reduce numbers of children coming into care, allowing children to return home or to move to permanent placements. 

 

Councillor B. Cutts congratulated the Leader for his eloquent political comments, but sought clarification on the increasing number of children coming into care and whether this was a failure on the Council’s part that this was happening when the Council was reducing the number of homes and care centres.

 

Councillor Roche considered it only right that the most vulnerable in society should receive protected services. It was a difficult year and in some cases the savings were because of changes in the service forced by the austerity on the Council and many other Northern Councils by the current and previous Governments.

 

This Council was facing a number of very significant challenges with an ageing population, a growing and increasing population with long-term care needs.  On top of this there were also cost pressures with the National Living Wage.

 

The service had inherited some historical high cost care packages resulting in an overspend in adult social care.  However, as previously promised the overspend had been reduced and was on track to reduce further.  This would be improved with a more personalised community-based approach.

 

The continuing outstanding work in developing integration was as a result of a partnership between the Council the CCG, the hospital trust and other partners such as the Police and Voluntary Action Rotherham.  Rotherham recognised as a leader in development integration in those services with the emphasis on allowing people to live as long as possible in their own homes

 

Councillor Roche echoed the Leader's thoughts about Sight and Sound and the magnificent work taking place and he was delighted the funding could continue along with additional funding for HealthWatch.

 

He described his own involvement in a small panel looking at grants from the Sheffield City Region to help improve mental health for men within the borough.

 

The Council was committed to providing the best service within a balanced budget within a decreasing grant from National Government and acknowledged the difficult decisions that had to be made.

 

He expressed his concern about health inequalities in Rotherham where the life expectancy was two years below the national average and even more so amongst the deprived Wards. 

 

Councillor Roche particularly wanted to thank all the officers for their hard work and dedication as part of the difficult decisions that had to be made, but at same time improving services.  He was happy to recommend this budget.

 

Councillor Walsh explained that any changes to the budget would always impact on the welfare of the people in the borough.  He commended the Budget Working Group for their work in minimising the harm of British Government policies and for giving careful consideration to the budget now presented.

 

Councillor Carter was unable to support today’s budget.  He described the many years of this Labour controlled Council and how they failed to make a real difference with an ever increasing debt being piled on the residents of Rotherham by Labour.  The Council was failing by not maximising opportunities to increase the money from National Government and could have received money for building more homes.  He believed over £30 million in funding had not been accessed through the City Region, but instead those Councillors chose to bicker amongst themselves and had let communities here in Rotherham down.

 

Councillor Carter claimed this administration had been found lacking in many areas, but when safeguarding the most vulnerable people in society chose to close adult day care centres where, in some cases, there was a five year backlog for vulnerable people with learning disabilities causing great uncertainty for those people, their families and the staff who worked with them.

 

Initially funding was proposed to be withdrawn from Rotherham’s deaf and blind communities before an outcry forced them to change their mind.

 

He described how in a four year period in South Yorkshire 139 homeless people were convicted of being homeless under the Vagrancy Act.  This did a disservice to these people rather than supporting them.

 

The Labour Leader of this Council promoted in the media the fact that the Council paid its staff the Joseph Rowntree Living Wage, but failed to mention the Council did not insist that hard-working care home staff and other sub-contractors who looked after vulnerable older people were not.  This was something that this Labour Council could insist on in its minimum standards charter, but had chosen not to.

 

Councillor Carter believed this Labour leadership would much rather stand up and say the Advanced Manufacturing Park was doing well, which was correct, but they failed to say this project was heavily backed by Liberal Democrats when in Government contributing to its success.

 

Councillor Carter remained concerned that those most vulnerable went without a voice in Rotherham.  Children achieving above the national average at Foundation stage was welcome, but by Year 6 were let down which was not acceptable and falling well below the national average trend towards A Level.

 

Councillor Carter went onto describe the factions and arguments in the media between the national Labour politicians and how this Council needed to bring forward proposals to make sure that all staff indirectly working for the Council received the Joseph Rowntree Living Wage, needed to write a presumption against fracking,  properly fund services for disabled people so they were not just seen as an optional extra, become a national leader in helping people have a good quality of life and give people the opportunity to succeed.  On this basis he was unable to support the budget.

 

Councillor Lelliott responded to Councillor Carter’s comments, particularly in relation to the Advanced Manufacturing Park, the education of Rotherham’s young people and how the Budget Working Group, in relation to economic development, had teased out its core capital and capitalised on investments.  Rotherham had a strong R.i.D.O. team that would deliver the Town Centre Masterplan and, therefore, commended the best budget for Rotherham.

 

Councillor Steele described the process for scrutiny of the budget and how the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board discussed proposals line by line, challenged officers and made recommendations.  He was pleased to see the inclusion of funding for Sight and Sound and Healthwatch, the full review of Democratic Services and how the Opposition Party were fully in support of what had been put forward.

 

He referred to the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Parties becoming a coalition Government and agreed with Councillor Cusworth’s comment that austerity was a choice.  It was this Council’s choice to provide top quality public services and work together to deliver the best possible services for Rotherham.  He overwhelmingly supported the budget

 

Councillor Watson referred to the investments in Children's Services, which were making a difference. Numbers were increasing, but this did not mean the Council had failed.  Austerity affected families and the introduction of Universal Credit was actually exacerbating situations, which was why the Council were having to assist more children.

 

Comments were made about the City Region and education which was good in the Borough and enhanced by the new University Campus allowing more local people to go to university and to seek jobs in the borough.  Despite the promises the Liberal Democrats had increased tuition fees.

 

Councillor Watson also referred to neighbourhood working and how this was making a massive difference in local areas.  Ward Members have been able to use relatively small funds to make a real difference in their Wards.  On this basis he commended the budget proposals today.

 

Councillor Napper endorsed Councillor Steele’s comments about the intensity of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board looking at each budget proposal line by line.  He could not see how Councillor Carter could comment when he failed to sit on any committee.  He echoed his support for the budget.

 

Councillor Reeder was in support of the budget, but found the precept for the Police and the Fire Authority at 14% totally unacceptable.

 

Councillor Cowles referred to proposals to scrap student fees until it came to reality and then the proposals merely became aspirations.   No one was really happy about the Government’s actions, but everyone must understand and appreciate where the deficit came from which the Labour Party were not entirely blameless running up a deficit between 2003 and 2008.  He described his own political views and how he was in favour of a high wage economy where people contributed and paid tax. 

 

Councillor Allen referred to the report which identified the priorities for this budget and focused on the positives rather than the negatives.  This budget looked to protect Rotherham's green spaces and improve the quality of the public realm ensuring streets were clean and safe.  The report also listed the contribution that services would be making towards savings over the next couple of years.

 

In terms of capital investments there was to be work around the procurement of mechanical sweepers, new litter bins and very importantly a new caravan park at Rother Valley.  From her experience as a Cabinet Member and having served for more than thirty years as a Local Government Officer there have always been calls to savings on local authorities, but gradually over the passage of time that situation had got worse.  The pressures now on Local Authorities had increased and it was more onerous to achieve those requirements and those responsible for the cuts needed to hang their heads in shame. 

 

However, from her own viewpoint Councillor Allen praised the efforts in this budget, which were far-reaching and very sensitive in its production, and was happy to commend the report today.

 

Councillor Cooksey wished to correct Councillor Cowles’ comments on the issue of tuition fees and how Labour stood by its pledge to abolish them, but believed he was confused in that it was the Liberal Democrats who abandoned the policy.  The Labour Leader had commented he would look at student debt.

 

Councillor Cowles commended the incredible achievement to get to this stage for the budget, but referred back to comments about low paid workers and the taxation system from a Government who had little regard for multinational corporations who used the U.K. as a base, but failed to contribute to the economy.

 

However, be confirmed he would be voting for the budget and suggested that in future there be two separate votes for the budget and council tax.

 

He further added that in terms of reserves and the good work taking place in Wards, which had proved to be well received and popular, he proposed to move a relatively small sum of money intended for increased baseline reserves and divert this to Ward Councillors and their Ward budgets to £10,000 and thus using £210,000 in total for further improvement on the environment for local residents.  He also asked that this vote be recorded.

 

Councillor Cowles also sought agreement for a similar project for cross party scrutiny, in conjunction with Improving Places Select Commission, to consider looking at leaves, especially when other projects consider the use of Christmas trees to assist with river bank erosion or oil extraction from leaves or pine needles.  This may be extended to look at grass cuttings as well.

 

Mover:  Councillor Read                        Seconder:-  Councillor Alam

 

Councillor Cowles moved an amendment to Rotherham’s Budget for 2019/20 was put forward to the reserves strategy and the capital programme and this was seconded by Councillor M. Elliott:-

 

That the Budget and Council Tax 2019/20 report be accepted as proposed, with the exception of an amendment to the reserves strategy and the capital programme. The amendment proposes to utilise £210k of reserves in 2019/20 to allocate an additional £10k per Ward to the Neighbourhood Working capital programme budgets for 2019/20.    

 

In accordance with Procedure Rule 19 Councillor Cowles’ request for a recorded vote was supported by five or more other Members.

 

Councillor Jepson was in full support of the amendment, but looking again on the budget figures it would appear only four out of the twenty-one Wards had actually spent all their Ward allowance, which meant money was being carried forward.  He wondered if consideration had been given to the changes to the Ward boundaries and how these funds must be spent.  He fully supported the thriving neighbourhoods agenda, but urged all Members to spend their Ward budget wisely.

 

The Leader welcomed the support for the thriving neighbourhoods agenda as it demonstrated that it was worthwhile and received enthusiastically.

 

However, to consider introducing new spending commitments funded totally from reserves when work had been done on the budget process would be foolish and not a good idea at this stage.  However, he was not against the principle of increasing the amount of money that Ward Councillors were responsible for as it was an excellent way of responding to the needs of residents.  This was why work was taking place with the former Housing Panels so moving to a more devolved Ward budget was a move in the right direction.

 

Decisions were set to get more difficult and services had to be funded.  Using money from reserves was not free money and it did not last forever.  Once it was gone it was not recoverable.  On this basis he was unable to support the amendment, but was happy to continue working towards decisions about what was the right level of money for Ward Councillors to use in their areas.

 

Councillor Watson welcomed any opportunity to make a long term difference and actually improve the lives of the vulnerable.  However, in this case he was not convinced that this was the right time.  Councillor Jepson referred to monies not being spent and being carried forward into another year, but the report was simply a snapshot in time and the position had since changed. 

 

It was not the right time to consider taking money from reserves and the cross party Neighbourhood's Working Group, that Councillor R. Elliott was a member, could consider how to take the potential to increase Ward budgets forward.  He extended an invitation to Members to make suggestions.

 

A further report would come forward about funding proposals when the Ward boundaries and in some cases Ward Councillor numbers altered.

 

Councillor Walsh welcomed any opportunity for further Ward funding, but the Council had to be realistic where this came from and the public perception leading up to the 2020 election.  This must be planned for appropriately.  On this basis he was not in favour of the amendment, but was totally supportive of the thriving neighbourhoods agenda and wished to see it flourish. 

 

Councillor Wyatt was also unable to support the amendment. There was no end to austerity in sight so it made financial sense to keep a sustainable level of reserves, but to look at methods of how neighbourhood working could be developed in the future.

 

Councillor John Turner was in support of the amendment and did not believe such small funds would be damaging and allow for a sustainable level of reserves to remain, which he was in favour of retaining.

 

Councillor Carter supported the principle of further devolution, but was unable to support the amendment for the reasons he outlined previously.  However, he wished to record his support for greater focus on devolving power down to the lowest level possible.

 

Councillor Cusworth was unable to support the amendment and was in favour of retaining a sustainable level of reserves.  The future remained unclear, but to take funds from one area to give to another area at this stage was not supportable.

 

Councillor Steele could have supported the amendment had this been brought at the appropriate time during the budget discussions.  It could not be supported to propose this today.

 

In terms of the request for a cross party scrutiny review to look at the issue of leaves this would be considered.

 

In a right of reply Councillor Cowles referred to the baseline reserves and their protection which was not statutory or mandatory to maintain and could see no reason why they should be increased.

 

To propose a further funding boost devolved to Ward Members was in no way an attempt to boost election figures.  It was interesting that this year a two year budget was being proposed so that any problems encountered this year could simply be rolled over into next.

 

The vote was put for the amendment and LOST.

 

(Councillor Cowles, B. Cutts, D. Cutts, M. Elliott, R. Elliott, Hague, Jepson, Marriott, Napper, Reeder, Simpson and John Turner voted in favour of the amendment)

 

(Councillors Alam, Albiston, Allcock, Allen, Andrews, Atkin, Beaumont, Beck, Bird, Brookes, The Mayor (Councillor Buckley), Carter, Clark, Cooksey, Cusworth, J. Elliot, Ellis, Hoddinott, Ireland, Jarvis, Jones, Keenan, Khan, Lelliott, Mallinder, Marles, McNeely, Pitchley, Read, Roche, Rushforth, Russell, Sansome, Senior, Sheppard, Steele, Taylor, Tweed, Vjestica, Walsh, Watson, Whysall, Williams, Wyatt and Yasseen voted against the amendment)

 

In a right of reply to the original motion the Leader responded to the comments by Members.  To Councillor Jepson he confirmed Councillor Watson was already looking at proposals for neighbourhood working in readiness for the election in 2020.  To Councillor John Turner he confirmed there was no money available to support the Sea Cadets, but he was happy to discuss the subject further.

 

He confirmed Councillor Cusworth spoke movingly about the impacts of decisions on some the most vulnerable members of the community and to Councillor Reeder that discussions today were only on Council's budget.  The Fire Authority and Police precepts were set separately.

 

Quite right some Members raised points about tax equality and this situation could worsen. Councillor Carter, however, could not see the value of Labour Councillors, but had listened to comments about survivors of domestic violence, the services now in place now and the evolution of services for survivors of child sexual exploitation, which were making a huge difference in people’s lives.

 

Reference had also been made about debt, but Treasury Management was saving around £5 million a year revenue to help protect services.  Councillor Roche spoke about extra funding to prevent suicides, which was one of the top causes of death.  Reflecting back to the publication of the Jay Report  steps were being taken to make a real difference in people’s lives and Councillor Carter’s flippant comments were not justified.  Councillor Carter was doing democracy a disservice as he spoke about scrutiny being labelled yet failed to engage in discussions and in the support to the budget.

 

Resolved:-  (1)  That the Budget and Financial Strategy for 2019/20 and 2020/21 as set out in the report and appendices, including the £23.536m of savings as set out in Appendix 1 and a basic Council Tax increase of 2.99% be approved.

 

(2)  That the updated Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) be approved.

 

(3)  That the proposed use of reserves, as set out in Section 2.7 noting that the final determination will be approved as part of reporting the financial outturn for 2018/19, be approved.

 

(4)  That the comments and advice of the Strategic Director of Finance and Customer Services (Section 151 Officer), 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 (Section 2.12) be noted and accepted.

 

(5)  That the consultation feedback from the public, partners and trade unions following publication of Directorate budget savings proposals on the Council’s website for public comment from Friday, 26th October, 2018 to 30th November, 2018 (Section 4) be noted.

 

(6)  That the Council Fees and Charges schedules for 2019/20 attached as Appendix 6 be approved.

 

(7)  That the proposed increases in Adult Social Care provider contracts as set out in Section 2.5 be approved.

 

(8)  That the Business Rates Retail Discount for 2019/20 in line with Government guidance be applied.

 

(9)  That the Business Rates Rural Relief Scheme for 2019/20 in line with Government guidance continue to be applied.  

 

(10)  That the annual determination of the Council Tax Base be delegated to the Director of Finance and Customer Services (Section 151 Officer), in consultation with the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive, be approved.

 

(11)  That the use of in-year Capital Receipts up to 2021/22 to maximise capitalisation opportunities arising from service reconfiguration to deliver efficiencies and improved outcomes for clients and residents, and thereby minimise the impact of costs on the revenue budget as included in the Flexible use of Capital Receipts Strategy 2019/20 (Appendix 4) be approved.

 

(12)  That the proposed Capital Strategy and Capital Programme as presented in Section 2.10 and Appendices 2A to 2E be approved.

 

(13)  That the approved Capital Programme budget be managed in line with the following key principles:-

 

(i)          Any underspends on the existing approved Capital Programme in respect of 2018/19 be rolled forward into future years, subject to an individual review of each carry forward to be set out within the Financial Outturn 2018/19 report to Cabinet.

 

(ii)         In line with Financial and Procurement Procedure Rules 6.17 and 13.9, any successful grant applications in respect of capital projects will be added to the Council’s approved Capital Programme on an ongoing basis.  

 

(iii)       Capitalisation opportunities and capital receipts flexibilities will be maximised, with capital receipts earmarked to minimise revenue costs.

 

(iv)   Approval of the Treasury Management Matters for 2019/20 as set out in Appendix 3 of this report including the Prudential Indicators, the Minimum Revenue Provision Policy, the Treasury Management Strategy and the Investment Strategy.

 

(Councillors Alam, Albiston, Allcock, Allen, Andrews, Atkin, Beaumont, Beck, Bird, Brookes, The Mayor (Councillor Buckley), Clark, Cooksey, Cowles, Cusworth, B. Cutts, D. Cutts, J. Elliot, M. Elliott, R. Elliott, Ellis, Hague, Hoddinott, Ireland, Jarvis, Jepson, Jones, Keenan, Khan, Lelliott, Mallinder, Marles, Marriott, McNeely, Napper, Pitchley, Read, Reeder, Roche, Rushforth, Russell, Sansome, Senior, Sheppard, Short, Simpson, Steele, Taylor, John Turner, Tweed, Vjestica, Walsh, Watson, Whysall, Williams, Wyatt and Yasseen voted in favour of the proposals)

 

(Councillor Carter voted against the proposals)

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