To note the minutes of the Cabinet Meetings held on 20th September and 17th October, 2022.
Councillor Bennett-Sylvester referenced Minute No. 41 on page 59 of the agenda pack and Minute No. 54 on page 74 of the pack and asked the following questions:
1. Regarding the July Financial Update, would Members be able to participate and make sure budget proposals were properly tested and would not be expected to vote on budgetary amendments from the Opposition that would be provided an hour or 2 before the meeting like in 2022?
2. Regarding day opportunities for people with High Support Needs, could the Cabinet Member comment on the consultation and what was the impact of inflation on the budget?
The Leader explained that the budget in-year, which then continued to be the challenge faced in future years, was significant at a time when it was hoped that austerity was over. The Council had started to see the beginning of green shoots again but unfortunately that could not continue. There was at least £10 million of budget pressures that were just things that had happened to the Council: the national pay award; the energy crisis and inflation. The anticipated overspend was now over £18 million and it could not stay at £18 million pounds. The Leader agreed with Councillor Bennett-Sylvester that it would have been reckless to take out £4 million from the reserves last year as proposed by the Opposition.
The Autumn statement brought a little relief in terms of Adult Social Care but provided very little else. That meant that the Council would have to take some tough decisions when it came to setting the next budget. The Leader confirmed that budget proposals would come through scrutiny in the proper way in the weeks leading up to the budget and Members would therefore have the opportunity to engage with, question and challenge those proposals and the assumptions that underlie them. The Leader, however, could not confirm that Opposition Members would not bring forward budget amendments late in the day. The Leader stated that the budget setting was a really difficult position and that meant that residents in the Borough would live, one way or another, with the consequences of the decisions made in Westminster. The Council could not afford to continue to deliver all of the services in the way in which they were currently delivered whilst maintaining the current level of Council Tax and the current level of fees and charges. That would be challenging but the Council would work to minimise the impact on residents and their pockets, but it would be a difficult few months.
Councillor Roche responded to the second question by explaining that a few months ago, he had been very confident that the funding for the project was secure. However, since the country’s financial situation was now in disarray due to “trussonomics” and the Chancellor was calling for another period of austerity, it would be difficult. However, Councillor Roche was committed to doing everything he could to get the new project built to the appropriate standard for the benefit of residents by working with Cabinet to secure the funding.
In relation to the consultation, Councillor Roche stated that he was very happy with where the new site was. Some preliminary work had been done with the residents and it was understood that there was a good community spirit in that area. From this stage onwards, work would be done by co-production with the community, service users and potential future service users.
That the reports, recommendations and minutes of the Cabinet meetings held on 20th September and 17th October, 2022 be received.
Mover:- Councillor Read Seconder:- Councillor Allen