Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, the Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Growth, presented the report which outlined the forecast financial position of the Council at the end of 2021/22 based on the information known at the end of the third quarter, 31st December 2021. The report set out the position for both revenue and capital and provides an analysis of the variances, both under and overspending.
In response to Members’ questions, it was noted that the day-to-day operational budgets for departments were overall on target and the £1.247m underspend was largely due to one-off funding received from the Government as well as vacancies or budget savings. There were ongoing challenges for the Council, particularly around Children’s Services where investment was being made into early interventions, address high levels of casework, and reduce demand on out-of-borough placements. These needed to be achieved in a sustainable way to reduce pressures on the Council’s reserves. It was noted that a corporate approach to recruitment and retention of social workers was being developed which had been successful in other boroughs. With regards to civic venues, it was noted that the detail in the report reflected the outcome of the review carried out last year and that a consultation with Unions was currently underway with regards to possible redundancies.
1. Noted the forecast underspend of £1.247m within the revenue budgets at quarter 3 and the need for Directorates to continue to work with their finance managers to maintain tight budgetary control and to ensure services work within their budgets;
2. Approved the establishment of a £3m Children and Young People’s reserve to support the funding requirements identified as a consequence of the actions required following the OFSTED report and a £1m reserve for the balance required to meet the employers pay award offer of 1.75%;
3. Noted the use of the Covid Outbreak Management Fund and departmental reserves in line with the criteria and one off departmental priorities;
4. Noted the position on the Dedicated Schools Grant, Collection Fund and the Housing Revenue Account;
5. Noted the underspend of £0.457m on the capital programme;
6. Approved a reduction in the capital programme of £6.209m due to timing of grant conditions and additional external funding being secured;
7. Approved re-phasing of the capital programmes into 2022/23 financial year of £57.734m from the current programme;
8. Approved a contribution of £567k to reserves for free school meals during school holidays which wasn’t required in 2021/22;
Reasons for the decision:
To ensure the Council’s budgetary targets are achieved.
Other options considered and rejected: