Report of the Director of Finance.
The Forum received a report of the Director of Finance which set out the draft revenue budget for 2021/22 and draft Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for 2021/22 to 2023/24. The budget and MTFS would be submitted to Cabinet in February 2021 for final approval and recommendation to Council.
The Director of Finance introduced the budget reportand explained that it had been challenging to produce due to uncertainties and as the Council had only received a one year, rather than three year, settlement. The draft budget had been prepared prior to the Council receiving its indicative settlement from the government. The report also advised the Forum that there was a proposed increase in Council Tax of 4.99% and the Director explained that Reserves of £6 million had been used to ‘plug’ the budget gap. She reassured Members that this figure would reduce to approximately £1 million when the final budget was reported to Cabinet in February 2021.
In response to a Member’s question, the Director of Finance confirmed that 3% of the 4.99% increase in Council Tax was the Adult Social Care precept and that the Adults directorate was forecasting £6.3 million of pressures in 2021/22. In terms of the remaining 1.99%, the Director advised that the largest areas of growth were in Children Services placement costs and in the Community Directorate in terms of waste services. She advised that the underspend on the costs of Freedom Passes could be transferred into front line services for growth. The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources added that there were some priority areas, a whole programme of transformation as well as a focus on equalities work and the London Living Wage.
A Member questioned whether there was any likelihood that the Council would be considering cuts in services and the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources confirmed that there were no proposed cuts to front line services in the budget. He added that the Council was awaiting financial certainty for the future and that if the position remained the same at the end of the next financial year some cuts were to be expected as there was a limit to what services the Council could offer within the financial constraints it was under. The Council did not want to be in the position of serving a Section 114 notice.
A representative of Unison stated that he wished to repeat the question that he asked last year in that there was a rumour circulating at the Depot site that the Administration was considering outsourcing some services, including waste and gardening. The Portfolio Holder advised that the Council was investing in the Depot site and that he was keen to insource services where possible and wished to strengthen internal teams but added that some services would always be contracted out. He confirmed that there had been no discussion in terms of outsourcing waste and gardening services and this was endorsed by the Corporate Director of Community. The Corporate Director added that the ... view the full minutes text for item 59
Report of the Director of Finance.
(1) the draft budget for 2021/22 and the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2021/22 to 2023/24 as set out in Appendices 1 and 2 to the report be approved for general consultation and subsequently reviewed in light of the consultation responses and the equality impact assessments before it was referred to Council in February 2021;
(2) the Spending Review 2020 confirmed broad plans for public spending for 2021/22, which would impact on local government be noted , and the draft budget updated when the detail was announced in the Indicative Financial Settlement expected mid to late December followed by the Final Settlement no later than January 2021;
(3) the balanced budget position for 2021/22, and the budget gaps of £25.754m and £5.098m for 2022/23 and 2023/24 respectively based on the scenario of a total Council Tax increase of 4.99% in 2021/22 and 1.99% in 2022/23 , as set out in Table 2 of the officer report, be noted;
(4) the proposal to increase core Council Tax by 1.99% in 2021/22 and in 2022/23, as set out in Table 2 and paragraph 1.21 of the officer report, be noted;.
(5) the proposal to increase Council Tax by 3.0% in 2021/22 in respect of the Adult Social Care Precept, as set out in Table 2 and paragraph 1.21 of the officer report, be noted;
(6) the requirement to develop a fully costed budget and implementation plan to support the estimated financial challenges over the MTFS for presentation to Cabinet in summer / autumn, as set out in paragraph 1.50 of the officer report, be noted;
(7) it be noted that no structured changes to the schools funding formula for 2021/22 were proposed;
(8) the draft Public Health budget for 2021/22, as set out in Appendix 4 to the officer report, be noted;
(9) the assumed funding for the protection of social care 2021/22 through the Better Care Fund (BCF), as set out in paragraph 1.65 of the report, be noted;
(10) the Director of Finance and Assurance be authorised, following consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources, to agree Harrow’s 2021/22 contribution to the London Borough’s Grant Scheme;
(11) it be noted that the London 75% Business Rate Retention Pilot would not apply in 2021/22 but the London Boroughs Leaders’ Committee had agreed to continue to informally post business rates across all London authorities in 2021/22 (as occurred in 2020/21), subject to no London Authority withdrawing before the cooling off period lapsed in mid-January;
(12) the Director of Finance and Assurance be authorised, following consultation with the Leader of the Council, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources and the Monitoring Officer to respond on behalf of the authority with regard to any recommendations from the informal business rates pool from 2021/22 noting that final approval would be sought from Cabinet and Council in February 2021.
Reason for Decision: To ensure that the Council published a draft budget for 2021/22 and a draft 3 Year MTFS to 2023/24. ... view the full minutes text for item 390