Report from the Director of Finance
Prior to the consideration of this item, the Chair varied the order of business. The Children and Families Services Complaints Annual Report 2018/19, and the Adult Services Complaints Annual Report 2018/19 would be taken first. Thereafter, the Waste Services – Performance Issues Report and the Draft Revenue Budget 2020/21 and Draft Medium Term Financial Strategy 2020/21 to 2022/23 would be considered.
The Chair invited questions from Members of the Sub-Committee on the two reports considered by Cabinet on 9th January 2020. The following questions were asked:
a) Citing point 1.41, on page 28 of the Report, on Budget Refresh, Growth and Savings, were savings and growth in the budget setting process for financial years 2020/21 to 2020/22, to be spread uniformly over the whole period?
The Director of Finance advised that there would be a mixture of approaches over the three years. Tables 5 and 6, on page 29 of the Report, set out the summaries of all savings and growth submitted as part of the current year’s budget, as well as previous years. That outlined the total savings growth for 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23.
b) Point 1.61, on page 33 of the Report, on Reserves and Contingencies, did not show to what expenditure the remainder of the reserves would applied. It would be expedient to itemise those expenses. Why were the costs not shown?
The Director of Finance advised that the money was set aside for specific expenditure, among them insurance costs, litigation, and monies for schools. The costs were not included in the draft report, however, the final version would show them. Furthermore, if there was a desire to include them in the draft versions, that could be done in future reports.
c) How would costs be controlled?
The Director of Finance informed the meeting that in 2021, it was envisaged that some directorates would be unaffected. Nonetheless, the People Directorate (covering children and special needs education, particularly transport) would have increased costs. It was imperative to strike a balance among various competing needs, however, some cost increases were beyond the Council’s control.
d) Quoting point 1.13, on page 11, of the Report, which stated: “Until the detailed plans for the new Civic Centre are known, it cannot be determined if the two additional floors at the depot will be required for staff accommodation or commercial rental purposes.” If the floors would be for commercial purposes, would the Council’s IT services be included for that?
The Director of Finance advised that the current MTFS included additional rental income due from the two floors being built at the depot, with £473,000 expected in 2020/21. The results of the procurement process for the Strategic Development Partner would not be concluded until June 2020, after which use of the two floors will be agreed.
e) How many responses were there to the Report? Where service users and other stakeholders also consulted?
The Director of Finance stated that there were around 80 responses. Furthermore, each individual saving proposal would be consulted with specific service users and stakeholders is required.
f) With Harrow’s share of the £1 billion social care funding councils across the country would receive from central Government estimated at £3.48million, would it be possible to lobby/request for more?
The Director of Finance advised that the allocated amounts were based on a national formula used by the Government, taking into account social care needs of each area. Therefore, requests for more may not be feasible. It was not yet known if it was a yearly sum or a one-off payment.
g) Would the shared services with other Councils (Hounslow, Barnet and Slough) be expanded to other areas to reduce costs?
The Director of Finance advised that it would be prudent to take into account the effectiveness of such services, and management fees, to consider whether in-house options were more cost-effective. There were no current plans to expand shared services.
RESOLVED: That the report be noted.