Agenda item

Budget Scrutiny

To consider the report of the Deputy of Finance.


The Executive Member for Resources will be present at the meeting and answer questions the Committee may have.


The Committee welcomed Peter Wilson, Executive Member for Resources and James Thomson, Deputy Director of Finance presented the report.


Funding had continued to decrease since 2016, there was challenged born from uncertainty for the medium term as it was hoped that the Council would receive a three year settlement figure but instead the Council received 12 month retention notice, which included Business Rate and New Homes Bonus.


The income stream for the council was just over £14 million. Projected to be £12.5 million in 2023 and 12.6m in 2024. This resulted in a deficit of £2.2 million for this year which will increase to £4 million in 2023 and £4.3 million in 2024. The Council intended to bridge the gap with a consistent approach to savings.


The Councils approach to efficiency had made financial savings over the previous 6 or 7 years, and Shared Services expected to save both Chorley and South Ribble significant figures.


The Council had gained income through investment sites such as Market Walk, Primrose Gardens, Strawberry Meadows, and Logistics House. With future sites to include Tatton Gardens, and the Whittle Health Hub.


The combination of efficiency saving, and investment revenue significantly reduced the deficit to £281,000 for this year and up to £1.9 million and 2.2 million


It was proposed that Council Tax increased by 1.99%. The fair funding review had yet to be released, but the process would include an assessment of the Council’s core spending power with an assumption of a 2% yearly increase in Council Tax. An increase was not legally required but would consequently increase the gap to make up. With the 1.99% rise, the average band D rate would still be the second lowest rate in the County.


Members expressed caution about the rise of 1.99% council tax due to the increase of the cost of living including fuel, electric, gas and food.


It was stated that the document was still in draft and were waiting for Parish Councils to provide their precepts and the County Council’s input


The investment priorities for 2022/2023 include £1.5 million revenue investment and over £40 million in capital investment.


The investments made aim to either to support the economy, support Council priorities such as the Climate Fund, with £500,000 allocated, or to support local communities. Play and community facilities have been allocated £2.7 million, with one of the biggest schemes Milestone Meadows allocated £74,000.


The investment package provided a broad overview that matched residents’ priorities. The Council considered the future and understood the risk of investment. The General reserve fund contained £4 million, which was to rise to £4.4 million. The Equalisation Reserve, which was to prepare for potential downturn equaled £1.2 million. In total, the balance was balanced finely between resident interest and a pathway to a balanced budget.


Members asked for additional details around ‘special expenses’ and how the calculations were made. It was explained that special expenses ensured that Council Tax was levied to what was required, e.g playing pitches and changing room maintenance. It was acknowledged that it was not ideal, but the alternative was to have a flat rate the money equally contributed and distributed.


The Council received £1.6 million of un-ringfenced grants which had been put aside since receiving additional ringfenced funding for Covid-19 Support. There was consideration to invest the remains of the un-ringfenced grant money.


The leisure centre had a budget of £600,000, the running costs were overestimated, and it was expected to break even. Significant time was taken to reorganise staff contracts, and to adjust and adhere to Covid-19 restrictions. The leisure centre as an asset held high confidence for profitability.


The Council continued to seek returns on assets both in the short and long term. It was acknowledged that Covid-19 had changed approach to work, and that work from home and hybrid working was likely to be a feature going forward, and as a result, the Council would consider it’s existing premises and space.

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