To consider the report of the Director (NE) (reference 19/044) attached
(Appendix B the draft Financial Strategy is to follow)
The Cabinet considered a report by the Director (NE) (Reference 19/044) in respect of the Council’s draft Financial Strategy 2019-2029. Introducing his report, the Director, Mr Edwards outlined the principal elements of the draft strategy and how it had evolved since the key proposals for the revenue and capital budget were presented to the Cabinet in December. He referred to the Member Briefings, the online consultation, the review of the Council’s reserves and financial resilience recently considered by the Audit Committee, the final Local Government Finance Settlement for 2019/20 announced at the end of January, and the newly updated Treasury Management Strategy. He added that the draft strategy required further amendment to take into account the Council’s financial commitments in respect of the South Cliff Gardens project considered elsewhere on the agenda. Mr Edwards advised that the way the Council managed its risks enabled the Council to keep a relatively low General Fund balance in comparison with similar authorities, and the Council’s diminishing reliance on core government funding was a positive factor in terms of financial resilience. However, the value and size of the Council’s capital programme presented a significant risk which required careful management and the outcome of the Government’s Fair Funding Review had potentially adverse implications for the Council. The latest Government consultation showed that deprivation would be removed as a factor from the funding needs assessment and that a full, rather than a partial business rates reset was proposed in 2020/21. Given that the Council would utilise £1.1m of business rates growth to balance its 2019/20 revenue budget this change in policy could have a significantly detrimental effect
on the Council. It was therefore proposed to delay the £200k draw from the General Fund in 2018/19 and similarly, the £300k draw in 2019/20 to provide a contingency against higher than expected funding cuts that may arise from the Fair Funding Review. Mr Edwards also explained how the recent Climate Change motion at full Council and the recommendations of the Overview and Scrutiny Cinder Track Review would be progressed through the draft Financial Strategy. Members of the Cabinet expressed their disappointment about the Fair Funding Review and potential disproportionate impact on coastal communities. With the permission of the Chairman, Councillors Colling, Cluer and Mortimer addressed the Cabinet. Councillor Colling echoed this dismay at the removal of deprivation as a factor in the funding needs assessment and hoped that representations would be made to central Government. She broadly supported the Climate Change proposals, but given the urgency of the issue, called for actions to contribute to carbon neutrality to come forward soon. Councillor Cluer reiterated this point, in particular the need to keep councillors informed of progress, and for the Council to take the lead in the Borough and work with partner organisations. Councillor Mortimer reminded the meeting of the importance of the Cinder Track in the Borough, and that some sections required urgent remedial work.
RESOLVED that the Cabinet:
i Note the budget consultation feedback received to date and the updated revenue budget proposals included within the Financial Strategy and in particular:
a. Endorse the inclusion of a one-off investment of £80k within the proposals to support the Council’s target to commit to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, and work with governments and partners to determine and implement best practice methods to limit climate change and global warming to within acceptable parameters;
b. Recommend that following the local elections in May the Leader adds the responsibility for climate change and carbon neutrality to a specified member portfolio;
c. Nominate a separate member champion(s) to support officers in delivering the Council’s climate change agenda following the elections in May;
d. Endorse that the Director (NE) and Operations, Transport and Countryside Manager be allocated lead officer responsibility within the Council to champion the Council’s climate change commitments and to produce and deliver a corporate action plan to facilitate the achievement of the required objectives, in conjunction with the relevant portfolio holder and member champion(s);
e. Endorse the inclusion of a one-off investment of £30k for the Cinder Track (as detailed in Section 3.4);
ii Approve those fees and charges administered by the Council’s Environment and Regulation service that require Cabinet approval (as itemised in Section 3.5), which will come into effect on 1 April 2019;
iii Approve that in future years the authority to approve all Environmental and Regulation service fees and charges be delegated to the Portfolio Holder for Public Health and Housing;
iv Note the updated Treasury Management Strategy and Investment Strategy for 2019/20, which now incorporates the Commercial Property Investment Strategy, as approved by Council in May 2018;
v Recommend to Council:
a. The approval of the Financial Strategy, specifically:
i the Revenue Budget for 2019/20;
ii a Council Tax increase of £6.82 for a Band D property (2.99%);
iii the Capital Budget and proposed new schemes for 2019/20;
iv the optimum levels of reserves for 2019/20;
v the Treasury Management Strategy and Prudential Indicators;
vi the Council’s Pay Policy Statement contained, as required under Section 38 (1) of the Localism Act 2011;
b. The approval of the changes to the Discretionary Business Rates Relief Policy (as detailed in Section 3.10);
c. That the authority to make changes to the Discretionary Business Rates Relief Policy be in future delegated to the Director (NE) in conjunction with the Portfolio Holder for Commercial Investment.
Full Council must approve the 2019/20 budget and associated Council Tax level and fees and charges, which are incorporated within the Financial Strategy, at its meeting on 1 March 2019.
The authority to approve fees and charges for scrap metal license fees must currently be approved by Cabinet.
Changes to discretionary business rate reliefs currently require Council approval, however as they are largely fully funded, government led initiatives the Council’s ability to affect the policies is limited. The delegation of approval of the reliefs to officer level will allow the reliefs to be adopted more quickly, which in turn benefits local business rate payers and also provides more time to apply the reliefs to business rate accounts prior to issuing of business rate bills at the start of a financial year.