The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change presented a report providing Cabinet with an update on the Council’s revenue financial performance for the year ended 31st March 2021. On 26th February 2020, Council approved a net revenue budget of £286.885 million for 2020-21. As part of the Performance Management Framework, budget projections were reviewed regularly and reported to Cabinet on a quarterly basis. The delivery of agreed budget reductions was also kept under review and reported to Cabinet as part of this process.
The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change explained that the 2020-21 financial year had been a unique and complex year in managing the financial position of the Council primarily as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Significant changes had occurred throughout the year as circumstances altered and services were supported in different ways to deliver outcomes in the best way possible. A Covid-19 Hardship fund was set up at an early stage by the Welsh Government to the tune of £188.5 million which the Council was able to draw on for financial support. The Council was extremely successful at securing support for many of the additional costs incurred along with loss of income claims. Some of the results of this success materialised in the last quarter of the financial year giving the Council a more favourable end of year position than anticipated. Claims against the WG Hardship fund totalled £21.5 million of which only £882,000 were disallowed. The other significant change between quarter 3 and quarter 4 was the £1.261 million contribution from WG in February 2021 in recognition of the reduced council tax collection rates experienced by Councils in 2020-21 as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Council was able to apply some of this funding to investments to help accelerate the recovery of the County Borough from COVID and to support its residents. The key areas of investment were outlined in Appendix 1 to the report and the Council’s net revenue budget and final outturn for 2020-21 were shown in Table 1 of the report.
The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change explained that the overall outturn at 31st March 2021 was a net under spend of £432,000 which had been transferred to the Council Fund, bringing the total Fund balance to £9.771 million in line with Principle 9 of the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS). Total Directorate budgets provided a net under spend of £5.479 million, and Council Wide budgets a net under spend of £11.726 million. The Council was in a position to utilise the related monies for 2020-21 to fund a range of initiatives to enable the Council to mitigate current and future risks and expenditure commitments to meet specific costs as in paragraph 4.1.1 and Appendix 1. The net position also took into account a net under spend of £1.702 million on council tax income during the financial year. The outturn position had also been impacted by unexpected grant funding and maximisation of grant funding streams since quarter 3 in Directorate budgets of over £2.361 million and £2.393 million in Council Wide Budgets - £4.754 million in total.She stressed that the Authority would not have been aware of these funding streams when setting and approving its 2020-21 budget and the majority of the additional grants were one-off as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change explained the ways that Covid 19 had had an impact on the council’s financial position as in table 4.1.12 of the report. Tables 3 and 4 showed the claims submitted to WG in 2020-21 and the outcome of the claims. Table 5 showed the outstanding prior year budget reductions and table 6 was the monitoring of budget reductions. Table 7, Outstanding Budget Reductions included detail on why some had not been achieved. A summary of the financial position for each main service area was attached as Appendix 4 to the report and comments on the most significant variances were provided.
The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change explained that the underspend from the additional monies significantly masked what was still an underlying deficit position in many of the Directorates and in many of the schools. Home to School Transport and Adult Social Care alone had a combined overspend of £2 million.
The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change referred to the schools and the significant change in school balances from where they were forecasting £108k surplus in total to £8.4 million at year end and the reasons why they were received. They would be managed in line with financial protocols and spent in accordance with the terms and conditions. Table 8 showed the draw down, Table 9 showed the year end position and Table 10 showed the Total Reserve position.
The Leader explained that there were regular reports and the main change in the last quarter was the pay out from WG and additional grants. The report had been published and members could contact the officers if they had any questions.
The Deputy Leader added that the figures in the report were unreal and could not have been predicted when they set the annual budget. He thanked the Finance Team for the amount of support they had provided to local businesses and for the incredible effort they had put in. He also thanked WG because without their support, the authority would be in a very different position.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet noted the revenue outturn position for 2020-21.