The Chief Officer – Finance Performance and Change presented a report which updated Cabinet on the Council’s revenue financial position as at 31st December 2021, and sought approval for budget virements between £100,000 and £500,000, as required by the Council’s Financial Procedure Rules.
She explained that on 24th February 2021, Council approved a net revenue budget of £298.956 million for 2021-22. As part of the Performance Management Framework, budget projections were reviewed regularly and reported to Cabinet on a quarterly basis.
The Chief Officer – Finance Performance and Change outlined the financial position at 31st December 2021 which was summarised in Table 1 of the report. the projected position was detailed at 4.1.2 of the report with the affects of Covid 19 as mentioned in a previous report were detailed at 4.1.12.
The Chief Officer – Finance Performance and Change stated that the Council had continued to support education, early intervention, social services and well being services to ensure that we prioritize the vulnerable in our society. The MTFS reiterates that going forward The Council looks at as many ways as we can to maximize the use of the resources that it has to be able to continue to protect these services.
She added that the Council would seek to raise additional income wherever possible, however there will be limited opportunities to do so given the challenges of Covid-19. The Council would continue to seek alternative ways of delivering services to provide sustainability and efficiencies. Savings for the coming year included reviewing and rationalizing council supplies and services.
The Chief Officer – Finance Performance and Change explained that The Council was proposing to spend 131 million on services delivered by education and Family Support Directorate. There were also additional capital funding available to support, build and refurbish our schools as part of the band B programme under the 21st Century Modernisation programme.
The Chief Officer – Finance Performance and Change explained that the Council was proposing to spend 78 million on social care and wellbeing services in the coming year. the Councils strategy is to transform how we work with people ensuring that the services are sustainable in the long term.
The Chief Officer – Finance Performance and Change highlighted the Corporate Financial Overview which covered the pressures that squeeze resources. These were summarised in section 4.1.1 of the report. She highlighted the savings that were looked at which covered some key areas listed below:
The Chief Officer – Finance Performance and Change explained that due to the late announcement of the comprehensive spending review, the provisional Local Government settlement was not received until the 21st December 2021. The draft settlement set out revenue general capital spending plans for 2022-23 and also included planned allocations for 2023-24 and 2024-25. She advised that the headline figure for the revenue budget for 2022-23 was an overall increase of nine point 4% across Wales and for Bridgend the increase was a 9.2% increase in funding from Welsh Government.
She stressed that within this settlement figure, the Council was required to meet the cost of teachers pay deal. The Council was also required to meet the increased National Insurance contributions as well as meeting the additional costs of introducing the real living wage for care workers. The details for this were still to be awaited.
The Chief Officer – Finance Performance and Change highlighted the budget pressures which has arisen which totalled £11.860 million and a further £3.6 million also identified for future years. These were detailed in Appendix A of the report. Budget reduction proposals of £631,000 for 2022-23 had been identified from service and corporate budgets to achieve a balanced budget details of this were at Appendix B of the report. She also provided a summary of the councils reserves and Proposed Annual Allocations of Capital Funding which were detailed in table 8 and 9 of the report.
The Leader stressed the difficulty in developing an MTFS and thanked the Chief Officer for the hard work that went into developing this. She worked closely with her predecessor which had lent a hand having the expertise from two Officers during the transitional period. He thanked the team for their work in assisting the development of the strategy. He added that he was predisposed to the proposals in the medium term financial strategy as they had been developed with Cabinet and the Corporate Management Board and this had been the process every year. He welcomed the views from all Members on the proposals as this was an important part of the process. When developing the MTFS, the aim was to keep cuts to frontline services to a minimum, and wherever possible, limit the council tax increase to a minimum. He asked if there were any changes to the settlement.
The Chief Officer – Finance Performance and Change explained that the MTFS was in draft and subject to change. The changes could be for a number of reasons but Welsh government had provided assurances that any changes would be minimal. Also, because the settlement was late, Welsh Government were able to incorporate changes at a later stage before providing the settlement.
The Deputy Leader welcomed the report and stated that while he was predisposed, his mind open and welcomed any input from Members. This was a draft MTFS and it was important to gather a wide range of views and input before finalising. To date, recommendations had been incorporated from the public consultations, the Budget Research and Evaluation Panel (BREP) as well as Members. He expressed his thanks to the team for their hard work.
The Cabinet Member Education and Regeneration echoed this comment and added that after 6 years as a Cabinet member, it was refreshing to not see the effects of imposed ideological austerity and to be able to look at new spending plans.
The Cabinet Member Communities echoed the comments and added that it was pleasing to see that tackling empty properties was being considered in the MTFS which had been a blight to society for some time.
The Cabinet Member Social Services and Early Help welcomed the report and the comments by fellow Cabinet Members. She was pleased to see the positive proposals in relation to social services as it was vitally important to ensure residents were cared for. Cost of living had increased particularly over the last 2 years as well as potential increases in fuel prices so the proposals set out in the report were important.
The Cabinet Member Wellbeing and Future Generations echoed the comments and as the Cabinet Members said with the cuts received over the 9 or more years it was pleasing to see that even the worst-case scenario this year was better than many best-case scenarios of previous years. She asked how this had been forecast.
The Chief Officer – Finance Performance and Change explained that we were required to look forward in terms of financial planning and look at what was financially achievable and when considering a worst-case scenario, it was important to look at previous years trends to try and forecast what a future year would look like. The Leader added stating that because of the reasons discussed, the forecasts need to be treated with caution.
The Cabinet Member Communities asked for further information on the variances in settlements to all the Local Authorities.
The Chief Officer – Finance Performance and Change explained that the average increase across Wales was 9.4% with high of 11.2% and a low of 4%. A number of Local Authorities had received more than 9% so although Bridgend CBC was slightly lower than the average it was still very positive. She added that population changes are a large factor in settlement figures which was another reason why a forecast was difficult to predict accurately.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet:
recommended that Council approve the virements between £100,000 and £500,000 as outlined in paragraph 4.1.22 of the report.