Conservative Amendment to Cheshire West & Chester Budget 2018-19

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This Council notes the budget package that has been put forward and that it has been developed based on an overall funding gap of £11.8m in 2018-19 and a package of proposals to balance the 2018-19 budget.

This Council considers that there are reasonable changes that can be prudently made to the current financial assumptions that would improve the funding gap and changes that can be made to the Savings Proposals, Council Tax Strategy and Reserves Strategy that deliver an alternative balanced budget in 2018-19 and ensures the additional investment in Looked After Children can still be made.

The Council also notes the Capital Programme that has been put forward for 2018-19 totaling £107m.

This Council moves that the following changes are incorporated into the budget for 2018-19. A revised set of recommendations are set out at the bottom of this Amendment.

Revenue Budget Proposal

It is proposed that the Council’s Budget is updated in the following way:

  2018-19 £m
   
Proposed Changes:  
 Reduce Basic Council Tax Increase to 1.5% 2.434
 Investment in Parking Priorities 0.350
 Sub Total 2.784
   
 Financed by:  
Trade Union posts to be funded by Trade Unions (0.075)
 Increased Zero Base Budget Review savings (0.500)
 Fund transformation costs from capital receipts (1.000)
 Use of one-off Collection Fund surplus pending review of Council Tax Reduction Scheme for implementation in 2019-20. (1.000)
 Reduced general contingency (0.209)
Sub Total (2.784)

 

Council Tax Strategy

It is proposed that the 2.99% increase in the basic council tax in 2018-19 should be reduced to a 1.5% increase. This level would still allow the Council to make the same level of investment in Looked After Children.

Savings Proposals

It is proposed that the policy options as included in Appendix E of the budget report are adopted, but with the exception of the following:

  • Parking Priorities – £0.350m of the Parking Strategy savings should be removed for investment in Parking Priorities.
  • Trade Unions – The Council currently pay for 2 full time Trade Union officers. It is proposed that these posts are instead paid for by their respective Trade Unions from 2018-19. This income would save £75,000 on the council budget.
  • Zero Base Budget Review – It is considered that a further £0.500m savings could be achieved through the Zero Base Budget review process.

 

Use of Capital Receipts for Transformational revenue costs

This Council has so far opted not to take up Central Government’s offer of the flexibility to utilise capital receipts to fund expenditure on transformational revenue projects. It is proposed that this flexibility is taken up, the Council’s capital receipts target is increased by £1m in each of the next 3 years and the additional capital receipts generated are used to fund the approved programme of major schemes currently managed by the Public Services Reform team.

Use of Collection Fund Surplus pending review of Council Tax Reduction Scheme

It is proposed that a review of the criteria and parameters of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme is undertaken in 2018-19 with a view to a minimum of £1.1m savings being identified for the 2019-20 budget. As the scheme has already been agreed for 2018-19 and the changes cannot take effect until 2019-20 it is proposed that £1m of the Council Tax Collection Fund surplus is used to alleviate the temporary pressure on the 2018-19 budget.

Additional Grant Allocation and General Contingency

The Council notes that since the Cabinet considered the Budget Report an additional grant of £0.115m has been confirmed for 2018-19 and contingencies have been increased as a result of this. The Council has an excellent track record of exercising very tight control on its budgets and as a result has regularly under used the General Contingency set aside for unexpected items. It is therefore proposed to prudently further reduce this allocation by a further £0.209m.

Optimising the Use of One-off Resources

 Council Tax Collection Fund Surplus £6m

This Council considers there is a more optimal use of the £6m temporary resources available to the Council as a result of the Council Tax Collection Fund surplus than that set out in the Budget Report.

This Council proposes that the £6m is instead utilised in the following way:

  2018-19 £m
Alleviate pressure on 2018-19 budget, as set out above 1.000
Investment in Pothole and pavement priorities 1.500
Development of an Inward Investment Strategy 0.500
Energy Innovation 3.000
6.000

 

Reducing the Inequality Gap Budget £1m

It is considered that use of £1m General Reserves for the continuation of the Reducing the Inequality Gap budget should instead be used to create a Social Innovation Fund of £1m.

The combination of proposals set out above deliver a balanced budget in 2018-19 and leaves a residual budget shortfall of £2.4m over the period 2019-21 and plans will be put in place to develop a strategy to bridge this gap.

 

Impact on Decisions required by the Council

The above proposals will result in the following revised decisions for Council within the Budget Report:

2.1.      A budget of £1.3m be made available in order to deliver the remaining lettings for Barons Quay. This expenditure will be funded from within the ring-fenced development account through the rental income that will be generated by the scheme over its lifetime (section 4.79)

2.2.      Note the key changes to the level of funding available to the Council during 2018-19 to 2020-21 and the resulting financial targets for each year (section 4.22 – 4.36);

2.3.      Delegate the approval of any amendment of the 2017-19 Better Care Fund plan to the Deputy Chief Executive (People) and Director of Finance following consultation with the Leader of the Council as Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board and the Cabinet Member for Legal and Finance (section 4.27 – 4.29);

2.4.      Approve the policy proposals (changes to year on year expenditure) set out in the report (section 4.44 – 4.45);

2.5.      Approve that a special expense adjustment is no longer required in respect of Police Community Support Officers as there is no longer double taxation in relation to this expenditure (section 4.52)

2.6.      Note the intention to apply an additional 2% on Council Tax levels in 2018-19 for the Adult Social Care Precept (section 4.53 – 4.54);

2.7.      Approve the proposed expenditure plans in relation to the 2018-19 Adult Social Care Precept (section 4.55 – 4.58);

2.8.      Approve the General Fund Revenue Budget for Cheshire West and Chester Council of £278.123m for 2018-19 (section 4.65);

2.9.      Note the calculations made in accordance with the Local Government Finance Act 1992 to arrive at the Council Tax requirement and a Council Tax at Band D of £1,427.29, representing a 1.5% increase on the basic Council Tax and 2% Adult Social Care Precept. (Note: The Council Tax Setting report following this paper on the agenda will include the necessary resolution to formally set the Council Tax) (section 4.48 – 4.58);

2.10.   Note the Section 151 Officer’s report on the adequacy of reserves and robustness of estimates and the resulting estimated level of general reserves of £23m as at 31 March 2019 (section 4.67 – 4.76);

2.11.   Approve the drawdown of £1m General Reserves to create a Social Innovation Fund

2.12.   Approve the creation of the Looked After Children’s Reserve in 2018-19 (£1.634m) (section 4.75);

2.13.   Approve the following in relation to the Council’s reserves:

  • the release of two surplus earmarked reserves totalling £0.368m. (section 4.73); and
  • the use of £0.500m of the Public Health reserve to support related expenditure in 2018-19 (section 4.73);

2.14.   Approve capital programme allocations for 2018-19 (£105.5m), the indicative programme for 2019-21 (£104.3m) and the associated use of Council Resources (section 4.77 – 4.83);

2.16.   Approve the Provision for Repayment of Debt Policy Statement (section 4.84);

2.17.   Approve the Capital Investment Prudential Indicators (section 4.84);

2.18.   Approve the Dedicated Schools Grant policy proposals and school funding formula rates that will apply for 2018-19 (section 4.87 – 4.91); and

2.19.   Approve the Council’s Pay Policy Statement for 2018-19 (section 4.92 – 4.93).

2.21. Accept Central Government’s offer of the flexibility to use capital receipts to fund transformational revenue expenditure and approve an increase in the capital receipts target of £1m for each year 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21.

 

PROPOSED AMENDMENT IN THE NAMES OF COUNCILLOR NEIL SULLIVAN AND COUNCILLOR LYNN RILEY

 

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