To consider a report from the Director for Digital & Resources, a copy is attached as item 8.
Before the Committee was a report by the Director for Digital & Resources, copies of which had been circulated to all Members and a copy of which is attached to the signed copy of these minutes as Item 8.
The Committee was informed that 2020/21 was an unprecedented year for uncertainty. The timescales and quantum of the proposed changes arising from the new Comprehensive Spending Review and the associated Fairer Funding Review were very uncertain and it was against this background that the year's budget strategy had been prepared.
The Council had a clear strategy for facing the challenges of rapidly changing local government finance and preparing for the reduction in retained business rates and the end of New Homes Bonus in the next few years. The Councils had already successfully addressed the removal of the Revenue Support Grant, and were actively and constructively working to mitigate the impacts of budget announcements by partners, in particular West Sussex County Council.
The strategic effort had involved the development of new and critical capabilities in the organisation, including strategic property investment, affordable housing investment, nationally recognised digital service design, and high quality, successful commercial services.
It had also required careful financial management, including managed and prudent increases in council tax, and a clear focus on driving efficiency and productivity.
Adur and Worthing Councils had responded to the challenge of falling government grant by promoting economic regeneration, investing in property, growing their commercial offer, and through business efficiency from the customer and digitisation transformation programmes. Despite the inevitable challenges brought about by reducing resources, the Councils had continued to maintain good core services across the board and had a clear focus on customer service excellence.
The report aimed to set out how the Councils would continue to address the changing financial climate over the next 10 years, outlining the revenue forecast and setting out their strategic response to the challenges ahead. With the detailed budget proposals for 2020/21 coming forward to Joint Strategic Committee in December, the report set out the broader context for the detailed work that would be undertaken over the intervening months.
The Councils would be increasingly reliant on council tax income, business rate income, and their own income generating services. The Councils had a good track record in innovation, working creatively in partnership, transforming their digital capabilities and putting the customer at the heart of their services, so they had capacity to continue to deliver their aspirations across Adur and Worthing.
Work had been underway for some time to address the financial challenge in 2020/21 and beyond. It was noted that this work would continue over the summer and autumn, and the Operational Leaders Group (Heads of Service) would be working with the Councils Leadership Team to produce new service plans designed to deliver a balanced budget over the next 3 years.
The outcome of the service planning process would be presented to the Joint Strategic Committee for approval in December 2019 as part of the development of the 2020/21 budget.
Members congratulated Officers for their work on balancing the budgets.
The Joint Strategic Committee:-
(a) noted the report and the outline 5-year forecasts in Appendix 2;
(b) approved the proposed budget process as set out in section 6 of the report;
(c) recommended to Adur and Worthing Councils to approve the Budget Strategy for 2020/21 outlined in Section 9 of the report.