To consider a report by the Director for Digital, Sustainability and Resources, copy attached as item 6
Before the Committee was a report by the Director for Digital, Sustainability and 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 7.
The report before members was the final budget report of the year, the culmination of the annual budgeting exercise, and asked members to consider: final revenue estimates, an updated outline 5-year forecast and the provisional level of Council Tax for 2023/24 prior to its submission to Council for approval.
The report outlined the medium term financial challenge through to 2027/28, discussed the impact the current high inflation was having on the budget over the next year, and set out performance in the key strategic areas of commercialisation, digital transformation and strategic asset management. This had been updated to include the latest information regarding the impact of the inflation on the Council’s financial position. The current budget strategy was having a significant effect on how the Council would be funded in the future with increasing income generated from commercial income and rents. Following the delay to the fairer funding review, the challenge still remained significant for 2024/25, however the delivery of the budget strategy would ensure that this was met.
These budgets reflected the Council's ambitions set out in the JSC Sub-Committee report ‘New Priorities for Worthing’, supported by ‘Our Plan’ and agreed savings proposals contributing to the financial sustainability of the Councils.
The major points raised within the report included:
? A full update on the impact of settlement. The Council should prepare itself for a continuation of the reduction in Government resources for 2023/24 and beyond (see section 4);
? Highlighted the proposed funding for initiatives to support the Councils’ ambitions;
? Details the proposals to invest in services outlined in Appendix 2;
? The Executive would need to consider whether to increase Council Tax by 2.99% or by a lower amount (section 5.10).
The budget was analysed by Cabinet Member portfolio. In addition, the draft estimates for 2023/24 have been prepared, as always, in accordance with the requirements of the Service Reporting Code of Practice for Local Authorities (except in relation to pension costs adjustments that do not impact either on the Budget Requirement or the Council Tax Requirement).
The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) had been informed that the referendum criteria for this year was an increase of £15.00 per Band D property which would be equivalent to an increase of 6.67% and a further £10.00 in 2024/25. The proposed 2023/24 budget was due to be considered by the Sussex Police and Crime Panel (PCP) on 27th January 2023. If the proposals were vetoed by the PCP, revised proposals would be considered by the Panel on the 20th February 2023 at which point the Commissioner will be in a position to confirm the Council Tax for 2023/34 in time for Council on the 21st February 2023.
The draft Local Government Settlement allowed Councils to increase core Council Tax by up to 2.99%. Those Councils with responsibility for Adult Social Care could increase Council Tax by up to a further 2%. Therefore a Council Tax increase of 4.99% for Councils with social care responsibilities was allowed for 2023/24.
The precept for West Sussex County Council had not yet been finalised and will not be confirmed until 17th February 2023. The formal detailed resolution setting the overall Council Tax for next year would be presented directly to the Council Meeting on 21st February 2023.
The Cabinet Member for Resources introduced the report to the committee and laid out the main points therein including the severe financial pressures being placed upon the council. The Cabinet Member detailed the measures taken to meet the necessary savings, however there was some pressure placed on reserves which had been the case for previous years. It was the intention to strengthen the reserve position.
It was noted that the Local Government Settlement allowed Councils to increase core Council Tax by up to 2.99% from 1.99% the previous year. Due to the severe financial pressures it was recommended that the increase in Council Tax be 2.99% enabling the Council to meet its target of delivering high quality frontline services and supporting those in need. A 2.99% increase in Council tax amounted to a yearly increase of about £7 per year for a band D property and £6 for a Band C property.
Members discussed the issue and acknowledged the difficult position the Council was in. It was noted that just 12.4% of Council tax went to the Borough even though the Council provided essential services. Steps had been taken to lighten the load on those who faced financial hardship and programmes to address the coast of living emergency.
The Cabinet took a recorded vote on the individual recommendations before it
For: (recommendations a,b,c,d) - Councillors Cooper, Garner, McCabe, Taylor, Turley, Walker, Wells
That the Cabinet
a) Approved, the proposals to invest in services outlined in Appendix 2;
b) Recommended to Council the draft budgets for 2023/24 and the transfer to Reserves leading to a net budget requirement of £14,188,940 which included provision for the proposals in Appendix 2, subject to any agreed amendments;
c) Recommended to Council an increase of 2.99% in Council Tax, making Band D £259.92 per annum for Worthing Borough Council’s requirements in 2023/24, as set out in paragraph 5.10; and
d) Approved the Council Tax base of 39,364.6 for 2023/24 as set out in paragraph 12.3.
Reason for Decision
Statutory requirement to set a budget.
Alternative options considered
As outlined in the report.
The call-in deadline for decision (a) and (d) will be 5.00pm on Monday 13 February 2023. There is no call-in for recommendations to Full Council, (b) or (c).