Agenda item

The Councils Budget Consultation

To consider the Council’s draft budget proposals for 2019/20:


a)    Resources (Finance, OD, Transformation and HR), Chief Executive’s Office and Council Wide draft budget proposals.

b)    Feedback from Overview and Scrutiny Panels and overall conclusions.


Feedback from Adult Social Care, Health and Housing Overview and Scrutiny Panel on the 15 January 2019 to be circulated as a supplementary due to the timing of the meeting.


Panel members are asked to give advance notice to the Chairman of any questions relating to the draft budget consultation in advance of the meeting.


Please use the page numbering that appears in the published agenda when asking questions or referencing material rather than the numbering in the full budget packs as internal colleagues have not had the full budget packs.



The Commission considered a report that set out draft budget proposals for 2019/20. It was reported that the Executive would be considering all representations made at its meeting on 12 February 2019, before recommending the budget to Council.


The Director: Finance updated the Commission and made the following points:


  • The financial settlement had been received late due to Brexit which had impacted the budget planning as the settlement had not been received when the budget papers were published in December.
  • The report highlighted a number of pressures and transformational savings.
  • The directorate restructure, which had been undertaken in September 2018, no longer matched the O&S structure, therefore many of budget items  that historically would have been reviewed at the Overview and Scrutiny Commission under the old resources directorate had been reviewed at the Environment, Culture and Communities O&S Panel.
  • The report to the Commission covered the whole budget but also specifically looked at items in regards to Finance & OD, Transformation and HR.

In response to the Members’ comments and questions, the following points were made:

  • The recent announcement made in regards to the relocation of Vodafone was a potential risk to the 2019/20 budget. It had been recorded on the Corporate Risk register as the impact would by high, but the current likelihood was low. The time scales for the relocation were currently unknown however if the relocation happened at the start of the financial year there would be a significant impact on the budget, however if it was a shorter period of the year the financial impact wouldn’t be as significant. As the Council was part of the Berkshire Business Rate pilot, the County as whole would receive income from Vodafone as they would be relocating the Newbury area, so this did give a level of protection.
  • New homes bonuses was an area that the council should be looking at as a significant number of houses were being built.
  • The fees and charges were formulated through a tried and tested process. The aim was to ensure that the charge covered the cost of delivering the service. However some of the fees and charges did have further limitations such as pre-set charges set by the government, or services that could be delivered in the market place, so there was a need for the charge to be competitive. There were yearly increases which were inline with inflation; this could be 3/4/5%, the increase helped with the overall budget.
  • Business Partners worked with directorates on a case by case basis to ensure the fees were set at the correct level.
  • The setting of some fees were out of the Council’s control, such as planning which was prescriptive and social care, as an element was set by Government. The majority however, were at the Council’s discretion.
  • At Environment, Culture and Communities O&S Panel, held on the 8 January 2019, Members had queried the proposed increase in the change for transferring a Hackney Carriage vehicle to a new owner. It was queried whether this was a joint discussion as the increase was great. The Director: Finance explained that there was a desire to regularise the joint Public Protection Partnership and to bring the Council’s fees inline with West Berkshire and Wokingham Borough Council’s fees. Members raised concerns about the synergy in the partnership and wanted to make sure that the Council didn’t lose its ability to set its own fees and charges.
  • There was a reduction in the number of internal audit days delivered which had produced a saving. The Council has signed up to the national rate arrangement.
  • External audit fees continued to reduce in line with the tendering process undertaken previously.
  • The number of internal audit days delivered would be the same as the past three years.
  • A request had been made for funding for a full time Apprenticeship Manager to maximise the apprentice levy. An interim had been in place and there was a wish to make this a permanent appointment as it had been successful.
  • The apprenticeship levy had been used to support existing apprenticeships at the Council. So far there were sixty five people using the levy.
  • In recommendation 2.4 of the Revenue Budget report, the £1m additional funding for schools to be made available from the Council was to help mitigate the financial impact of new schools opening in the Borough. The issue had been raised by the School’s Forum in response to the draft budget consultation as existing schools felt that they were being penalised. The Executive had responded to this issue with the additional funding to be allocated through the funding formula. Academies were outside of this arrangement.
  • Members were in support of recommendation 2.4 as it was desperately needed to support schools with empty places, however it was felt that the recommendation needed to be more specific as it didn’t indicate what the funding was for nor that it had been raised by the Schools Forum.


The Director: Finance stated that the O&S structures needed to link properly to the new directorate structure going forward to ensure that the budget process could be navigated more smoothly in the coming years.


The Commission endorsed the report and the comments made in the minute extracts from Overview & Scrutiny Panels.


The final budget would be going to Executive for endorsement on 12 February 2019  and for approval at Full Council on 27 February 2019. All comments from the Overview and Scrutiny Panels would be annexed to the Executive report.



Supporting documents: