To consider the Council’s draft budget proposals for 2020/21 currently under public consultation.
Councillor Heydon, Executive Member for Transformation and Finance provided the Commission with a presentation setting the context for budget discussions. He explained the monitoring position in 2019/20 and the areas for focus in the current year.
In explaining the approach for the budget proposals he highlighted the risks and opportunities, the underlying principles and specific measures. He set out the draft budget proposals which had been agreed for consultation by the Executive.
During the discussion on the proposals the following points were raised:
· the level of contingency was arrived at following a prudent assessment of financial risks and Stuart McKellar, Director of Finance considered that £2.5m continued to feel appropriate
· in 2021/22 the Council faces a significant pressure going forward
· the New Homes Bonus reduction was deferred by 12 months which meant that the Council was in receipt of an additional £1 million than anticipated but this was a one off payment
· the Capital programme of £18.7million included schemes funded by S106 and government funding
· clarification was sought on the steps being taken to provide children in care with support in the most affordable manner. Nikki Edwards, Executive Director: People provided an explanation and emphasised that her team had to balance what was right to keep the child or adult safe versus what was commercially best value. She reassured the Commission that the Council has high quality services and the lead member was looking at that on a day to day basis.
· was sought on what the medium-term financial implications would be of the transformation programme being paused in this area. It was explained that the transformation activity was not being paused but that work was being undertaken to analyse the specifics of the system so that the team could focus on the elements that have the most positive service and financial effect
· the Bracknell Town Development Plan had been delayed and no referendum had taken place so this would be carried forward to next year
· the additional financial support referred to in the proposals was being put in place to support new schools whilst they build up their numbers on roll.
· the Director of Finance advised that no decision had yet been taken by Members relating to food waste collection and the final budget proposals would be updated if required to reflect the Executive’s decision
· the Chief Executive advised that there was no evidence that the small increase in pricing had impacted on the use of car parks
· the Director of Finance explained that this was the first year that an attempt had been made to identify the specific pressure on the adult social care budget as young people reached 18 and transitioned between services
· the Executive Director: People explained that every authority was being impacted by reviews of individuals with continuing health care needs as to whether there is an ongoing health need versus care needs. This work was ongoing.
· the Executive Director: People was pleased to confirm that the rough sleeper and troubled family’s grants had been extended which were achieving effective outcomes
· the Director: Place, Planning and Regeneration advised that the two figures relating to PPR – Development & Adoptions were not duplicates and were both proposed savings from two different pots of money
· the Director: Place, Planning and Regeneration confirmed that the value for money review of supported bus contracts could change how bus services were delivered and therefore impact on the level of service to residents but it would be based on patronage figures, the cost of service and affordability
· the Executive Director: People would circulate a response to the question relating to whether the transfer of aspects of the Early Years support service that relate to supporting providers, in particular Development Workers (-£140,000), to the Schools Budget would be for all Primary Schools or those that use the service
· the Executive Director: People reassured the Commission that significant checks were undertaken to prevent frauds and put safeguarding in place for direct payments to clients. The proposed £100k saving was cumulative across a large number of clients and returning the money to the budget would not affect the service to individuals. She added that the individual, key advocates and family members were part of the processes to assess need and undertake strength-based assessments.
· it was confirmed by the Executive Director: People that as part of the commercial approach when spaces were available at Waymead, vacant beds were sold to other local authorities. Funding received would be used towards the Council’s costs
· it was explained that the budget consultation could be easily found on the public website by typing ‘consultation’ into the search function
The Chairman thanked everyone for their participation in the scrutiny of budget consultation for 2020/2021.