Agenda item

The Council's Budget Consultation

To consider the Council’s draft budget proposals for 2015/16:

a) Corporate Services Department

b) Chief Executive’s Office

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


The Panel considered the Council’s draft budget proposals for 2015/16 in relation to the Corporate Services Department and the Chief Executive’s Office, and received feedback from Overview and Scrutiny Panels and overall conclusions.


The Executive agreed the Council’s draft budget proposals for 2015/16 at its meeting on 16 December 2014 as the basis for consultation with the Overview and Scrutiny Commission, Overview and Scrutiny Panels and other interested parties.  The consultation period would run until 27 January 2015, after which the Executive would consider the representations made at its meeting on 10 February 2015, before recommending the budget to Council.


Attached to the report were extracts from the 2015/16 Revenue Budget and Capital Programme. The extracts were comprised of Revenue Budget Report, Commitment Budget, Draft Revenue Budget Pressures, Draft Revenue Budget Savings Proposals, Proposed Fees and Charges, Capital Programme Report and Summary and Proposed Capital Schemes.


The Borough Treasurer gave an update on changes to the budget since it was published on 10 December 2014. The Government had announced provision of Local Government Finance Settlement which would result in further loss of central government grant of £195,000. Current forecasts on collection funds showed a £100,000 surplus; the take up of the Council Tax Benefit Reduction Scheme had not been as high as anticipated. There had been savings in relation to waste as tonnages sent to landfill had been revised giving a saving of £260,000, and inflation had continued to fall giving a saving of £200,000 in the budget. There had been changes to the capital budget in relation to schools and the town centre.


The budget gap had fallen from approximately £4.7 million to approximately £4 million. Risks made forecasting more unpredictable, such as the introduction of the Care Act from April and variations in relation to older people and looked after children. There had been a legal ruling in relation to Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards which would pose a cost, and the planned closure of Coral Reef at some point during the year would mean a short term loss of revenue from this site.


There had been some minor changes to the capital budget which included uncertainty regarding schools. There was usually an allocation for schools maintenance of approximately £2 million but the Council had not been advised of this allocation yet, so could not include it in the budget at present. The consultation on the budget had been active for six weeks and there had been a limited but positive response so far.


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


  • There were funding constraints for young people post-16 with high needs and attention was drawn to a Councillor’s concerns in this regard. Proposals had been considered by the Schools Forum regarding how to accommodate young people with high needs. Actions had been considered and it was possible to put more funding into the schools’ budget but the Council had so far chosen to fund at the level of Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). It was a policy issue; there was a separate budget for schools and for education. The Schools Forum made suggestions to the Council on the allocation of funding for schools. Cuts would need to be made in other service budgets in order to increase funding in the schools’ budget, and so far the Council had chosen not to do this. Local authorities who had chosen to do this had then struggled to provide other services.
  • A number of local authorities had started the budget consultation process earlier, before more detailed plans had been developed. The Council had chosen not to do this in the past but it could be considered. A short statistical analysis and the themes of comments from the consultation would be included in the report to the Executive on 10 February 2015. Members were welcome to see this information.
  • There was a need to ensure that information provided in consultations for the public was understandable and simplified where ever possible.
  • Members of the public were aware of the amount of money due to be spent on a new school and grant funding would be used where available.
  • There had been an anticipated increase in income at the Peel Centre in Bracknell, of which Bracknell Forest Council had an interest and received some income from this.
  • The Council was aware of where asbestos was sited in council buildings as the Council was required to undertake a more in depth survey after changes to the regulations in this area. There would likely be a three year programme to survey council buildings which would start with the schools in the borough.
  • Public car parks in Bracknell were considered to be accessible to disabled people but they needed to be checked against the latest regulations. Public car parks did not meet the previous list of defined properties which were accessible and the aim was to add public car parks to this list. An audit had been undertaken and minimal changes were expected.
  • The Council used open source technology for its website and was looking into reducing costs in this area. Licences were expensive but the Council used large legacy systems with a range of functions, many of which were integrated with Microsoft suite. Many suppliers had said they did not provide the integration function. Integrations in the council and their impact were being analysed, and the current ICT Strategy was being reviewed. The aim was to include this work in the next ICT Strategy. It was more sensible for the council to operate on the same system rather than different systems.

Supporting documents: