Agenda item

2022-23 Proposals for the Local Authority Budget

To present for comment the draft proposals for the Council’s 2022/23 budget.


The Forum considered a report which presented for comment a

summary of the Council’s draft budget proposals for 2022/23 as agreed by the Executive on 14 December 2021, with a particular focus on the impact expected on the People Directorate. 


Paul Clark explained that the proposals were published prior to confirmation of the Local Government Financial Settlement so were based on assumptions regarding government funding informed by the 2021 Spending Review.  There was an estimated £3m funding gap on the revenue budget, and the report detailed the proposals as to how that would be covered.  The second part of the report looked at the capital proposals. 


The Chair noted the continued financial support towards the cost of new school places.  However, the Chair and other members of the Forum were more concerned about the £20m cumulative HNB deficit and the potential payback period starting in April 2023.  Paul Clark explained that it was a national issue and the Government had put in place a three-year period for Local Authorities (LAs) to work towards balancing their budgets and then there would be a further decision around any accumulated deficit.  That part had not yet been addressed by the Government and it was unclear what the position would be, but it should be assumed that debt liability would transfer to councils.  Councillor Barnard added that there would be a lot of LAs in financial difficulty so there would be a need for the Government to step in. 


The Chair felt that the Council was a long way away from a balanced budget.  Councillor Barnard expressed that he had genuine confidence that there would be significant changes with the new commissioning strategy.  Cheryl Eyre added that the HNB project group had identified the areas of work that were needed to bring the deficit down and there was clarity around where the issues were.  Cheryl Eyre was confident that the HNB would be in a far better position within two to three years, as the change programme would take time to have a significant financial benefit.  Cheryl Eyre appreciated the support of colleagues in the Schools Forum.


Keith Grainger requested a meeting to get an update on the Garth Hill College capital project as, whilst he appreciated it was a draft proposal, the most recent conversations he had had did not reflect what was set out in the report.  Cheryl Eyre confirmed Chris Taylor would set up a meeting with Keith Grainger. 


Action: Chris Taylor


Paul Clark explained that the proposals reflected the position at November and there may now be more up to date information.  Keith Grainger highlighted that the report was in the public domain and that people could draw the wrong conclusions from it.  The Chair added it needed to be corrected before being presented to Council.  Councillor Barnard was confident that would happen. 


The Forum noted that the Revenue reserves looked very healthy and whilst that suggested prudent management, it seemed to be a large reserve.  Councillor Barnard responded that the aim over the 12 months was to set a budget that would balance, and the reserves provide the ability in year to respond to service pressures as they arose.


The Forum commented that paragraph 5.26 of the report talked about new schools and asked whether any new schools were being opened at this time.  Councillor Barnard replied that this may refer to some classes that the Council cannot stop opening, and Paul Clark confirmed that no new schools would be opening. 


The Chair noted that the Forum was being requested to comment on the 2022.23 budget proposals of the Executive for the People Directorate in respect of the revenue budget and the capital programme.  The Chair asked how to submit those comments.  Paul Clark would pass on any comments for inclusion in final proposals.  The Forum noted with continuing concern the projected HNB £20m cumulative deficit at the end of the 2022/23 financial year and Bracknell Forest Council’s ability to manage any potential payback from April 2023. 


Action: Paul Clark

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