Agenda and minutes
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An apology for absence was received from Cllr Alan Ridgers and Cllr Christina Rolles; Cllr Gurjit Bains and Cllr Brian Francis attended as their respective substitutes.
The minutes of the meeting of the Overview Scrutiny Committee held on 19 November 2020 were signed by the Chair.
Declarations of Interest
No Declarations of Interest were made.
The Assistant Director (Corporate Services) presented the Committee with the draft budget and proposals for 2021/22. The report contained the General Fund Revenue and Capital Estimates for 2021/22, as well as the revised estimates for 2020/21 and longer term budget projections, as set out in the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan. The Assistant Director (Corporate Services) advised that the pandemic had created new challenges for the future sustainability of the Council, which had been compounded by the ongoing and prolonged uncertainty around the future funding of local government. Members were advised that the format of the budget report included a covering summary report which outlined the budget setting context and proposals with a series of appendices providing the detail.
The Assistant Director (Corporate
Services) highlighted the following points:
· Appendix 2 - The budget had been prepared on the basis of the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement announced on 17th December.
· Similarly to last year, this was a one year only settlement pending the outcome of the Spending Review and Fair Funding Review.
· There had been a number of cuts to local government funding over the last 10 years and attention was drawn to the table under point 3 of Appendix 2 showing that there has been no increase in the business rates baseline this year. However, there was a continuation from last year of Government eliminating ‘negative Revenue Support Grant’ for Gravesham and this was budgeted to be £244k. In addition, the provisional settlement had introduced a new Lower Tier Services Grant intended to ensure that no lower tier council had a decrease in spending power. For Gravesham, the provisional settlement indicated that this grant would be £126,260.
· The graph in point 11 of the report showed the assumed increase in Core Spending power for 2021/22 of 1.4% This assumed a rise in Council Tax receipts which had been reflected by the Medium Term Financial Strategy.
· The Council had secured indicative New Homes Bonus funding for 2021/22 of £311,050. This was below the level of funding that was previously in the Medium Term Financial Plan due to there being only 55 net additions to the housing stock of the Borough due to the pandemic, less than the 167 net additional homes needed to be delivered to meet the 0.4% national baseline.
· This had resulted in an increase of Core Spending power per dwelling in the Borough of c.2% or £252. This is the sixth lowest in Kent.
· With regards to Business Rates for 2021/22 Gravesham would continue to be part of the Kent pool.
· The current Medium Term Financial Strategy covered the period to 31 March 2021 and in the absence of any certainty from the Government on local government funding, it had been decided that the Council would produce another one year Medium Term Financial Strategy, effectively a holding statement, until the outcomes of the Spending Review, Fair Funding Review and Business Rates reforms were known.
· In relation to the Council Tax charge - the Provisional Finance Settlement ... view the full minutes text for item 29.
The Assistant Director (Corporate Services) presented the Committee with the draft revenue and capital estimates for the Housing Revenue Account in 2021/22 and the following key points were highlighted:
· An income of 28m and expenditure of £29m.
· As per the Spending Review announcements on public sector pay in November, the budget reflected no inflationary increase for 2021/22 with the exception of those earning less than £24k per annum who would receive a pay increase of at least £250.
· A budget of £200k had been provided to support a planned review and restructure of housing services.
· Service charges had increased to a level capped at CPI +1 (1.5%) bringing the average service charge to £3.72.
· The Council would continue with the Housing Capital Programme set out in 2020-21 which had been severely impacted by the pandemic. The programme for the year was estimated at £20.8m with the focus being to maintain current housing stock and deliver on the new build and acquisitions programme.
The Director (Corporate Services) and the Assistant Director (Corporate Services) fielded questions from the Committee and highlighted the following:
· The Director (Corporate Services) will check the percentage increase is correct on page 244, point 28.
· The Director (Corporate Services) will check if Arnold Avenue should be included in the New Build and Acquisitions Programme on page 271, point 5.
· Interim housing for the homeless – where we are unable to house persons requiring temporary accommodation, Bed and Breakfast (B&B) is one option but is not really suitable. The Council anticipates a reduced level of requirement for temporary accommodation which be used to offset the costs of the premises moving forward, alongside Housing Benefit.
Resolved that the Committee note the Housing Revenue Account Budget Setting 2021/22 report and appendices.
Maritime Strategy Review - Oral update
The Chair provided the following update:
· Ten evidence gathering sessions have been held
· The Sub-Group have developed twenty-three recommendations.
· A draft report is being prepared for consideration by the Committee at its next meeting on 4 March 2021
The Chair thanked Chris Wakeford, Committee Services Manager and the IT / Digital Teams for their work in supporting the review.