Agenda item

Balancing the Budget – Update on Service Review Options and Additional Budget Initiatives Identified

To provide Members of the Cabinet with an update on progress that has been made in delivering the options previously identified in terms of the Service Review Process and the additional Budget Initiatives agreed.

Decision:

That the progress that has been made in terms of the approved Service Review and Budget Initiatives as set out in appendix two to the report be noted, and agreed that, moving forward, any outstanding Service Review or Budget Initiatives to be managed through the operational Business Plans, with updates direct to the relevant Lead Member as required.

Minutes:

The Director (Corporate Services) informed Members that the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy 2016-17 to 2019-20, set out an identified funding gap by 2019-20 of £2.5 million. The funding gap and action required by the Council increased by £0.4m to £2.9m, primarily driven by the changes to the design of the New Homes Bonus Scheme. The funding gap was widened by at least a further £1m at budget setting 2018-19 due to the financial impact of low housebuilding rates in the Borough, the higher than anticipated staff pay award and lower than expected interest rates.

In response to the financial challenges, the Council embarked on a programme of activity in 2016, as documented in its Medium Term Financial Strategy. This was later supplemented by further work strands to extend the Council’s Property Acquisition Strategy and introduce further Balancing the Budget Initiatives in response to the increase in the further funding gaps identified when setting the budgets for 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The report provided detail of the activity progressed within the Service Review Process and Balancing the Budget Initiatives workstreams followed by the Council since 2016. To date a total of £2,417,100 had been delivered against these two workstreams, i.e. accounted for within the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan, out of the total approved value of initiatives of £2,704,000.

There were a number of initiatives that had not yet been progressed for a variety of reasons, all of which were detailed in the report. It was proposed that all viable Service Review and Budget Initiatives, that had not yet been implemented, be reflected within the specific service areas operational Business Plans monitored by the respective Director and Lead Member. In addition, these will also form part of future budget monitoring reports.

Due to the above, the Cabinet was advised that this would be the final update report on the delivery of the Service Review and Budget Initiatives and as such, there will be no further reports to the Cabinet or Overview Scrutiny Committee on the Service Review and Budget Initiatives moving forward.

The Leader informed the Cabinet that the Council will be employing a barrister to draft and send a letter to the appropriate government department, Minister and Member of Parliament to express the Council’s concern regarding lack of information in relation to the Lower Thames Crossing and to request proper and meaningful engagement particularly as Gravesham will be most affected by the Crossing. The cost of employing a barrister would be funded via Lower Thames Crossing Reserve.

The Cabinet supported the proposal and agreed that the Council needed to become a strong unified voice to ensure that the views of its residents and businesses continue to be heard and issues such as investment in improving the local road network, protection of the environment and the impact on people's health continue to be top priorities.

Resolved that:-

1.    the progress that has been made in terms of the approved Service Review and Budget Initiatives as set out in appendix two to the report be noted; and

2.    moving forward, any outstanding Service Review or Budget Initiatives be managed through the operational Business Plans, with updates direct to the relevant Lead Member as required.

Supporting documents: