The committee received a presentation from Councillor T. Schofield, Executive Member for Finance, which outlined the Council’s financial considerations, actions and processes. This included notes on the Council’s financial planning, annual budget setting, council tax setting, and the community infrastructure levy. An overview of the Council’s objective and challenges in each of these areas was provided.
There was one advance question submitted, to which a response was provided.
Questions and comments related to:
• The introduction of new Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) regulations, and their possible impact upon future commercial activities of the Council. An assurance was provided that the Council was aware of the new regulations and that they were not expected to present problems for the Council’s current plans, but that future impact and alternatives would be considered as necessary.
• The implications of Council tax and reserves considerations for the revenue budget setting and scrutiny process. An assurance was provided that scrutiny work on the revenue budget would have access to information to these contextual considerations.
• Cuts to the funding of various services by Surrey County Council (SCC) and their implications for residents of the borough. It was agreed that these cuts, and supporting residents affected by them, were one of the financial challenges faced by the borough, and that they would need to be considered as part of the budget setting process.
• Changes to homelessness legislation and their implications for the finances of the Council. This was noted to be under consideration as part of the Council’s budget setting, which would be available for consideration by the Budget Scrutiny Panel (BSP).
• The volatility of recycling-related revenue and steps taken to manage this. It was noted that the Council was aware of this factor, and had reserves in place to manage it.
• The continued pressure on Council finances following from the removal of the central government grant. The committee was assured that the removal of the grant had been considered in previous years’ budget planning and that appropriate steps were being taken. Whilst the reduction in funding continued to be a financial consideration, plans were in place for services to be protected with significant use of reserves.
• Future prospects for Council income relating to business rate retention. The committee was informed that work around this possibility was still at an exploratory stage, and that any related changes would be available for scrutiny before implementation.
• The sustainability of funding derived from the New Homes Bonus. The committee was informed that, as the New Home’s Bonus was expected to have a limited duration, it had not been incorporated into revenue calculations, but had been maintained as a reserve.
• A concern was raised that proposed use of the New Homes Bonus funding was not taking due consideration of Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) guidance on the expectation for community consultation. It was noted that whilst the funding was not ring-fenced and was permitted to be used flexibly, the Council would suggest that the guidance was given greater prominence in future deliberations on its use.
• The longer term continuation of special projects established from capital funding. The committee was assured that where capital funded special projects were to become part of regular Council activities, their funding would be considered as part of the revenue budget calculations.
The Executive Member and Officers were thanked for the presentation.
RESOLVED that the portfolio holder briefing from Cllr T. Schofield, Executive Member for Finance and the advanced question be noted.