Agenda item

Wiltshire Council's Budget 2023/24 and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2023/24-2025/26

      Report of the Chief Executive



Councillor Nick Botterill, Cabinet Member for Finance, Development Management and Strategic Planning, introduced the report which proposed the 2023/2024 Budget and Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2023/2024 to 2025/2026. The report also set out the Council’s Capital Programme 2023/24 to 2029/30, the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget 2023/24 and the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG).


Councillor Botterill noted that the council and country was facing unprecedented times, with inflation at levels not seen for four decades, escalating costs to contracts of up to 20%, high energy prices, and continuing impacts from Covid-19. The council had faced a notional overspend of approximately £45m, but through a sound financial base and necessary decisions in preceding years including transformations and organisation changes, was able to present a balanced budget proposal encompassing the next three years.


He stated the proposal did not rely drawing upon reserves, which would be increased overall over the three years, with others released to support Business Plan priorities. He stated there had been some extra government funds relating to social care, but other direct grants had been removed, and was not relying on deferring capital expenditure.  He provided details of proposed council tax rises over the next three years, and the careful analysis undertaken before recommending them, and the fees and charges increases where it was deemed necessary and where good value for money was provided.


Colin Gale had submitted questions on behalf Rushall Parish Council and the Pewsey Community Area Partnership, regarding the recovery of costs for elections from town and parish councils, and the use of the Rural Mobility Fund, respectively. Written responses were provided with the questions as detailed in Agenda Supplement 1.


Colin Gale asked a supplementary question regarding communication sent to parish councils. He criticised the effect on small parishes, and believed there could have been consultation through the Area Boards.


The Leader responded that as a budgetary matter the issue would be determined by Full Council and Area Boards were not an appropriate method of consultation. A response would be provided after the meeting regarding communication with parishes.


Colin Gale also asked a supplementary question regarding the Rural Mobility Fund, asking how savings would be achieved through maximising the geographic area. Councillor Caroline Thomas, Cabinet Member for Transport, Sreetscene, and Flooding, provided a response that maximising the area for demand responsive transport could reduce the schedule for bus services particularly affected by inflation. She stated it was about a more efficient use of limited resources, responding to requests rather than laying on services which may be empty.


Councillor Graham Wright, Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee, addressed the Cabinet regarding questions raised at the meeting of his Committee on 24 January 2023, with the report of the meeting included in Agenda Supplement 1.


Councillor Gavin Grant, Vice-Chairman of the Financial Planning Task Group, noted the thorough examination of the budget and council finances during the year by the Task Group, and planned to review the arrangements for budget scrutiny to ensure it was as effective as possible. The Leader noted the troubles faced by councils without effective financial scrutiny, and would await any outcome from a review by Overview and Scrutiny of its arrangements. He commented on the difficulty scheduling all the necessary meetings within the available timescales.


Councillor Botterill also provided details of a small update to Appendix 1 Annex 7 of the budget papers regarding £0.150m saving for cessation of support to VisitWiltshire. To ensure a smooth transition the saving would be delivered at the end of the contract in March 2024, so the saving would be delivered in the financial year 2024/25, not 2023/24. To manage the financial impact an underspend within Place services would be set aside in 2023/24 to fund the later timing of the delivery.


Councillor Jon Hubbard asked for details on how much was expected to be raised from parish councils paying for the cost of their own elections, raising concerns that it might act as a disincentive for people to stand and have contested elections in some areas, as the parish would then be liable for the cost of the subsequent election, and was not supportive of the proposal. The Leader responded that parishes bearing the cost of their elections was not uncommon and there had been a lot of discussion around setting the costs at a reasonable level, and that income was expected to be approximately £0.400k for 2025.


At the conclusion of discussion, it was then,




That Cabinet approves:


a)    That the current Infrastructure List, is updated and the existing reference to upgrades to Trowbridge Sports Centre is deleted and a new entry is included to read New Trowbridge Leisure Facility Project.


That Cabinet recommends to Council:


b)    That a net general fund budget of 2023/24 of £465.372m is approved;


c)    That the Council Tax requirement for the council be set at £332.187m for 2023/24 with a Band D charge of £1,719.90, an increase of £1.57 per week;


d)    That the Wiltshire Council element of the Council Tax be increased in 2023/24 by the following:


i.       A 2.99% general increase;

ii.     Plus a levy of 2% to be spent solely on Adult Social Care;


e)    That the Extended Leadership Team be required to meet the revenue budget targets for each service area as set out in Appendix 1 to this report, for the delivery of council services in 2023/24;


f)      That the Extended Leadership Team be required to deliver the revenue savings plans for each service area as set out in Appendix 1 to this report, over the three-year MTFS period 2023/24 to 2025/26;


g)    That the changes in the fees and charges as set out in the report are approved;


h)    That the Capital Programme 2023/24 to 2029/30 is approved;


i)      That the Capital Strategy set out in Appendix 2 is approved;


j)      That the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget for 2023/24 is set at £26.401m;


k)    That a 7% increase is set for social dwelling rents, except for rents currently over the formula rent which will be capped at formula rent as per national guidance;


l)      That all service charges related to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) to cover costs and garage rents are increased by 5%;


m)  That the Medium Term Financial Strategy and the forecast balanced budget over the MTFS period 2023/24 to 2025/26 is endorsed.


Reason for Decision:


To enable the Cabinet to recommend to Council a balanced revenue budget for the financial year 2023/24 and to set the level of Council Tax.


To enable effective, transparent decision making and ensure sound financial management as part of the council’s overall control environment.


The Cabinet also sets out the final assumptions being used in the budget for growth, inflation, demand for services, the estimated level of income from sales, fees and charges and the level of income estimated from core funding e.g. Council Tax, Business Rates and government grants as well as the level of reserves held and assessed by the council’s Section 151 Officer, as required, to provide future financial resilience.


This provides the council with a MTFS to deliver on the Business Plan priorities and drives long term financial sustainability.

Supporting documents: