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Agenda item

Financial Year 2021/2022 - Quarter Two Revenue Budget Monitoring

Report of the Chief Executive.

 

Minutes:

 

 

Cllr Pauline Church, Cabinet Member for Finance and Procurement, Commissioning, IT, Digital and Commercialisation presented the report which provided detail about the Revenue Budget Monitoring position 2021/22 Quarter 2 (30 September 2021) for the financial year 2021/22 with suggested actions. The report also commented on the latest assumptions for the 2022/23 budget and the updating of the Medium Term Financial Strategy since the position was reported on in September 2021.

 

Cllr Church reported that the net budget set by Full Council for 2021/22 is £412.562m, being set as a one year holding position which recognised the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on funding and income generating services. It was noted that included within the budget is the planned earmarked reserve drawdowns totalling £8.444m from the Budget Equalisation and Collection Fund Volatility reserve. The budget is also supported by £20.301m one off Hardship and Emergency Funding Grant from Government in 2021/22. The quarter 2 position forecasts the Council will be underspent by £10.776m at the year end. Cllr Church thanked the finance team and Directors for their commitment in achieving the outcomes detailed in the report.

 

Cllr Pip Ridout, Chair of the Financial Planning Task Group, informed Cabinet that the Task Group had considered the report at its meeting held on 26 November 2021. Cllr Ridout reported that the Task Group had considered the current budget gap and noted the additional pressures, they discussed the continuing impact of the pandemic and noted that the local economy was recovering. The Task Group also considered the removal of some government business relief and the impact on council income. The Task Group were satisfied that this was being closely monitored.

 

Cllr Ian Thorn echoed the comments of Cllr Ridout in thanking Cllr Church and the finance team for their commitment in achieving a positive financial position at this stage of the year. In light of the current positive budget position Cllr Thorn highlighted a concern about the underspends and whether this was due to the expected latent demand not materialising or residents not accessing services to the same degree prior to the pandemic. Cllr Church confirmed that, although residents were continuing to access services, the underspends had been achieved through a combination of many factors, which include the financial rigor adopted by the Council, and additional funding from other sources, for instance CCG contributions towards Adult Social Care. Cllr Thorn also commented on the potential for latent demand building over the coming months, its impact on future budgets and whether any modelling was being undertaken in this area. The Leader, Cllr Church and officers confirmed that budgets were constantly monitored and appropriate assumptions on the impact of these types of issue were taken into account.

 

Cllr Thorn further commented on an increase in the level of planning appeals compared to this time in the last financial year, and the forecast budget overspend. He was concerned that the overspend was being offset by an underspend in staffing budgets across the service and felt this was counter intuitive. The Leader and Cllr Nick Botterill explained that although there was a shortage of planning officers nationally, the staffing levels in Wiltshire were now healthier compared to the previous 6 months. However, there were impacts on senior planning officer workloads due to the rise in planning appeals.

 

Cllr Gavin Grant commented on (i) staffing issues in the Northern Area Planning Team that a number had relocated to other local authorities due to improved salaries. Cllr Botterill confirmed that some officers had sought employment at other local authorities, however, provided reassurance that vacancies were being filled and the Council recruits the best officers possible.; (ii) non-determination of planning applications and its impact on public confidence.

 

Cllr Brian Mathew commented on the Shared Lives programme and potential underspend.

 

Cllr Jon Hubbard referred to the underspends in the Mental Health budget and questioned whether funds could be reallocated to front line 3rd sector providers.  The Deputy Leader agreed to supply a written response.

 

Cllr Helen Belcher commented on (i) the number of children in care in comparison to the number forecast. The Deputy Leader confirmed that there was latent demand in this area and in addition it was difficult to predict levels for this area. Assurances were provided that this area is constantly monitored; (ii) recruitment and retention issues generally across the Council. The Leader confirmed that there were recruitment issues nationally and possibly a consequence of the economy we are moving in to.

 

Resolved:

 

To note -

 

a)   the current revenue budget is forecast to underspend by £10.776m by the end of the financial year

 

b)   the current savings delivery performance for the year

 

c)   the current forecast position of the use of Capital Receipts flexibilities of £3.893m

 

d)   the forecast level of reserves and budgeted draw down of £10.444m and £34.076m of section 31 Grant

 

e)   the in-year savings achieved through contractual activity and subsequent budget movements

 

f)     the updated budget gap for the financial year 2022/23

 

 

Reason for decision:

 

To inform effective decision making and ensure sound financial management as part of the Councils overall control environment.


To inform Cabinet on the forecast revenue financial position of the Council for the financial year 2021/22 as at quarter 2 (30 September 2021), including delivery of approved savings for the year.

 

To inform Cabinet on the current position for the setting of the 2022/23 budget, and continuing the focus for setting plans and providing resources that will be essential for delivering on Wiltshire’s recovery from COVID-19.

 

Supporting documents:

 

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