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Agenda item

Financial Year 2023/24 - Quarter One Revenue Budget Monitoring

Report of the Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Executive.


Cllr Nick Botterill, Cabinet Member for Finance, Development Management, and Strategic Planning, presented a report which provided details of the revenue budget monitoring forecast for the first quarter of the financial year 2023/24. This was based on the position at the end of June 2023, and also provided an update on the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) and budget gap for the financial year 2024-24 and beyond.


It was stated that Wiltshire’s revenue budget position compared favourably with neighbouring and comparator authorities, with a current net overspend of only £0.311m, a variance which could be managed within the financial year. In respect of savings targets only 8% were not currently forecast to be achieved by the end of the year.


Cabinet noted the update and the proposals contained within the report, including several recommendations for budget changes requiring Full Council approval. The pressures on all councils due to cost escalations particularly in Adult and Children’s social care, and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Transport, were noted, with thanks expressed to officers for their prudent management of the financial position.


Cllr Pip Ridout, Chairman of the Financial Planning Task Group, endorsed the comments of the Cabinet Member, and expressed no significant concerns with the quarter one update, with the Task Group to focus on the savings position further in quarter two. Cllr Graham Wright, Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee, welcomed the report and update and sought reassurance the council was not overconfident in its position. It was stated that the Cabinet and officers ensured all assessments were realistic and appropriate, and residents could be assured that Wiltshire Council was not in a severe position financially.


Cllr Gordon King, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, congratulated the Cabinet and management team for a good start financially with the quarter one update. He drew attention to ongoing risks such as prevalence of high inflation, vacancy rates among key workers, and undeliverable savings and how these could be managed.


Cllr Botterill drew attention to the report details including £2m having been set aside from earmarked reserves to mitigate inflationary increases, and if this continued further mitigation would be considered. He emphasised the unlikely savings were included within departmental budgets, and so fully accounted for if they were not achieved.


The Leader noted some savings had not been able to be delivered due to legislative changes. He also noted a risk regarding the high needs block override, for provision of children with Special Educational Needs, which was a national issue. The spending was through the Department for Education not the council, and formed the majority of the overspend for the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG), and as an accounting issue that deficit if counted as part of the council’s debt would be more significant, but that the council was taking preventative measures where it could.


Cllr Jon Hubbard offered congratulations on the council’s financial position as compared to many other authorities. In relation to Children’s Services, he highlighted the early help on issues which was the council’s focus in recent years, and the importance of continuing that and taking it forward both to improve outcomes and reduce cost pressures by tacking matters in a preventative manner.


Cllr Laura Mayes, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Children, Education, and Skills, stated that the evidence from council projects showed early intervention worked to reduce pressures on the services and delivered better outcomes, and the Cabinet would continue that focus.


At the conclusion of discussion, it was then,




Cabinet recommended to Full Council:

a)    To move the £0.382m income budget associated with saving from increased retained share of funding from Business Rates for Council Assets from Assets to the Business Rates Retention Scheme in the Funding section; and


b)   To increase the Government Grants budget in Funding to recognise the additional Market Sustainability Improvement Fund of £2.773m and increase the net budget in Adults by the same amount.


These 2 proposals would increase the Council’s Net Budget to £469.029m.


Cabinet Approved:

c)    The transfer of £0.772m of Ukrainian funding from the Home Office to be used to support pupils in Wiltshire schools until 31 March 2024;


d)   the transfer of Education and Skills reserves totalling £0.656m to reflect the estimated usage in year especially where schemes are based on the academic year including joint commissioning with the ICB; and


e)    the transfer of Families and Children’s reserves totalling £0.328m to reflect the estimated usage in year, these all relate to grant funded schemes which straddle more than one financial year.


Cabinet Noted:

f)     The current revenue budget is forecast to overspend by£0.311m by the end of the financial year;


g)   The current forecast savings delivery performance for the year; and,


h)   The updated MTFS position and revised gap of £7.344mby 2025/26.


Reasons 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 2023/24 as at quarter one (30 June 2023), including delivery of approved savings for the year.

To inform Cabinet on the current position for the setting of the 2024/25 budget, it begins the process and focus for setting plans and resources for providing the services and support that will be essential for the continued delivery of a financially sustainable council and effective, quality public services for the residents of Wiltshire.


Following the vote Councillor Gordon King sought additional clarification that the transfer of £0.772m of Ukrainian funding from the Home Office to be used to support pupils in Wiltshire schools until 31 March 2024 was to be used specifically to support Ukrainian children as required by the Home Office grant. The Leader confirmed that was the case.


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