(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Whitehead)
Report of Chief Finance Officer (report published on 17.1.23)
Cabinet received a report from the Chief Finance Officer that provided an update on the Council’s budget strategy for 2023/24 and financial outlook up to 2027/28. Specifically, the report considered the budget and Council Tax proposals for 2023/24
The options, options analysis, including risk assessment and officer preferred option, were set out in the report as follows:
It is essential that the Council Tax rate is set in line with the Council Tax billing timetable. Any delay would put the Council at risk of not being able to collect the tax which would have serious cash flow implications.
Regarding the budget strategy, Cabinet may approve the proposals as set out, or ask for changes to be made to the suggested approach. The overriding aim of any budget setting process is to approve a balanced budget by statutory deadlines, allocating resources to help ensure delivery of the Council’s corporate priorities and service outcomes. The proposed approach is in line with that broad aim and any changes that Cabinet puts forward should also be framed in that context.
In terms of the actual budget position, the report put forward a balanced budget. If Cabinet agrees the budget, then it will form their proposal to Budget and Performance Panel on 01 February 2023. The feedback from this meeting will be considered by Cabinet and incorporated into a final budget proposal which will be considered at the Cabinet meeting on 07 February 2023 and recommended to Council on 22 February 2023.
The current budget proposal produces a balanced budget through utilisation of the Councils reserves. Cabinet and Officers will continue to work ahead of Cabinet’s 07 February 2023 meeting to identify further opportunities for savings, efficiencies, and income generation in order to further reduce the use of reserves.
Whilst the longer-term financial forecasts contain numerous estimates and assumptions, which will change over time, the forecasts clearly highlight potential annual and cumulative budget deficits over the next 5 years and the perilous position the Council now faces. Although this position is not unique to this Council, and is reflected nationally across many public sector bodies, the gaps identified for 2024/25 and beyond are of such a level that both Members and Officers need to be under no illusion of the size of the challenge ahead. Significant transformational change in the way that the Council delivers both its statutory and non-statutory services across the district will be required.
Councillor Whitehead proposed, seconded by Councillor Hamilton-Cox:-
“That the recommendations, as set out in the report, be approved.”
Councillors then voted:-
(1) That Cabinet make recommendations to Council regarding the Lancaster City Council element of the Council Tax as set out in paragraph 3.3 (option one) of this report which is a 2.99% increase to the Band D Council Tax (from £241.95 to £249.18).
(2) That Cabinet makes recommendations regarding its initial budget proposals as set out in section 5 and Appendix A of the report.
(3) That the recommendations and proposals in this report be referred to Council on 25 January for initial consideration as well as being presented for scrutiny by Budget and Performance Panel on 01 February, in order that any feedback can be provided to Cabinet at its 07 February meeting.
Officer responsible for effecting the decision:
Chief Finance Officer
Reasons for making the decision:
The budget framework in general sets out a financial plan for achieving the Council’s corporate priorities and outcomes incorporating measures to address the climate emergency and digital improvements as well as activities to address wellbeing, health and community safety. The budget plans underline the council’s ongoing commitment to protecting vital frontline services, supporting communities, ensuring access to services for those most in need, and working in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the community.
The decision enables the proposals to be considered at January Council and by the Budget and Performance Panel allowing Cabinet to make further recommendations back to Council to complete the budget setting process for 2023/24.