Report of the Deputy Chief Executive (Place)
The Cabinet considered a report of the Deputy Chief Executive (Place), which outlined, as a basis for consultation, a set of new revenue budget proposals for 2020/21 to 2023/24, which represented changes to the Council’s existing Budget. The consultation would also include a proposal for a Council Tax increase for 2020/21 of c2% as allowed for within the Government’s published guidelines and a separate 2% Adult Social Care Precept as allowed for within Government guidelines. The final Budget proposals and the Council Tax increase will be subject to Council approval in February 2020.
The Council’s overall future strategy was set out in the “One Coventry Council Plan” and this set out the key priorities including improving the lives of the most vulnerable people in the city, attracting businesses and jobs to the city and opening opportunities for young people. The council also remained committed to delivering a range of core services to everyone in the city. The report came at a key time for the direction of local government funding. Councils, including Coventry, had been subject to large reductions in Government funding since 2010 but the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Spending Round announcement in September gave an indication that the policy of austerity had been paused to a large degree for 2020/21. Although no indicative figures had been released by Government, initial planning assumptions were that the Spending Round had eased the Council’s financial position for one year compared with previous financial forecasts. Despite this, continue demand pressure in some services meant that the need remained to find savings in some areas in order to balance the Council’s budget.
The Chancellor’s Spending Round announcement included key messages on the delay of key expected reforms for local government funding which had now been put back until 2021/22 at the earliest. This, and the one-year settlement announced, continued to meant that local government faces enormous uncertainty for the period after 2020/21. As a result, the report and the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy have continued to focus on the need for the Council to find more cost effective ways to deliver some services and ensure that it continues to release resources to fund its priorities.
The report submitted included a number of savings proposals to help bridge the initial budget shortfall for 2020/21. Moving beyond next year, the Council was developing a “One Coventry” approach that explored new approaches across several broad themes; commercialisation, digitalisation, place-based services and a workforce strategy. These approaches were planned to become an increased focus on the Council’s financial strategy beyond 2020/21. An updated medium term financial position was included to reflect revised estimates and new expenditure pressures. As a result, the projected financial position has been broadly balanced for 2020/21 but included a cap of £28m in 2021/22 rising to £42m by 2023/24.
The Cabinet noted that, although many of the new savings proposals included within the report could be achieved without a significant negative impact, there were some changes which would affect services. The proposals were made as a basis for public consultation and the results of the consultation would be reflected in the final Budget Report in February 2020 and considered as part of the final decisions recommended in that report. Further work would be undertaken to confirm all the financial assumptions between now and the final Budget Report.
Details on individual spending and savings were provided in Section 2 of the report and on a line by line basis in Appendix 1. Indicative details were included within the report for the Council’s prospective Capital Programme for 2020/21 based on current knowledge. This would be updated in the February Budget Report, reflecting the most up to date programme information available. The draft programme was based overwhelmingly on pre-existing decision and patters of expenditure.
RESOLVED that, the Cabinet:
1. Approve the revenue spending and savings options in Section 2 and Appendix 1 of the report submitted and the broad Capital Programme proposals as the basis for the Council’s statutory budget consultation process.
2. Approve the proposed approach on Council Tax set out in Section 1.7 of the report.