Agenda item

Pre-Budget Report 2015/16

Report of the Executive Director, Resources

Minutes:

The Cabinet considered a report of the Executive Director of Resources that sought approval, as a basis for consultation, for spending and savings proposals for 2015/2016 and future financial years, as adjustments to the Council’s Budget.

 

There had been very large cuts across the public sector since 2010 and local government had suffered disproportionately badly within the Government’s overall resource allocation framework. The City Council had received reductions in its core Government revenue funding equivalent to £55m per annum (26%) between 2010/11 and 2014/15 with the prospect of further cuts of £50m per annum over the next 3 years. Within this context, the Council approved a Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) on 11th November 2014 which set out the national and local financial and policy context, as well as the key approaches being proposed to address the challenges.

 

At the start of 2015/16 budget setting, the Council faced a budget gap of £15m rising to £65m over the next three years. The report set out spending and saving proposals that together narrowed those respective gaps to £2m and £15m. Further details were set out in Appendix 1 to the report.

 

The MTFS outlined the key strategies needed to enable the Council to balance its budget in the short to medium term incorporating Kickstart and the Customer Journey; City Centre First; a new Workforce Strategy; and Doing Things Differently. It was intended that these would deliver combined savings of nearly £15m in 2015/16 rising to £40m over the medium term. The report provided some further details on the overarching direction of the proposals and more would emerge as the strategies crystallised over coming months.

 

Some of the savings proposed represented significant changes to services provided by the Council. It was essential that the Council overhauled and modernised the way that many of its services were delivered rather than try to maintain the status quo in how it operated, a state that would not be affordable in the light of the future financial challenges that faced the Council. The Council would need to maximise the efficiency with which it delivered its services and make decisions about which services it would not be able to maintain at existing levels if it was to maintain its commitment to protecting its most vulnerable citizens and deliver a range of core services to everyone in the city.

 

The MTFS re-stated the Council’s commitment to protecting vulnerable people in the city. Additional resources of £13m in 2015/16 had been allocated to Children’s Services which reflected the current volume of cases and cost of care for looked after children and for safeguarding other children and young people. The financial investment re-affirmed the Council’s commitment to delivering the recommendations of the OFSTED inspection of Children’s Services made in February 2014.

 

The report proposed that the budget consultation was carried out on the basis that the Council would increase Council Tax levels by the maximum amount allowable by Government without triggering a referendum. The assumption was that this level would be 1% although there was a likely potential range of between 0% and 2%. It was possible that the threshold would not be announced before the end of January 2015.

 

In addition, the Council would continue to lead the drive for economic growth and the regeneration of the city through existing revenue budgetary provision and through its capital programme, building on developments approved and kick-started over the past couple of years. These elements did not feature within the main recommendations of the report but would form a fundamental part of the Council’s 2015/16 revenue and capital budgets. The long term future of the City and the Council’s finance could only be secured by growing its economy, providing jobs and increasing tax revenues.

 

RESOLVED that the Cabinet:

 

(1)  Approves the content of the report, the revenue spending and savings options set out in Section 2 and Appendices 1 and 2 and the Capital Programme proposals in Sections 2.7 and 2.8 of the report, as the basis for the Council’s budget consultation process.

 

(2)  Approve the proposed approach on Council Tax in Section 2.9 of the report.

Supporting documents: