Report of the Chief Officers Executive.
Pursuant to Minute C79/Dec/21, the Leader introduced the report of the Chief Officers Executive (previously circulated) proposing a Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) 2022/23 to 2025/26 (also previously circulated), including setting a budget and council tax increase for 2022/23, to Council on 17 February 2022, for approval.
It was reported that current MTFP remained deliverable, but it was not without risk and challenges; the proposed MTFP included the Risk Reserve at the same level as 2021; the Council still had financial capacity to deliver a four year balanced MTFP based on a core offer service level with limited discretionary services which was reliant on the use of balances across the four year MTFP; the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted on the priorities of, and the way in which, the Council conducted its business; the financial pressure on the public sector as a whole, and the Council more specifically, had been significant over the last couple of years; there had been a decade of significant financial challenge following the economic downturn and the reductions in public sector spending; and that the Council had been successful in responding to those challenges.
It was reported that the Local Government Finance Settlement delivered on 16 December 2021 confirmed a one year settlement; a number of funding streams had been announced in the Autumn Statement; the 2022/23 Budget and MTFP aimed to ensure that the Council could continue to provide vital services in response to Covid-19, should it be required, and importantly continue to provide its core offer level of services to the residents of Darlington regardless of Covid-19; and that a healthy level of reserves had been maintained for medium term stability and that this was now a crucial component of the budget strategy which would allow time for the key ambition of economic growth to take effect.
Particular reference was made to the ‘futures fund’ which had been established in five areas that had great value to the community. Whilst the fund was initially established for a time limited period, the ongoing commitments contained within the fund were key to driving the Council’s ambition of growing the economy and, as a result, it was proposed to mainstream those areas into the budget from 2025/26.
Details of the projected expenditure and income, budget pressures and savings, schedule of fees and charges, assumptions used to prepare estimates, projected Revenue Outturn 2021/22; proposed Capital Programme and Minutes from the Economy and Resources Scrutiny Committee, were also appended to the submitted report.
Reference was made at the meeting to the recent announcement made by the Government in respect of rebates and whether this had been taken into consideration in the proposed MTFP and to the anticipated reduction in business rates in 2024.25. The Cabinet Member with the Resources Portfolio and the Group Director of Operations responded thereon.
RESOLVED - That it be recommended to Council, at the special meeting scheduled to be held on 17 February 2022, that the Revenue Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) and the Capital Programme, as set out in Appendices 6 and 7 respectively of the submitted report, be approved, including:-
(a) a Council Tax increase of 1.99 per cent plus a one per cent Adult Social Care Precept to help fund social care for 2022/23;
(b) the Schedule of Charges, as set out in Appendix 3 of the submitted report; and
(c) the mainstreaming of the ongoing services provided by the ‘Futures Fund’ into the budget from 2025/26, as set out in paragraph 71 of the submitted report.
REASONS - (a) The Council must set a budget for the next financial year.
(b) To enable the Council to continue to plan services and finances over the medium term.
(c) To ensure decisions can be made in a timely manner.
(d) To ensure investment in the Council’s assets is maintained.