The Leader introduced the report of the Chief Officers Executive (previously circulated) requesting that consideration be given to the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) for 2022/23 to 2025/26 (also previously circulated) for consultation, including setting a budget and council tax increase for 2022/23.
The submitted report stated that the 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 October 2021 Spending Review announced a three year local government settlement, though it was likely there would only be a one year finance settlement at local level; 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; 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 and proposed Capital Programme, were also appended to the submitted report.
RESOLVED - 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 for consultation, including:-
(a) a Council tax increase of 1.99 per cent plus a one per cent Adult Social Care Precept to 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 63 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.