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To approve the minutes of the previous meeting and note any matters arising.
Updates and Actions
Dawn Aunger (Assistant Director of People and Talent) noted that there had been some confusion at previous meetings over the proportion of staff leaving in their first year of employment. She informed the Committee that for 2019/20 there were 76 members of staff who left in their first year which equated to 18.8 percent of total leavers.
Members requested that the following be circulated to the Committee:
ACTIONS: Dawn Aunger
It was noted that an update on agency and overall workforce spend would be presented at the March meeting.
It was also noted that the most recent Brexit preparedness update (10) had been circulated to the Committee.
The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed as an accurate record.
Apologies for Absence
To note any apologies for absence or lateness.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Guy Vincent.
Declarations of Interest
If a Councillor has a disclosable pecuniary interest in a particular item, whether or not it is entered in the Authority’s register of interests, or any other significant interest which they consider should be declared in the public interest, they should declare the existence and, unless it is a sensitive interest as defined in the Member Code of Conduct, the nature of the interest at the commencement of the consideration of that item or as soon as it becomes apparent.
Where Members of the public are not allowed to be in attendance and speak, then the Councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest should withdraw from the meeting whilst the matter is under consideration. Councillors who have declared other significant interests should also withdraw from the meeting if they consider their continued participation in the matter would not be reasonable in the circumstances and may give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest.
Councillors are not obliged to withdraw from the meeting where a dispensation to that effect has been obtained from the Standards Committee.
There were no declarations of interest.
This report sets out the budget proposals for the services covered by this Committee – and an update is provided on any proposed changes in fees and charges.
Andrew Lord (Head of Strategic Planning and Monitoring) gave a corporate overview of the budget, highlighting the following points for context:
· Savings will have exceeded investment (growth) by £125m from 2009/10 to 2020/21.
· General grant funding reduced by £68m from 2010/11 to 2020/21. A 54% real terms cut.
· Government modelling for spending power assumes a 2% Council tax increase and 2% adult social care precept levy. For H&F a 2% increase will raise £4.8m over 4 years and £1.2m in the first year.
· The 2019/20 to 2020/21 local government finance settlement included a general grant increase of 3.6m but future years still presented significant financial challenges.
The Chair opened up to questions on the corporate financial position.
Councillor Christabel Cooper, noting the comment from auditors Grant Thornton about the Council’s relatively low levels of reserves, asked if the Council was confident it could manage those levels going forward. Andrew Lord said officers were mindful of the auditors’ comments and the budget included an addition to reserves to address the issue. Officers added that the current level of reserves was sufficient for the Council's plans but they were being mindful of the levels.
Councillor Cooper asked if officers expected similar comments on the level of reserves from the auditor in future. Andrew Lord said he hoped the Council’s action plan for reserves would address the issue – and noted that similar comments had been made at many other local authorities given the challenging financial climate.
Councillor Cooper noted there were many unknowns about the Council’s revenue in the future (e.g. Central Government grant could be diverted to other areas of the UK) and asked if the organisation would withstand a ‘perfect storm’ of financial challenges. Andrew Lord said the Council had built in prudent assumptions to the budget and was trying to maintain reserves to help protect against future unknowns.
Councillor Adam Connell (Cabinet Member for Public Services Reform) noted that the Council was just below the national average in terms of reserves. A new policy had been put in place to top up reserves using new capital receipts.
Councillor Cooper asked what actions could the Council take in the short term if it was facing a ‘perfect storm’. Andrew Lord said the near-term financial position was somewhat uncertain as the four year local government settlement didn't happen due to the general election. He explained that any significant financial change introduced by the government would be smoothed to give councils time to prepare, though it would be difficult to manage given that demand for services was increasing.
Councillor Zarar Qayyum asked what was meant by ‘one-off use of resources – £5.3m’ in table 2 of the report. Andrew Lord explained that there was a one-off surplus from council tax income.
Councillor Dominic Stanton, also referring to table 2, noted that the cumulative budget gap (£9m in 21/22, £19.9m in 22/23, and £31.5m in 23/24) did not look very optimistic. Andrew Lord said that each year the Council as had to ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
This report provides an overview of progress made to date and priorities for the continuing Zero-Based Budgeting programme.
Martin Calleja (Assistant Director of Efficiency and Zero-Based Budgeting) presented the report that gave an overview of the Zero-Based Budgeting Programme, established in April 2019. The business case for the programme was based on the projected scale of further savings required over the next four-year medium term (£50m between 2020-24) and the need to improve the capability and capacity of the Council to achieve this.
Martin Calleja explained that achieving savings was not just a technical exercise but it was also about getting people to sign up and engage with change. A core principle of the programme was to work with teams collaboratively, not an imposed top-down review process. £5.19m of detailed viable plans have signed off by SLT - over the coming 3 years. This represented a £10 return for every £1 spent on the programme.
Half of the Council’s services have used the zero-based budgeting process so far and the team will continue to promote and encourage services to use it going forward. Officers were also working with heads of finance and using them to promote the programme to their management teams. The programme was still not fully established but has made significant headway and on balance people feel positive about it.
The Chair asked about the timeline for the £8.6m of pipeline savings. Martin Calleja said the pipeline represented modelled opportunity that required more detailed planning work and approvals from senior decision makers. For example – one of the proposals was to reduce management costs but the organisation had not set out how to do that yet. The programme would be developing a corporate strategy, priorities, and pipeline. Then there would be a managed closure of the programme by the end of the financial year next year. At that point all services will have been reviewed and work will move to delivery of the ‘big ticket’ savings.
The Chair, noting the £10 return to £1 spent on the programme, asked if there was a limit to these marginal benefits – should the Council be spending more to realise even greater savings? Martin Calleja said the Council had scaled the programme around balancing the budget. He felt it was the right approach to have a small, focused team that worked with departments. Previous approaches used larger central teams of consultants and agency workers that became disconnected from services.
The Chair asked if the managed closure at the end of two years risked losing experience. Martin Calleja said the programme needed to ensure the Council had the capability to carry on with its work. It was felt that the best home for reviews going forward is in the Business Intelligence team.
The Chair, referring to 3.8 of the report, asked if the Council had considered selling this service to other councils. Officers noted that councils don't trade well as sector but there were potential opportunities for trading certain functions.
Councillor Zarar Qayyum asked what period the 10:1 return on investment was calculated over. Martin Calleja said it was modelled ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Date of Next Meeting
To note that the next meeting is scheduled for 23 March 2020.
The next meeting was scheduled for 23 March 2020.