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.
Hitesh Jolapara (Strategic Director of Finance and Governance) and Emily Hill (Assistant Director of Corporate Finance) presented the report that set out the budget proposals for the Public Services Reform and Corporate Services departments. The report also included an update on proposed changes in fees and charges.
Hitesh Jolapara gave a presentation on the financial context the Council was in and the financial challenges it faced going forward. He noted that the Council had taken a 42 percent real terms cut in its budget since 2010/11. In order to support services, the Council was proposing a 2.7 percent inflationary increase in council tax with a further freeze in future years.
Councillor Christabel Cooper asked what impact a hard Brexit would have on the Council's budget. Were contingencies in place for such an event? Hitesh Jolapara said in an event like a 'no deal' Brexit it was likely that sterling would fall and inflation would rise – so the cost of any contracts linked with inflation would go up. Labour markets would also likely be affected – the social care workforce for example was highly reliant on EU workers. Senior officers were regularly reviewing the risks of a wide range of Brexit scenarios and planning mitigations as best they could. The Council also had reserves to fund contingency measures if required.
Lisa Redfern and Emily Hill then gave a presentation on the Public Services Reform budget proposals. The department was proposing a net budget before capital and corporately managed budgets of £10.66m. The department was proposing savings of £0.75m in 2019/20 which would be achieved in the following ways:
· A departmental restructure.
· Adult Homelessness - Moving homeless residents from short-term hostel at Wood Lane into alternative provision.
· Older People - End of contract at Bishops Creighton House, with provision provided instead in sheltered housing and other community provision.
Councillor Guy Vincent, referring to the figures in table 11, asked how the figures compared with last year. Officers noted that the Public Services Department was created as part of the Moving On process – with some funding from Social Care, Children's Services, and Public Health moving directly over to the department.
Members asked if the figures on income (£0.7m) were optimistic – was there risk there? Officers said the department had 'reset' its expectations on commercial income since the previous budget to be more realistic. Lisa Redfern noted that a lot of work had been done on advertising for example, and officers were confident that with the contracts they had in place they would achieve the stated income. Officers had been working to take the risk out of the budget process this year, it was a much more rigorous process.
Members asked what the £1.8m in growth for the Business Intelligence Unit was for. Hitesh Jolapara said the Council was writing off the previous income targets for the service. The £1.8m was potential income not realised.
The Chair asked how the Council was progressing zero-based budgeting. Hitesh Jolapara said there were some areas where a zero-based approach had been taken – Residents' Services for example but there was still more work to be done. Councillor Adam Connell added that there had been a £500k investment to take zero-based budgeting forward. Officers were currently focusing on priority areas - looking areas of spend more holistically.
Mark Grimley (Director for Corporate Services) gave a presentation on the Corporate Services department budget. He noted that the department was proposing savings of £0.33m in 2019/20 to be delivered through service rationalisation, commercialisation, and commissioning.
Councillor PJ Murphy said he was stunned to see staff turnover of 50 percent for people in their first year - and asked if there was an action plan to confront this problem. Mark Grimley said this was being tackled through the new people strategy and new systems in place e.g. exit interviews. Councillor Murphy asked for an action plan to be sent to the Committee. Members suggested this issue could be looked at in more detail at a future meeting.
1. Officers to provide comparative figures for next year.
2. Officers to provide the Committee with an action plan to tackle the high levels of turnover within the organisation.