The report of the Executive Manager – Finance and Corporate Services is attached.
The Portfolio Holder for Finance, Councillor Moore, presented the report of the Executive Manager – Finance and Corporate Services providing Council with a position statement on the budget, which, as a result of Covid-19, had been revised for this year. The revised budget would support and maintain operational services in an ever-changing environment. The budget position covered by the report had been explained to Councillors recently in a series of budget briefings delivered by Mr Linfield – Executive Manager for Finance and Corporate Services.
Councillor Moore explained that despite in-year savings and government grant funding as a result of Covid-19, the Council was anticipating a budget deficit this year of £0.422m. A worst-case scenario of £1.7m had been calculated but was not, at this point, expected. Council income had been affected by the lockdown, in terms of facilities hire and car-parking charges, and additional funding had been required to support front-line services and most significantly Lex Leisure who managed the Council’s leisure facilities. Changes had been made to budget projections, but it was too early to be confident how quickly normality would return; the projections had been made in line with the latest government guidance.
The Council was confident moving forward with its £38m capital programme including developments at Abbey Road in West Bridgford, a new Bingham Leisure Centre and a crematorium. Changes have been made to the repayment plan for Rushcliffe Arena.
The Borough remained open for business. Officers had distributed £18.3m in business grants, and an additional £1m in discretionary grants to businesses struggling to operate in the pandemic. The situation remained challenging and would be severely tested if the Borough was forced into a local lockdown. Additional grant payments of £500 would be available for those on low incomes needing to self-isolate, and the Council had recently been given the mandate to provide additional business grants in the event of a local lockdown.
Councillor Moore reminded Councillors that as challenging as the current situation was, Rushcliffe remained a well-managed Council with a comfortable reserve fund allowing it to steer a way through the current health crisis. He extended his thanks to Mr Linfield and the Finance team for their exceptional work under difficult circumstances and presented the recommendations to Council.
Councillor Robinson reminded Council that the authority had never before been tested in such a way but was, at present, proving resilient, continuing to provide high quality frontline services whilst delivering an ambitious capital programme and dealing with all that Covid-19 had to test the Council with. Councillor Robinson delivered his personal thanks to all officers who were keeping the authority running over this difficult time. He noted that leisure remained a real concern and informed Council that both he and the Chief Executive had made representations to ministers for support as the leisure industry had a huge part to play in keeping the community fit, healthy and able to fight Covid. He also mentioned the capital programme and reiterated his commitment to the future by growing the Borough as well as supporting the project to deliver climate change.
Councillor Gray thanked Councillor Moore and the Finance team for the updated budget report and the workshops held recently to bring Councillors up to speed. Councillor Gray expressed his concerns that the Council was subsidising leisure provision and continued to deliver an ambitious capital programme. He also thanked all officers who continued to work above and beyond to respond to Covid-19.
Councillor Jones thanked the officers involved in preparing a revised budget alongside their ordinary work and issuing Covid-19 related grants. He told Council that he found the current situation very alarming and asked that consideration be given to deliberately slipping the capital programme to focus on the short-term financial concerns brought about as a result of Covid-19 rather than the Council’s longer-term ambitions.
Councillor R Mallender thanked both the officers and Councillor Moore for their hard work during these extraordinary times. He noted that the climate change reserve remained in the budget for which he was extremely pleased.
Councillor Shaw conveyed his thanks to the Portfolio Holder and officers involved in presenting Council with a revised budget.
Councillor Moore conveyed the view that Cabinet were determined to progress the Bingham Leisure Centre development to demonstrate their commitment to positive outcomes for the Borough.
It was RESOLVED that:
a) the revised projections to the 2020/21 revenue budget and remainder of the current MTFS in Appendix A as a result of the impact of Covid-19 be approved;
b) the revised projections to the Capital Programme for 2020/21 and the impact on the Capital Programme over the MTFS in Appendix B be approved;
c) the changes to the Transformation Strategy in Appendix C be approved;
d) the Council Tax Hardship Fund Policy Paper at Appendix D and its current application be approved;
e) the strategy of utilising in-year budget efficiencies, the Organisation Stabilisation reserve, reviewing the use of existing reserves, reduced use of Voluntary Revenue Provision and therefore use of New Homes Bonus; as fiscal levers so the Council balances the budget and delivers its corporate objectives (paragraph 4.8.6) be approved; and
f) the transfer of three reserves totalling to £0.524m as stated at paragraph 4.8.7 to the Organisation Stabilisation Reserve from 2020/21 and the revised anticipated position over the next five years (Appendix E) be approved.