Report of the Director – Finance and Corporate Services
The Service Manager for Corporate Services introduced the Financial and Performance item and noted that performance had been delivered through a pandemic, the implementation of Brexit, the war in Ukraine and a cost of living crisis.
The Finance Business Partner presented the Q4 Financial Report. She confirmed that the Council’s Statement of Accounts for 2022/23 had been published on 31 May 2023 in accordance with statutory deadlines.
The Finance Business Partner said that the Council had an overall revenue efficiency position of £1.979m which was summarised in Table 1, with the mean variances summarised in Table 2 and all variances detailed in Appendix A. She said that the main overspends were due to agency costs for the Planning and Waste Teams, delays in the Crematorium and Bingham Arena and for fleet repairs. She confirmed that the Planning Team was now fully established and their reliance on agency staff would reduce going forwards.
The Finance Business Partner said that the main underspend was due to increased planning income, income from Edwalton Golf Course and from interest from investments due to the rise in interest rates.
The Finance Business Partner explained that business rates reliefs were applied to 2044 businesses who benefitted from over £8.7m of additional rates relief and that the Council has administered grants for Energy Rebates of £150 each which totalled £5.644m. The Council had also distributed grants under the Energy Bills Support Scheme and the Alternative Fuel Payments totalling £0.171m.
In relation to 2022/23 efficiency savings of £33k, the Finance Business Partner said that this had been used to supplement the Government funding to discount Council Tax bills.
In relation to UK Shared Prosperity and Rural England Prosperity Funding, the Finance Business Partner explained that the Council would receive £2.571m over the next three years and confirmed that the Council had brought Streetwise inhouse on 1 September 2022. She said that the net outturn position for 2022/23 gave a £0.189m overspend largely due to the additional costs pressures of pay and inflation.
In relation to Rushcliffe Oaks Crematorium and Bingham Arena and Enterprise Centre, the Finance Business Partner reported that Rushcliffe Oaks cremations were in line with targets and that the Enterprise Centre had 92% occupancy.
The Finance Business Partner referred to revenue reserves and said that there was a net transfer of £4.003m as detailed in Appendix B, of which key transfers were £1.017m from the New Homes Bonus reserve to offset the Minimum revenue Provision, £2.466m from the Organisation Stabilisation Reserve and £3.707m appropriated to meet the collection fund deficit.
In relation to transfers in, the Finance Business Partner said that these totalled £4.763m, with significant items being £1.587m New Homes Bonus receipts, £1.006m from in year efficiencies and £0.973m to the Treasury Capital Depreciation Reserve which was approved as part of Quarter 3 revenue reporting.
The Finance Business Partner said that the overall level of reserves was healthy at £19.572m although there were risks going forward from inflation and pay increases and the uncertainty regarding future funding streams.
The Finance Business Partner said that the overall capital efficiency totalled £5.599m which equated to 73% of the budget spent. She referred the Group to a summary of the outturn position at Table 3 and to Appendices E and F for a summary of the main variances. She explained that £5.426m was recommended to be carried forward, the majority of which related to delays in Bingham Arena and the Crematorium and carrying over budgets to cover post opening enhancements.
The Group were informed that Special Expenses outturn was detailed in Appendix D and that the Council had a total deficit of £0.138m which was £0.018m more than last year and inflation was higher and income lower than expected.
In summary, the Finance Business Partner said that the position was positive and that the Council had put money into reserves but continued to be exposed to cost of living impacts.
The Vice Chair of Governance Scrutiny Group asked whether agency usage was expected to reduce for the Waste Team. The Finance Business Partner said that the Team would likely always have some reliance on agency staff due to the nature of the work requiring a certain number of people to carry out some jobs which would require short-term cover when people were off. The Vice Chair of Governance Scrutiny Group noted that Health Service ran a bank agency for such situations.
The Service Manager for Corporate Services introduced the Q4 Performance Scorecards and said that there were three task exceptions, which were:
In relation to performance, the Service Manager for Corporate Services referred to paragraph 4.27 which detailed areas of high performance. She also referred the Group to four corporate indicators, and three operational targets that had been missed, which included value of savings achieved by the Transformation Strategy impacted by delays in opening Bingham Arena and the Crematorium and which had been offset by better than expected performance at Edwalton Golf Club. The percentage of household waste sent for recycling was also below target due to a dry summer leading to little gardening and green waste which contributed highly to the Council’s recycling targets and the Planning Team had experienced some issues processing an increase in planning applications.
The Group was informed that the target time for calls answered by the Customer Contact Centre had been increased from 60 seconds last year to allow time to answer complex customer queries from vulnerable residents in relation to the cost of living crisis. Customer Contact Centre staff were also letting residents know where information was available on the Council’s website.
The Chair said that it was important to monitor directing residents to the website as some may not be IT literate.
The Chair referred to usage of community facilities. The Group noted that whilst there may still be some recovery from the pandemic it may also be that people were socialising differently, using spaces differently, by different demographics and that some social activities were now being held online. The Group thought that market factors such as hire costs and the marketing and booking of community spaces could also impact on usage. The Group agreed that this item would benefit from further scrutiny.
In relation to Gamston Community Hall, the Service Manager for Corporate Services said that lower usage may be due to groups having found alternative venues whilst it had been used by the NHS to deliver vaccinations. She said that the Council had a new booking system through the new website.
The Service Manager for Corporate Services suggested that programming this item for scrutiny early 2024 would allow time for Officers to review relevant information and for any impact from the new booking system to be evaluated. The Group asked if Jubilee Hall at Bingham Arena could be included.
The Group asked about the Performance Indicators, including about their formulation and review. The Service Manager for Corporate Services explained that the indicators were divided into two sectors, one for the large strategic corporate tasks and one for operational key services delivered by the Council. She explained that later in the year the Group would be presented with a range of strategic performance indicators for it to prioritise those it would like to monitor against the new Corporate Strategy. In relation to operational indicators, she explained that the Council monitored a wide range of performance as determined by senior staff and that the Group chose which of those it wanted to be reported in the Performance Report. The Group could request information about areas of interest outside of that process.
It was RESOLVED that the Corporate Overview Group:
a) notes the 2022/23 revenue position and efficiencies identified in Table 1, the variances in Table 2 and notes the carry forwards and appropriations to reserves in Appendix E;
b) notes the other changes to the earmarked reserves as set out at Appendix B;
c) notes the re-profiled position on capital and notes the capital carry forwards outlined in Appendix C and summarised in Appendix F;
d) notes the update on the Special Expenses outturn at paragraph 4.16 and in Appendix D, and
e) considers whether scrutiny is required for identified exceptions.