Report of the Director – Finance and Corporate Services
The Finance Business Partner presented the Q1 position in terms of the Council’s financial monitoring for 2023/24.
The Group were advised that there is a predicted net revenue budget efficiency of £0.55m for 2023/24 mostly as a result of favourable business rates. This represents a variance of 3.8% of Net Service Expenditure. However, this is expected to be earmarked for additional cost pressures in relation to inflation and the staff pay award. The position is likely to change as further variances are identified during the year.
The Group were advised of capital budget efficiencies expected to be around £6.5m, primarily due to Support for Registered Housing Providers (£2.723m), Gypsy and Traveller Site acquisition (£1m) and crematorium contingencies (£0.783m).
The Finance Business Partner advised of the main adverse variances arising from:
· Rushcliffe Oaks Crematorium with the income budget being set assuming 60 cremations per month from the outset rather than a lower target allowing for the service to grow. Since opening in March, income has been lower than expected as the number of cremations is around 30 and rising.
· Streetwise are currently forecasting a budget pressure of £0.35m due to vehicle hire and the results of an independent report and recommendations linked to the way forward in relation to carbon reduction.
· Depot and contracts overspend on tyres due to both consumption and the increasing cost of rubber and a service payment for the car park SLA in relation to 2022/23
· £0.35m is also required in relation to a property related legal claim
· Increased income attributable to the Nottinghamshire Business Rates pool surplus, a lower Business Rates Levy and additional grant income are among the biggest favourable variances
In concluding the Finance Business Partner advised the Group there is an overall projected budget efficiency of £0.55m. However, inflation remains high and the consequential rising cost of living present a significant risk to the Council’s budget. Furthermore, planned savings are falling short of expected targets and this adds further pressure.
The position on capital is currently positive and there is still no need for the Council to externally borrow this financial year.
Councillor Plant asked a specific question relating to the Gypsy and Traveller site allocation and the impact of illegal encampments on Council resources and expenditure. Councillor Edyvean explained that the Council is required to provide a permanent site for travellers not for those arriving illegally each year. A permanent site is being proposed at Fairham as part of the Local Plan part 2. The Finance Business Partner added that there is no additional funding for this provision, but the Council is commited to provide a site for seven caravans by 2025. It was suggested that a transit site be considered for the Travellers who arrive in the Borough annually.
Councillor Edyvean questioned the loss in value of the Council’s Multi Asset investments (pooled funds) and whether this was a concern. The Finance Business Partner advised that these funds form part of the Council’s Treasury Management Strategy approved by Full Council.
Questions were asked of Rushcliffe Oaks Crematorium not meeting its expected income targets. The Group were advised that the Business Case had been overly optimistic and that the business needed time to grow. The Chairman of Growth and Development Scrutiny Group advised that a review of Rushcliffe Oaks had been reported to Growth and Development Scrutiny Group in July and a follow up meeting has been requested for its work programme.
A question was raised in respect of the projected underspend for the provision for support for Registered Housing Providers. The Finance Business Partner explained this is often difficult to spend and meetings were taking place with Registered Providers, developers and Homes England to explore opportunities. The Service Manager added that a report is being going to Communities Scrutiny Group regarding models for the provision of social housing.
The Communications and Customer Service Manager presented the Q1 Performance Scorecards which continued to show positive trends following the pandemic.
Two new strategic tasks have been added: ST1923_24 Deliver a targeted events, health, sports development programme across the Borough and ST1923_24 Deliver the Cotgrave and Keyworth Leisure Centre redevelopment including decarbonisation of Cotgrave Leisure Centre.
The Group were advised of five operational indicators missing their targets, these included:
LIDEG01 Percentage of householder planning applications processed within target times
LIDEG17 Percentage of planning enforcement inspections carried out in target time
LIFCS61a Percentage of calls answered in 60 seconds
LINS06 Cumulative number of fly tipping cases (against cumulative monthly comparison for last year)
LINS73b Income generated from parks, pitches and open spaces
Explanations were provided within appendices F and G of the report.
The Chairman of Communities Scrutiny Group asked a specific question in relation to the community hall at Bingham Arena and whether income from this was included in the strategic scorecard. The Communications and Customer Services Manager advised that the figure related to facilities directly operated by the Borough, for example Rushcliffe Country Park, pitches at Gresham and West Park, adding that Bingham Community Hall is operated in partnership with Lex Leisure and therefore not included in the figures reported.
The Chairman referred to planning enforcement and inspections and in particular the performance data seeming to indicate that targets were being consistently missed. The Service Manager – Corporate Services explained that the PI was reporting on the old targets and the reporting system was yet to be updated. Manual calculations of these PI were much more accurate and these were reported to the Group.
It was RESOLVED that the Corporate Overview Group:
a) considered the expected revenue budget efficiency for the year of £0.55m and proposals to earmark this for cost pressures
b) considered the capital budget efficiencies of £6.457m
c) considered the expected outturn position for Special Expenses to be £6.6K over budget
d) identified exceptions to judge whether further information is required.