Report of the Director – Finance and Corporate Services
The Senior Business Partner presented the Q2 position for the Council’s financial and performance monitoring for 2023/24.
The Senior Business Partner summarised the position and said that the projected outturn for revenue had worsened with the predicted budget efficiency of £0.55m now sitting at £0.287m for 2023/24. She said that this was mostly due to due to Rushcliffe Oaks Crematorium, with a half yearly review indicating that projected performance would be £310k less than budget. She said that there had also been a reduction in demand for planning services in relation to new developments which had led to a £259k under recovery of income.
The Senior Business Partner said that there was some offset against efficiency loss from utilities savings as the original budget had been set pessimistically at the height of uncertainty to allow tolerance in price volatility and the Council was now able to release £183k of that. She said that capital underspend had increased from £6.457m to £9.292m with the Council looking to rephase £7.068m of that, leaving £2.224m.
The Vice Chair of Governance Scrutiny Group referred to the reported reduction in usage in crematoria across the region and the Senior Business Partner said that whilst it was difficult to predict death rates, there was some seasonality with fewer death during the warmer months and that covid-19 may have led to some people dying earlier than predicted.
Members of the Group referred to grounds maintenance costs. The Senior Business Partner said that when originally considered as part of the budget setting it had been thought that the works could be provided within existing Streetwise resource, however now that Streetwise had been brought inhouse and the Crematorium had opened, the Council had more information about ongoing maintenance and it had been determined that increased staffing and equipment was required. She explained that some of the costs related to vehicle hire from contracts established prior to the Council bringing Streetwise inhouse and it was predicted that costs would reduce once those obligations had expired. The Crematorium Manager was looking at how costs could be reduced whilst continuing to deliver a high standard of service.
The Chair of Governance Scrutiny Group noted that much work had been done in raising awareness of the facility with funeral directors and suggested that this be replicated in the community. The Communications and Customer Services Manager confirmed that the Council was currently preparing communications to raise awareness and engage with residents, including a video on the Council’s Youtube channel highlighting that the facility had a comfort dog called Maizie.
The Vice Chair of Governance Scrutiny Group noted the underspend for registered housing providers and the Senior Business Partner referred the Group to paragraph 4.10 of the Social Housing Models report which was presented to the Communities Scrutiny Group on 5 October 2023 which provided information in relation to the budget, housing needs and strategies.
The Vice Chair of Communities Scrutiny Group asked about total payments to the Development Corporation and The Senior Business Partner said that she would provide an update for the Group.
The Vice Chair of Communities Scrutiny Group noted that there were a number of acronyms in the reports, including BLC (Bingham Leisure Centre), HUG (Home Upgrade Grant) and LAD3 (Local Authority Delivery Grant). The Senior Business Partner said that she would provide information about how the HUG and LAD3 grant monies were used.
The Group referred to plans for a traveller site and it was noted that there was need for a permanent site within the Borough as not having this provision left the Council open to challenge.
The Vice Chair of Governance Scrutiny Group referred to special expenses and asked how these were decided and what the annuity charges were for West Bridgford. The Senior Business Partner said that there was a Special Expenses Group which made decisions about some special expenditure and that capital programmes, such as for the Abbey Road fencing, went through the budget setting process. She said that she would provide information in writing about the annuity charges.
The Chairman asked whether the savings from staff vacancies would disappear when agency staff were employed and the Senior Business Partner confirmed that they were real savings arising from circumstances such as posts not being backfilled or from gaps between staff leaving and new recruits coming into post.
The Chairman asked about S106 monies and commitments not yet identified and the Senior Business Partner said that some of these were linked to rephasing of affordable housing and Bingham Leisure Centre which was delayed.
The Chair of Growth and Development Scrutiny Group referred to the percentage of household planning applications processed within target times and asked how many people comprised the delayed 29.2%. He asked for information on how long any delays were for and whether the Council had sufficient planning staff to meet the targets. The Communications and Customer Services Manager said that he would report back to the Group.
It was RESOLVED that The Corporate Overview Group considered:
a) the expected revenue budget efficiency for the year of £0.287m and proposals to earmark this for cost pressures (para 4.1);
b) the projected capital budget efficiencies of £9.292m including the re-profiling of provisions totalling £6.068m to 2024/25 and £1m to 2025/26 (para 4.7);
c) the expected outturn position of £12.3k overspend for Special Expenses (para 4.5);
d) identified exceptions to judge whether further information is required.