The report of the Executive Manager – Finance and Corporate Services is attached.
The Leader presented the report of the Executive Manager – Finance and Corporate Services that outlined the Council’s Budget for 2019/20. Councillor Robinson thanked both the officers and councillors for yet another excellent year, especially considering the backdrop of significant central budget cuts. He reported that he was proud to say that the Council was now financially self-sufficient having risen to financial challenges in 2018 to grow a sustainable vision for the future. The Leader reflected back on the projects delivered in the last twelve months including the Tour of Britain, the tree-planting scheme, activities to reduce single-use plastics, the ban on helium balloons and Chinese lanterns, the ongoing Cotgrave developments, Rushcliffe Arena and the wider Investment Strategy, all recognised by both the MJ and LGC in their 2018 awards ceremonies.
Councillor Robinson informed Council that £47m was committed in the Budget for forward looking developments such as a new leisure centre and office facility in Bingham, a crematorium to serve the whole Borough, and significant housing and employment growth especially in Fairham Pastures. He was very pleased to report that the Abbey Road site would soon become available for development. The Leader warned Council that to achieve this level of growth in the timescale desired, some borrowing may be necessary, but assured Council that this would be prudent as well as balancing risk and reward.
Councillor Robinson payed particular tribute to the Council’s Planning and Growth team. Rushcliffe has delivered 2,600 new homes in the last 7 years, more than any other district in Nottinghamshire. He added that Rushcliffe had also delivered more affordable homes than any other district in Nottinghamshire. Councillor Robinson also made reference to the new Empty Homes Strategy approved by the Cabinet recently which will assist owners of unused homes to bring them back on to the market as well as charging 300% Council Tax for those that remain vacant.
To summarise, the Leader outlined the key indicators of financial stability and urged his fellow councillors to support the Budget as presented. Councillor Moore seconded this recommendation and reserved the right to speak.
Councillor MacInnes informed Council that the Labour Group had serious concerns about the sustainability of the budget as setout in the report. The significant increase in the capital programme will cause financial problems in the future if not managed properly and the Group did not understand how it was considered prudent to invest such large sums, especially if that included borrowing, in projects such as the building of a crematorium when so much uncertainty remained including Brexit, the Fair Funding review, uncertainties over the future of the new Homes Bonus and Business Rates Retention, the future of the power station in the Borough, and central government plans to overhaul the waste strategy. Councillor MacInnes also reported that he felt there was no mention of affordable housing in the budget and so welcomed the leader’s update about the Abbey Road site.
Councillor R Mallender thanked officers for the time they had spent on the budget report this year. He accepted that it had been a difficult task as the Revenue Support Grant had now been reduced to zero. Councillor Mallender congratulated officers on their continued ability to provide excellent services to a growing population within a reducing budget, and stated that he was looking forward to future developments including the new leisure centre in Bingham and improvements to Tudor Square in West Bridgford.
Councillor Jones also noted the reduction in central government funding and welcomed the Council’s efforts to secure a long-term commitment to the New Homes Bonus. Councillor Jones noted that he would support the budget but did not agree with the notion set out in the report that Rushcliffe Borough Council’s council tax remained the lowest in Nottinghamshire as in Rushcliffe over 50% of properties were placed in the two highest council tax bands. He also expressed concerns about the impact on borrowing on future generations and asked the Council to consider using s106 funding to improve traffic congestion and air pollution in the vicinity of the new Sharphill development.
Councillor Clarke reported that the Council has a strong track record of financial stability and challenged Councillor MacInnes to provide an alternative budget if his Group was to oppose the one put forward. He reminded Councillor MacInnes that councillors had a legal duty to set a budget and that by not proposing an alternative he ran the risk of leaving the Council in limbo.
CouncillorMoore expressed his disappointment in the opposition to the budget. He reminded Council that all councillors had been invited to the annual budget workshops and encouraged to participate in shaping the budget. Councillor Moore was also concerned about the view that Rushcliffe reaped more in Council Tax payments because of the higher proportion of large homes in the Borough and he went on to add that with a sliding scale for Council Tax those in smaller homes paid less.
Councillor Robinson thanked Councillor Clarke for his astute comments and reminded Council that Rushcliffe had delivered more affordable housing in the last 7 years than any other district in Nottinghamshire due to the commitment of councillors, the Cabinet and officers. In summary, he drew Council’s attention to the ambitious capital programme and stated that this budget will deliver what residents want.
In accordance with the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014, a recorded vote was taken for this item as follows:
FOR: Councillors R A Adair, S Bailey, K P Beardsall, M Buckle, B R Buschman, R L Butler, J N Clarke, T Combellack, J E Cottee, A J Edyvean, J E Greenwood, R Hetherington, S J Hull, R A Inglis, Mrs C E M Jeffreys, R M Jones, K Khan, N C Lawrence, E J Lungley, Mrs M M Males, G R Mallender, S E Mallender, D Mason, G S Moore, A Phillips, F A Purdue-Horan, S J Robinson, Mrs J A Smith, J A Stockwood, Mrs M Stockwood, J E Thurman, R G Upton, R Walker, D G Wheeler, J G A Wheeler
AGAINST: Councillors H A Chewings, M J Edwards, A MacInnes, E A Plant
It was RESOLVED that:
a) the report of the Council’s Responsible Financial Officer on the robustness of the Council’s budget and the adequacy of reserves be noted
b) the budget setting report and associated financial strategies 2019/20 to 2023/24 including the Transformation Strategy and Efficiency Statement to deliver efficiencies over the five year period, be adopted
c) the Capital Programme be adopted
d) the Capital and Investment Strategy be adopted
e) Rushcliffe’s 2019/20 Council Tax for a Band D property be set at £137.39
f) the Special Expenses for West Bridgford, Ruddington and Keyworth, be set at the following Band D Council Tax levels:
i) West Bridgford £48.51
ii) Keyworth £1.60
iii) Ruddington £3.37
g) with regards to 2e) and 2f) the associated Bands be set in accordance with the formula in section 36(1) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992; and
h) the 2019/20 Pay Policy be adopted.