Members of the Committee are requested to bring their copy of the agenda for the Executive meeting on 18 January 2023.
The Committee considered the following reports on the Part 1 agenda for the meeting of the Executive on 18 January 2023:
DRAFT BUDGET 2023/24 AND UPDATE ON THE COUNCIL'S FINANCIAL STRATEGY
The report sought approval of the initial draft 2023/24 Budget including the full year effect of changes agreed as part of the 2022/23 Council Tax report and savings approved during the year with the resultant impact on the Council’s medium term “budget gap”.
A key part of the financial strategy was to highlight the budget issues that would need to be addressed by the Council over the coming financial years, by forecasting the level of available resources from all sources and budget pressures relating to revenue spending. Details of the capital programme and the impact on the revenue budget was reported elsewhere on agenda.
PDS Committees views would also be sought and reported back to the next meeting of the Executive, prior to the Executive making recommendations to Council on the 2023/24 Council Tax and Adult Social Care precept levels.
The report provided details of the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement 2023/24 which was published on 19th December 2022 and represented a one-year settlement only, with limited indication of funding for 2024/25. The awaited Fair Funding Review and changes relating to the devolution of business rates, which could have a significant impact on future funding, had been delayed until at least 2025/26 – more realistically unlikely to be implemented until 2026/27.
There were still outstanding issues and areas of uncertainty remaining, including, for example grant conditions, which could impact on the final revenue budget. Any significant changes would be reported to the Executive and further updates would be included in the 2023/24 Council Tax report to the next meeting of the Executive.
In response to a question about the budget line for external counsel advice, the Director of Finance confirmed that responsibility for the Legal Service rested with the Portfolio Holder for Resources, Commissioning and Contracts Management. There were recharges but the initiator for counsel advice was through the Legal Service.
Noting that costs for local elections occurred every four years, the Chairman queried whether funds could be set aside annually to spread the cost. In response the Director of Finance agreed that there was a choice and there had possibly been a historical decision not to treat the funds as earmarked reserves by setting aside funds annually. However, there were different approaches that could be taken, and the funding could be reviewed.
The Director of Finance set out the budget process noting that individual PDS Committees would now receive and review portfolio budgets. The PDS contributions would then be reported back to the Executive in February.
The Chairman proposed the following additional recommendation for the Executive to consider:
2.1.12 That the Executive agrees that where possible any identified savings should be taken in year.
The motion was seconded by Councillor Owen.
Noting that Bromley had not had any return from its contributions to the London Boroughs Grant Committee Councillor Tony Owen proposed the following amendment to recommendation 2.1.6:
The proposed contribution of £246,470 in 2023/24 to the London Boroughs Grant Committee not be agreed.
The motion was seconded by Councillor Fawthrop.
The recommendations to the Executive, including the amended recommendation 2.1.6 and the additional recommendation 2.1.12 were put to the vote:
10 in favour
4 against (Councillors Jeal, Adams, McGregor and Ireland requested their votes against be recorded)
RESOLVED: That the Executive be recommended to
CAPITAL STRATEGY 2023/24 TO 2026/27 & Q3 CAPITAL PROGRAMME MONITORING
The report incorporated the Council’s new Capital Strategy and Capital Programme for 2023/24 to 2026/27. It also summarised the current position on capital expenditure and receipts following the conclusion of the third quarter monitoring exercise.
The report included details of the new schemes that would be added to the Capital Programme and information concerning the proposed asset disposals that would be used to generate capital receipts and ultimately contribute towards the funding of the Capital Programme.
Also included were details of the related Capital Financing implications, including proposals to refinance current housing schemes through borrowing, utilisation of revenue reserves to address the shortfall in capital resources for 2023/24 onwards and details of how these proposals would impact the Council’s revenue budget.
In opening the discussion, a Member raised some questions around the additional expenditure arising from the Operational Property Review (OPR). In response, Director of Finance explained that the report before the Committee reflected the latest position on capital spend for the next four years. However, there were some uncertainties, such as the Churchill Theatre, where more work was required and there were also challenges around inflation which could also result in additional costs to the Council.
The Chairman suggested that it would be helpful for the Committee to receive an update on the Capital Programme at every meeting until the situation settled. The Director of Finance highlighted that progress on the Capital Programme was monitored through the quarterly Capital Programme Monitoring reports.
RESOLVED: That the Executive be recommended to
1. Note the report, including a total rephasing of £565k from 2022/23 into future years, and agree a revised capital programme.
2. Agree the Capital Strategy for 2023/24 to 2026/27 including the following amendments to the capital programme:
(i) Adjustments identified as part of the capital monitoring process totalling a net reduction of £14,825k
(ii) An increase of £74,801k in relation to new schemes which will be added to the Capital Programme
3. Approve the refinancing of the Council’s existing Housing Schemes through external borrowing of £49.2M via the Public Works Loan Board.
4. Approve the use of up to £10M from the Council’s earmarked revenue reserves to support funding of the Council’s capital programme.
5. Agree that all new and existing Housing Schemes should be funded by long-term borrowing.
COUNCIL TAX REDUCTION\SUPPORT SCHEME 2023/24
The report advised Members of the result of the public consultation exercise and seek approval for the scheme to be put forward to Full Council.
In response to a question surrounding the 38 responses that had been excluded for not being in-borough, the Revenues and Benefits Manager confirmed that the determination to exclude had been done on whether the responses had come from a verified source. Members noted that the excluded responses would not have had a material impact on the outcome of the consultation.
The Portfolio Holder for Resources, Commissioning and Contracts Management thanked the Revenues and Benefits Manager for the way in which the consultation had been conducted welcoming the improvement response rate and extra engagement.
The Chairman drew attention to the response provided by the GLA which was included at page 167 of the agenda pack.
In response to a question concerning the analysis of the likely impact of the proposals of those with protected characteristics, the Revenues and Benefits Manager highlighted that people affected by the proposals were likely to make an application to the Hardship Fund.
The recommendations were put to the vote:
9 in favour
The motion was therefore CARRIED. (Councillor Jeal request that his vote against be recorded.)
RESOLVED: That Executive be recommended to
1. Note the revised Equality Impact Assessment at Appendix 1 of the report.
2. Note the responses to the public consultation exercise at Appendix 2 & 3 of the report.
3. Agree the Council Tax Support scheme from 2023/24 restricts the calculation of entitlement for working-age claimants to 70% of the households’ Council Tax liability.
4. Approve the introduction a band “D” eligibility restriction from 2023/24.
5. Recommend that Full Council agree that the Council Tax Support scheme from 2023/24 increases the Discretionary Hardship Fund to £225k per annum.
PROCUREMENT STRATEGY - PROCUREMENT OF LEASE CARS AND LIGHT COMMERCIAL VEHICLES
The report considered the ongoing procurement of vehicles provided under the staff lease car scheme and those cars and light commercial vehicles allocated for departmental use when the current framework operated by Crown Commercial Service (Ref: RM6096) ended on 15th May 2023.
Consultation with the Director of HR & Customer Services and individual fleet user departments had confirmed that the Council had an ongoing requirement for the acquisition of motor vehicles to support the provision of services.
The Chairman noted that there was a discrepancy in the figures provided in paragraphs 12.2 (£2.96m) and 13.2 (£3.10m) of the report and requested that an explanation be provided before the meeting of the Executive on Wednesday 18th January 2023.
In response to a question, the Assistant Director for Highways explained that there was a cash alternative for staff who had a car as a contractual benefit.
RESOLVED: That the Executive be recommended to
1. Agree the forthcoming framework operated by the Crown Commercial Service be utilised to lease any required cars and light commercial vehicles from 16th May 2023 until 11th January 2027 and the continued use of the framework for any extension period that may be applied by Crown Commercial Service.
2. Delegate authority to the Director of Environment & Public Protection to approve the use of the Vehicle Lease, Fleet Management & Salary Sacrifice call-off framework (Ref; RM6268) with successful suppliers, upon its award by the Crown Commercial Service, in January 2023.
HOMES FOR UKRAINE
The report provided an update on the Homes for Ukraine response by the Council and approach going forward.
An update on the Homes for Ukraine scheme would be provided to Executive quarterly, this report was the second of the update reports.
Noting that there had been a higher number of approaches than anticipated, the Committee heard that households were being rematched, and staff were looking at options within the private sector market in order to prevent people going into temporary accommodation.
A Member thanked Officers for the work they had done to deliver a fantastic Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas event on 6th January 2023 highlighting that the event, held on a Saturday, had demonstrated how much staff cared. It was hoped that more events could be hosted.
RESOLVED: That Executive be recommended to review and note the contents of the report in relation to the current activities under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.