To submit a report by the Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer.
The report of the Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer setting out the detailed revenue budget proposals for 2022/23 for the Executive’s review and agreement was presented.
Councillor Robin Williams, Portfolio Member for Finance reported that the Executive is required to agree a number of key matters in respect of the 2022/23 budget. This will then allow the final recommendations to be presented to the Full Council at its meeting on 10 March, 2022. The matters requiring agreement are the Council’s Revenue Budget and resulting Council Tax for 2022/23; the Council’s updated Medium Term Financial Strategy and the use of any one-off funds to support the budget.
The Council published its budget proposals for public consultation on 26 January, 2022 and the consultation period closed on 9 February, 2022. The public consultation process and its outcome is outlined in section 3 of the report. Scrutiny’s input into the budget setting process is summarised in section 4 of the report. The Portfolio Member for Finance referred to some minor changes in the figures following confirmation of the final settlement and the award of an additional grant of £2,254 to Anglesey which takes the net budget to £158.367m. The proposed 2% increase in Council Tax to set a balanced budget is the lowest in North Wales and restores the Council to the position it occupied at the beginning of this Administration when it was eighteenth out of the twenty two local authorities in Wales for council tax.
The Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer highlighted the risks to the budget as detailed in section 5 of report and explained their implications with the main risk arising from the uncertainty around pay and price inflation. The other risks include movement in interest rates; the continuation or otherwise of grant income at current levels; the achievement or otherwise of income targets; income from the Council Tax premium and from the standard Council Tax and the level of demand for services. Having considered all the risks as documented and the mitigating actions, the Director of Function (Resources)/ Section 151 Officer confirmed that he was of the view that the budgets are robust and deliverable.
At the beginning of the 2021/22 financial year the level of general balances was set at £9m in order to mitigate the risk arising from uncertainty over the level of demand for services as the Council emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic. This risk has since receded and based on the current financial position, it is recommended that for 2022/23 the general balances be maintained at 5% of the net revenue budget which is around £8m. Changes to the level of general balances during 2021/22 due to decisions made to utilise them and/or other reasons are noted in section 6 of the report.
The economic situation has changed considerably since the Council approved the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) in September 2021.In addition, the local government settlement for 2022/23 also changes the strategy significantly. The indicated increases in the AEF provides a little more certainty over the Council’s funding over the subsequent two years and this allows an update of the MTFS. Section 10 of the report highlights those factors likely to impinge on the Council’s budget in 2023/24 and beyond. An updated MTFS will be presented to the Executive in September, 2022.
Feedback from Scrutiny was provided by the Scrutiny Manager who reported that the Corporate Scrutiny Committee in considering the final draft revenue budget proposals for 2022/23 at its meeting on 28 February, 2022 had discussed the level of income deriving from the Council Tax premium on second homes and empty homes, framing questions within the public consultation process to add value to the process, the financial prospects for the medium term and the use to which General Fund balances had been put. The Scrutiny Manager confirmed that having considered all the information presented both verbally and on paper, the Corporate Scrutiny Committee had endorsed the final draft revenue budget proposals for 2022/23 and recommended the same to the Executive with two abstentions.
Councillor Dafydd Roberts Chair of the Finance Scrutiny Panel reported that at its meeting on 14 February, 2022 the Panel had examined the service investment proposals in detail and reported to the Corporate Scrutiny Committee meeting on 28 February confirming its recommendation of the final draft revenue budget proposals for 2022/23.
The Executive acknowledged the work involved in the preparing the budget proposals and thanked the Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer and the Finance Service for this and the other budget/finance related reports on today’s agenda.
It was resolved -
· To note the formal consultation meetings on the budget and consider the resulting feedback, as outlined in Section 3 of Appendix 1
· To agree the final details of the Council’s proposed budget, as shown in Section 7 of Appendix 1 and Appendix 2
· To note the Section 151 Officer’s recommendation that the Council should maintain a minimum of £7.9m general balances
· To note the comments made by the Section 151 Officer on the robustness of the estimates made, as set out in Section 5 of Appendix 1
· To recommend a net budget for the County Council of £158.367m and resulting increase in the level of Council Tax of 2.00% (£26.82 – Band D) to the full Council, noting that a formal resolution, including the North Wales Police and Community Council precepts, will be presented to the Council on the 10 March 2022.
· That any differences between the provisional settlement and the final settlement will be adjusted for by using the general contigency which is included in the 2022/23 budget, or by making a contribution to / from the Council’s general reserves in order to set a balanced budget
· To authorise the Section 151 Officer to make such changes as may be necessary before the submission of the final proposals to the Council
· To agree that any unforeseen pressures on demand led budgets during the financial year will be able to draw upon funding from the general contingencies budget
· To request the Council to authorise the Executive to release up to £250k from general balances if the general contingencies budget is fully committed during the year
· To delegate to the Section 151 Officer the power to release funding from the general contingency up to £50k for any single item. Any item in excess of £50k not to be approved without the prior consent of the Executive
· To confirm that the level of Council Tax Premium for second homes increases to 50% and for empty homes remains at 100%.