Agenda item

Medium Term Financial Strategy for the five years 2021/22 to 2025/26



The Leader presented Members with a report that outlined the Medium Term Financial Strategy for 2021/22 to 2025/26.


The budget gap for 2021/22 was estimated at £176,000.  It was noted that the Amended budget this year had used some of the reserves but it would not be expedient to use for next year’s budget gap, therefore there may be a need to look at a structured approach to tackle the gap.  Options for closing the gap would be reported to Hub Committee at the meeting on the 1st December which would be the start of the normal round of budget review that would culminate in Full Council being asked to adopt the budget at its meeting on 16 February 2021.  It was confirmed that lobbying of Central Government for more funding would continue.  The recommendations asked for the Hub Committee to note the gaps and the timetable to tackle them.


During the debate it was clarified that the anticipated income from Leisure Centres had been based on the current renegotiated situation.  The S151 Officer confirmed that the Members Locality Fund had now been built into the base budget and that it was still available for Members to use, with any unspent carried forward.  However, monies could not be rolled over at the end of a four year Council administration.


Following a discussion regarding the cumulative budget gap, it was agreed that this aspect of the Medium Term Financial Strategy would be discussed at the next Financial Stability Review Group meeting to determine whether this figure should still be included.


It was noted that no council tax collection fund surplus was assumed.  The collection rates within West Devon Borough Council (WDBC) remained at one of the highest levels within Devon, however, the Revenues Team were monitoring the situation with reminder notices going out in early November and a review on collection rates would be held thereafter.  Any deficit or surplus would be highlighted to the precepting authorities as they would also be impacted. 


Following a Member’s enquiry, the S151 Officer confirmed that representatives from the Community Safety Partnership were due to present their annual report to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 10th November which would detail the current contribution (just under £17k) in staffing costs from the Council.  In the event of any Members wishing to recommend any increase in funding to the Partnership, then this would be considered during the normal budget setting process as follows:


-        Hub Committee meeting: 1 December 2020;

-        Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting: 19 January 2021;

-        Hub Committee meeting: 2 February 2021; and

-        Council meeting: 16 February 2021.


It was acknowledged that although WDBC has a good pictoral pie chart of where Council Tax was spent, it was felt that more could be done to show this, perhaps outlining how much a teacher costs, as an example.  The Communications Team were tasked with working on this request.


The Leader moved the recommendations which were then seconded by Cllr Cheadle (and carried by a Unanimous vote).


It is recommended that the Hub Committee has considered the Medium Term Financial Strategy and recommend to Council:


Recommendation 1: To set the strategic intention to raise council tax by the maximum allowed in any given year, without triggering a council tax referendum, to endeavour to continue to deliver services. The actual council tax for any given year would be decided by Council in the preceding February.


Recommendation 2: To continue to respond to Government consultations on Business Rates Reform


Recommendation 3: To continue to actively lobby and engage with the Government, Devon MPs, South West Councils, and other sector bodies such as the District Councils’ Network and the Rural Services Network, for a realistic business rates baseline to be set for the Council for 2022 onwards, when the business rates reset would happen.


Recommendation 4: That West Devon Borough Council continued to lobby in support of the Government eliminating Negative Revenue Support Grant in 2021/22 (and thereafter) and continued to lobby for Rural Services Delivery Grant allocations which adequately reflected the cost of rural service provision.


Recommendation 5: That the Council maintained an Upper Limit on External Borrowing (for all Council services) as part of the Medium Term Financial Strategy of £50 million.


The Hub Committee also RESOLVED to note:


i)       the forecast budget gap for 2021/22 of £0.175 million (2.2% of the current Net Budget of £7.7million) and the position for future years.


ii)      the current options identified and timescales for closing the budget gap in 2021/22 and future years, to achieve long term financial sustainability.


Supporting documents: