Growth and Development Directorate Budget Proposals 2021/22
Report of the Strategic Director (Growth and Development) attached
This report provides a further update to the Scrutiny committee on the savings proposals being proposed as part of the 2021/22 budget process and reflects any feedback from the November Scrutiny committees. The savings proposals will be considered by all six Scrutiny Committees for those areas within their remit, prior to going out to public consultation.
Further to minute ESC/20/41, the Committee considered a report of the Strategic Director (Growth and Development), which provided a further update on the savings proposals being proposed as part of the 2021/22 budget process which reflected any feedback from the November 2020 meeting.
Key points and themes in the report included:-
· As at August 2020 the Directorate was forecasting a net overspend of £3.86m, this included Covid-19 related pressures of £7.305m, offset by in year mitigation of £3.445m;
· The Covid-19 pressures were made up of a combination of £4.718m reductions in income and increased cost pressures of £2.581m;
· The main loss of income had arisen within the Investment estate due to tenants not being in a position to pay their rents because their business has been impacted by Covid-19;
· In addition to the income reductions, there had been increased costs with the main costs being in respect of supporting the Corporate response to supporting the City’s most vulnerable residents,, this was forecasted to cost over £2m in the current financial year; and
· As part of the ongoing work seeking to mitigate the above pressures in year forecast savings of £3.445m had already been identified, this was largely due to staff savings because of vacant posts and reduced running costs across all services.
Some of the key pints that arose from the Committees discussions were:-
· To what extent would the one year local government financial settlement have on the medium to long term economic recovery plan;
· It was saddening to see the impact that COVID had had on the Council’s budget available to allocate to developing work and skills for adult learners;
· There was concern that with the inevitable reduction to staffing levels, it would be difficult to maintain an appropriate level of staffing to enforce building control across the city;
· How was the proposed income from increased rental going to be achieved;
· There was a concern that a reduction in the Council’s employment and spending power will have a impact on the broader economy of the city and consequently Government needed to fund the Council appropriately to prevent this negative impact;
· There was concern that some of the cuts that the Council would need to make now to meet the £50m deficit in its budget would cost the Council more in the longer term and there needed to be a mechanism to revisit these decisions in future budget setting; and
· There was concern around digitising the planning process would result in there not being enough oversight by staff of what was being developed and that what was being developed was to an expected high quality.
The Leader advised that Government was investing a considerable sum of money into a variety of schemes, such as Kickstart, which were aimed at helping people get back into employment and develop new skills. There was also an expectation that Department for Education was going to increase funding for Adult Skills and retraining at Level 3. The only negative around this was the likelihood that these initiatives would be delivered by a small cohort of national contractors, and local elements would need retrofitting into these schemes. He also added that difficulties existed due to the fact that Government departments were not working in a joined up approach at a national level, reflecting that the employment programmes were disconnected for the skills programmes.
The Committee was also advised that robust arrangements had been put in place management and partnership arrangements for the medium to long term economic recovery of the city, however these arrangements would need to be adapted to the whims of national government in regard to funding that would be made available.
The Strategic Director (Growth and Development) confirmed that the Council had identified specific new income from its investment estate from the renegotiation of a lease.
The Executive Member for Environment Planning and Transport acknowledged the challenges that would exist by not filling the vacant posts with the Council’s Planning Department especially in light of the major schemes and strategies that would be being implement in the future. It was commented that options such as a shared service with another local authority were being looked at as apart of a service review of the Council’s Planning function.
The Leader reminded the Committee that the proposals being put forward were due to the Council requiring to make £50m of savings to its budget and that the proposals being considered were the least worst options. It was hoped that in three to five years’ time, with the return of commercial income some of these proposed cuts could be revisited and if required reintroduced.
The Strategic Director (Growth and Development) confirmed that it wasn’t proposed to digitise the whole Planning Service, but rather use new technologies to improve aspects of the service.
The Committee agree the savings proposals as described within the report and endorse these to the Executive.
- Growth and Development Directorate Budget Proposals 202122, item 2. PDF 251 KB
- Appendix - Budget Proposals 2021/22, item 2. PDF 98 KB