Agenda and draft minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 24 January 2024 7:00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Barking

Contact: Leanna McPherson, Principal Governance Officer & Statutory Scrutiny Officer 

Media

Items
No. Item

32.

Declaration of Members' Interests

In accordance with the Council’s Constitution, Members are asked to declare any interest they may have in any matter which is to be considered at this meeting.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

33.

Minutes - To confirm as correct the minutes of the meeting held on 5th December 2023 pdf icon PDF 82 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 5 December 2023 were confirmed as correct.

34.

Budget Strategy 2024/25 to 2026/27 pdf icon PDF 198 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Interim Strategic Director, Resources (S151 Officer) and the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Growth & Core Services presented a Budget Strategy 2024/25 to 2026/27 report.

 

On 18th July 2023, the Cabinet approved a refreshed Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for 2023/24 to 2027/28 for the Council’s General Fund. The Budget Strategy report was presented to Cabinet on 19th December 2023.

 

There had been a growing number of Councils issuing session 114 notices with Councils across the country facing around £4b of funding shortages. Following on from the Autumn Statement by Government in November, the Council had received a one-year funding settlement for 2024/25.

 

The Council was facing an expected budget gap of £23.335m for 2024/25. The expected gap came after the identification of £10.618m of savings. The net savings, after growth was expected to be £8.327m. It was expected for Council tax to increase by 4.99%.

 

The Council needed to reduce its expenditure significantly over the short to medium-term to match its funding and income. The Council was working to remove vacant posts as part of the saving proposals; however, further saving proposals would include cutting services, disbanding services and redundances to ensure that the Council reached a sustainable budget position.

 

The current balance of the Council’s reserves was at £107.63m as was shown in Table 4, Summary of Reserves within the report. The Council was unable to use some of its reserves such as the General Fund although the balance of the General Fund was at £17.03m, the fund would only be reduced to £12m due to the Councils minimum level required for unforeseen financial issues.

 

Section 3.1 of the report explained that the MTFS identified a potential budget deficit of £23.335m for 2024/25. In response to a question, the Cabinet Member for Finance, Growth & Core Services explained to the Committee that the budget deficit figure was open to change; however, the committee was assured that there would not be a substantial rise of the figure.

 

Section 3.3 of the report covered the potential risk of the Council not receiving a £10.3m dividend income from Be First for 2024/25. A question was asked whether the predicted £23.335m budget deficit included the potential £10.3m dividend the Council was expected to receive. The Committee was assured that the £10.3m dividend income would be delivered from Be First; however, it was unclear when it would be delivered. If Be First did not deliver the dividend income, the Councils budget deficit would increase to £33m.

 

The budget briefing from September 2023 stated that the Council was an outlier in its borrowing levels with the borrowing total at £1.275b in September 2023. The data from the Officer for Local Government Local Authority showed the Councils total debt as a percentage of core spending power was at 721.4% which was significantly higher compared to neighboring Councils. Some of the borrowed money went towards the building and development of housing within the Borough, which had brought in more income to the Council. Due to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 34.

35.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 70 KB

Minutes:

The Committee noted the work programme.