The Cabinet Member for Finance, Performance and Core Services presented a report on the Council’s Budget Framework 2021/22 and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021/22 to 2024/25.
The Cabinet Member advised that the Council had incurred significant costs with regard to the response to COVID-19 and supporting residents through the pandemic and, whilst Government grant funding had been received to cover some of that expenditure, it would take the Council a number of years to recover from the full cost of COVID-19, especially on the back of 10 years of austerity cuts by the Government. However, he remained confident that despite all the difficulties, the Council would once again deliver a balanced budget and his message to residents was that the Council was on their side and would continue to do everything possible to protect the most vulnerable, build more truly affordable homes, create new jobs, provide more job opportunities for residents, particularly the young, and promote social responsibility and civic pride.
The Cabinet Member also alluded to the Government’s budget announcement and expressed his disappointment that the additional £20 for those in receipt of Universal Credit was only announced today, when it could have been made much sooner to put residents’ minds at rest. The Government’s offer of a mere 1% pay rise to NHS staff was also an insult to all those who had gone above and beyond to keep people safe.
The Cabinet Member highlighted some of the key achievements over the last year, the Medium Term Financial Strategy forecasts and the Council’s future investment plans which would help to fund essential Council services going forward. The Assembly noted, however, that against the backdrop of COVID-19 expenditure and in order to deliver the Council’s vision and aspirations, it would be necessary to increase the level of Council Tax for 2021/22 by the maximum (unrestricted) levels of 1.99% for general services and 3% for social care. Those increases equated to an average annual rise of £64.11 for those living in a ’Band D’ property. The Greater London Authority had also announced an increase of 9.5% to its precept, which covered support services such as the London Fire Brigade and the Metropolitan Police, meaning that the overall Council Tax charge for a Band D property would increase by a total of £95.70 to £1,712.57.
The Cabinet Member referred to the outcome of the public consultation on the draft budget proposals which was carried out in January, with residents being supportive of the Council’s plans to continue to support its most vulnerable residents. There was also clear support for increased street cleansing, improvement to parks and leisure facilities, support for local businesses and efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour and grime crime in the Borough. He also commended the scrutiny of the budget proposals by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and other backbench Members who were present at the meeting on 26 January 2021.
During the debate, several Members commented on the Government’s budget announcement which would impact hardest on ordinary, working people and expressed concerns that the real impact of health inequalities from COVID-19 would be seen across the population for many years to come.
In accordance with paragraph 10.3.2 of Part 2, Chapter 3 of the Council Constitution, the budget was put to a recorded vote and was agreed as follows:
For: Councillors Achilleos, Akwaboah, Alasia, Ashraf, Aziz, Bankole, Bremner, P Bright, S Bright, Butt, Carpenter, Chand, Channer, Choudhury, Dulwich, Fergus, Freeborn, Geddes, Ghani, Haroon, Janu, Jones, Kangethe, Keller, Khan, Lumsden, Martins, McCarthy, Miah, Miles, Mullane, Paddle, Perry, Quadri, Rahman, Ramsay, C Rice, L Rice, I Robinson, P Robinson, D Rodwell, Shaukat, Twomey, L Waker, P Waker and Worby (46)
Against: None (0)
Abstain: None (0)
(Note: Councillors Gill, Oluwole and Saleem were temporarily unavailable during the vote)
The Assemblyresolved to:
(i) Approve a base revenue budget for 2021-22 of £174.326m, as detailed in Appendix A to the report;
(ii) Approve the adjusted Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) position for 2021-22 to 2024-25 allowing for other known pressures and risks at the current time, as detailed in Appendix B to the report, including the revised cost of borrowing to accommodate the capital costs associated with the implementation of the MTFS;
(iii) Note the observations made by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 26 January 2021 in respect of the Cabinet’s savings and growth proposals for 2021/22 and beyond and the outcome of the public consultation on the budget proposals, as set out in section 14 of the report;
(iv) Approve the budget savings and growth proposals for 2021/22 and beyond, as detailed in section 8 and Appendix C to the report;
(v) Delegate authority to the Chief Financial Officer, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance, Performance and Core Services, to finalise any contribution required to or from reserves in respect of the 2021-22 budget, pending confirmation of levies and further changes to Government grants prior to 1 April 2021;
(vi) Approve the Statutory Budget Determination for 2021-22 as set out at Appendix D to the report, which reflects an increase of 1.99% on the amount of Council Tax levied by the Council, an Adult Social Care precept of 3.00% and the final Council Tax proposed by the Greater London Assembly (9.5% increase), as detailed in Appendix E to the report;
(vii) Note the update on the current projects, issues and risks in relation to Council services, as detailed in sections 8-10 of the report;
(viii) Approve the Council’s draft Capital Programme for 2021-22 totalling £399.105m, of which £30.845m are General Fund schemes, as detailed in Appendix F to the report;
(ix) Approve the Flexible Use of Capital Receipts Strategy as set out in Appendix G to the report;
(x) Note the update on Dedicated Schools Funding and approve the Local Funding Formula factors as set out in section 13 and Appendix H to the report; and
(xi) Note the Chief Financial Officer’s Statutory Finance Report as set out in section 15 of the report, which includes a recommended minimum level of reserves of £12m.
(Standing Order 7.1 (Chapter 3, Part 2 of the Council Constitution) was suspended at this juncture to enable the meeting to continue beyond the two-hour threshold).