Decision details

Budget Strategy Report

Decision Maker: Cabinet, Dorset Council

Decision status: Recommendations approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: No


In the absence of the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Commercial and Assets, the Chairman (Leader of the Council) presented the Budget Strategy for 2020-2021.

The Chairman advised that the budget carried forward many aspects of the submitted paper to the scrutiny committee(s), but had been improved following their engagement.  The Chairman thanked Scrutiny for their contribution and their constructive challenge to the budget process.

Cabinet was advised that there was two key focuses that underpinned the budget.  The transfer of resources to front line services, in particular Adult Social Care and Children’s Services. £11.7m had been added to the expenditure on the most vulnerable adults in the Dorset area and £10.3m was to be spent on children with care or educational needs.

The budget increased the council tax burden to residents by just under 4% and this proposed increase was considered carefully before being presented to members, but was necessary to meet the needs of Dorset’s most vulnerable residents.  The council tax increase provided £9.6m which was less than half of the extra money allocated to the care services.  Members noted that the formation of the unitary council meant that there would be not cut in services through the budget presented to members for 2020-2021

The second element of the budget related to the move of money from back office tasks to front line services.  The creation of the unitary council had allowed a reduction to central costs, including a slim-lined leadership team, reduction in councillors and the removal of duplication across other levels of the organisation.  This rationalising would continue in future years. 

In proposing the recommendation to Full Council, the Chairman advised that this was a balanced budget that members could have confidence in. 

In response to questions from non-executive councillors, the Executive Director of Corporate Development explained that there had been minor changes from the figures presented to the Scrutiny Committee(s) as more details of funding had recently being announced by Government, in particular details of the New Homes Bonus. Members noted that there may be some further very minor adjustments to the final figures to be presented to Full Council on 18 February 2020, to take account of rounding’s in the calculation of the precept bandings.

Both the Portfolio Holders for Children, Education and Early Help and Adult Social Care and Health welcomed the budget; they acknowledged that the Blue Print for Change and other transforming projects must continue at pace,  in order that the council was able to respond to increasing demand. However it was also essential that councillors continued to lobby central government regarding future funding for Dorset.

Members also welcomed the proposed approach to policy change that was intended to encourage owners of long-term empty properties to return these to homes of use.

In response to questions, the Executive Director of Corporate Development confirmed that senior officer of the council had been part of the budget process to ensure their departmental budgets were realistic stating that it was important that officers understood budget expectations.

Recommendation to Full Council


1.    That the revenue budget summarised in Appendix 1 be approved;

2.    That the increase in general council tax of 1.995% and to levy 2% as the social care precept, providing a band D council tax figure for Dorset Council of £1,694.7, be approved:

3.    That the capital strategy set out in Appendix 3 and the capital programme set out in Appendix 4, be approved;

4.    The treasury management strategy set out in Appendix 5, be approved;

5.    That the assumptions used to develop the budget strategy and MTFP as set out throughout the report be Cabinet and summarised in Appendix 6, be approved;

6.    That the recommended balances on earmarked reserves and on general funds, including the minimum level of the general fund, be approved;

7.    That the application of council tax premiums as set out in the report to Cabinet, for long-term empty properties, to encourage those homes back into use, be approved;

8.    That the responses to the recommendations and comments made as part of the budget scrutiny process, as set out in Appendix 8 of the report be agreed.


The cost reductions flowing from reorganisation as summarised in Appendix 7 of the report to cabinet were received and noted.


Reason for Recommendation:     

The Council is required to set a balanced revenue budget, and to approve a level of council tax as an integral part of this.

The Council is also required to approve a capital strategy, a capital programme and budget, and a treasury management strategy.

The draft budget proposals have been considered and endorsed by the four Dorset Council scrutiny committees (People, Place, Resources and Health).

Report author: Aidan Dunn

Publication date: 17/02/2020

Date of decision: 28/01/2020

Decided at meeting: 28/01/2020 - Cabinet

Accompanying Documents: