To consider the Budget Strategy Report.
The Portfolio Holder for Finance, Commerical and Assets set out the budget paper for 2020 – 2021. He welcomed the input given to the budget from the Scrutiny Café event which had been a constructive challenge to the budget process. He noted the transfer of additional resources to adults and children’s social care, the movement of funding from back office to front line services and that the proposals set out a balanced budget for 2020/21 which supported those in most need in the community.
Cllr T Ferrari proposed the budget for 2020 – 2021 and this was seconded by Cllr S Flower.
The Chairman invited Group Leaders to respond to the budget proposals.
Cllr S Flower noted that it was a well presented budget which had been brought together with the cross party involvement of councillors including the key role of the scrutiny committees. He referred to work already undertaken to achieve initial convergence and further transformation work to be undertaken. Although there had been a need to increase council tax, this would enable investment in adults and children’s services and the ability to safeguard services. He expressed full support for the budget as set out in the recommendations presented to Council.
Cllr N Ireland expressed gratitude that the budget proposals refrained from cutting services. He noted that the report was honest about the challenges faced by the council but felt that the budget did not cover all areas that needed to be considered, including funding for the council’s response to the climate emergency. In particular he made reference to the use of reserves, the lack of funding from central government which did not acknowledge the need in social care, social mobility indicies and noted that residents were being faced with the maximum council tax increase. He added that he expected the Leader to engage with all councillors and for there to be ongoing monitoring and challenge through the scrutiny process. The Liberal Democrat Group had established a Shadow Cabinet in order to work on and offer genuine options for consideration.
Cllr L Fry expressed thanks to all who had worked on the budget and a desire to progress action required.
Cllr C Sutton noted that since 2010, councils had suffered huge reductions in funding from central government. She welcomed additional funding for adult and children’s services and noted that the budget process had been an inclusive process. She thanked all staff who had assisted the council but who were no longer with the council. She noted that the Green Group would be proposing amendments to the budget and it was felt that the budget could be more ambitious in the use of reserves.
Cllr P Kimber speaking as an individual, expressed a level of concern about where the budget was being spent and made particular reference to issues of deprivation and housing.
The following amendment was proposed by Cllr C Sutton and seconded by Cllr B Heatley:-
“Change the CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflation assumption underlying the budget ... view the full minutes text for item 66
To consider a report of the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Commercial and Assets.
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 ... view the full minutes text for item 115