Agenda item

Budget and Medium-Term Financial Plan Strategy report

To receive a report of the Corporate Director for Finance and Commercial.


The committee was invited to consider the budget proposals for 2024/25 prior to consideration at Cabinet on 30 January 2024 and Full Council on 13 February 2024. The report gave a summary of progress to date on the budget strategy and process and provided the opportunity for the scrutiny committees to review further, budget assumptions and actions being proposed to deliver a balanced budget for 2024/25.


The Place and Resources Scrutiny Committee had the opportunity to consider the implications of the proposals on behalf of residents of Dorset and to provide constructive challenge to decision makers before a final decision was made. It was noted that the comments made by the committee would be reported to Cabinet on 30 January 2024 and taken into consideration as part of the budget setting process.


A short introduction and overview of the budget proposals was provided by the Executive Director of Corporate Development followed by an exploration of the budget proposals in a number of key theme areas.


Further to the discussion held, the Chairman provided a summary of the key points raised during the discussion in relation to each area covered by the committee and noted that the points below would be submitted to Cabinet as part of the budget setting process:


Workforce Issues


·       The committee note that Dorset Council has spent around £14m a year over the last couple of years on the employment of agency staff, which is a more expensive option. It is flagged up that driving forward the transformation process is imperative to reduce costs in this area

·       It is important that Legal Services staffing is kept to full strength in order to mitigate the risk to the council

·       There needs to be sufficient funding and focus on communications and engagement to ensure that the council’s recruitment programme is successful

·       The committee recognise that the recruitment and retention of staff continues to be a challenge particularly with the wage economy, competition with other local authorities and with a national shortage of local government officers in some service areas.



·       Clarification is sought on the position with Public Works Loans as this may affect Dorset Council’s working with town and parish councils

·       The committee is confident with the Invest to Save strategy and transformation project

·       It is noted that the sponsorship and income stream through the use of council assets could be developed further to become more commercial and bring in a bigger income for the council

·       The committee note the role of the Our Future Council programme to find efficiencies and transformation in services, with an initial focus on Place and Corporate areas.  Assurance will be sought on progress with the programme in September/October 2024 with regular monitoring opportunities for councillors provided.

Home to School Transport


·       There is a need for additional placements at the Dorset Centre of Excellence to be progressed at pace to assist with relieving SEN budget pressures

·       The committee highlight the importance of Dorset Council working with maintained schools and academies to progress the necessary SEND infrastructure to mitigate against SEND travel costs and to enable education at a more local level.

Waste Services


·       The committee is content with the budget proposals in this area.

At this point in the meeting, it was proposed by D Shortell seconded by D Tooke and agreed by the committee, that the meeting continue beyond the 3-hour limit as set out in the Constitution.




·       The committee recognise the need to ensure adequate capacity of staffing in planning as a large statutory planning authority and the risk that not having adequate capacity could pose to the budget

·       The Council should lobby the Government to be more flexible within the planning approach, although it is noted that guidance on new legislation is awaited and further discussion can take place at this time.

At this point in the meeting, the committee had a twenty-minute adjournment and returned at 1.45pm.


Property and Assets


·       Councillors are generally content with the strategy in this area but note that the council should be mindful of when assets are costing significant money to maintain.

Car Parking


·       It is noted that this area will be subject to scrutiny later in 2024 and debate will be held at this time.

Funding for Dorset


·       The committee ask the Leader and portfolio holders to continue to lobby Government to demand a better funding deal for Dorset.

Commercial Strategy


·       The committee request that a task and finish group be established post May 2024 to consider the council’s commercial strategy.

Partnership Working


·       The committee note the theme of the Our Future Council programme around the working relationship between Dorset Council and town and parish councils and note that it would be helpful for Dorset Council to produce a list of items that could be discussed for potential sharing or devolution.


The Chairman thanked officers and portfolio holders for their work on the budget and input at the meeting.

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