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 in Appendix 6 (Page 165) for 2020/21 from 1.2% to 1.1%, and make all the consequential changes predicted by the spreadsheet to any figure affected in the budget by them. In particular this will reduce overall net expenditure by £260,643.
In Appendix 1, Table 1a (page 119) add to the figures in line 404, £261k in each of the pay and net budget columns, so the new figures are £6412k and £4845k respectively, and the budget overall is balanced at the same net expenditure.
In Appendix 1, 1h, Children’s Services budget 2020/21 (page 126) add an additional line after the EHCP’s transport line
Youth Work 260,643
Make any further consequential changes to the budget that are required”
In presenting the amendment Cllr Sutton advised that youth clubs/centres had reduced in number dramatically across Dorset and indicated that studies commissioned had shown a correlation between a reduction within youth services and increase in school exclusions and anti social behaviour. She further highlighted that the Police and Crime Commissioner had also expressed concerns. In proposing her amendment she stated that it was essential that the council invested in youth services to ensure clubs that had survived to date kept going in the future.
Cllr Heatley advised that it was important that the council started to return to supporting youth clubs that offered such a valuable service to young people in Dorset.
Although acknowledged as a worthy cause, the Leader of the Council stated that any change in budget should be considered through policy change and the most appropriate means to do this would be through the member scrutiny process.
Cllrs P Barrow and D Gray left the meeting prior to the vote on the amendment. Upon being put to the vote the amendment was LOST.
In accordance with procedure rule 19.6 a recorded vote was taken. Those who voted in favour of the amendment:- Cllr J Andrews, M Barron, S Bartlett, D Beer, R Biggs, D Bolwell, A Brenton, K Clayton, S Cocking, T Cook, J Dover, B Ezzard, L Fry, M Hall, B Heatley, R Holloway, R Hughes, N Ireland, S Jones, P Kimber, H Legg, D Morgan, J Orrell, M Rennie, M Roe, A Starr, C Sutton, R Tarr, D Taylor, G Taylor, D Tooke, S Williams and J Worth.
Against:- Cllrs R Adkins, A Alford, P Batsone, C Brooks, P Brown, R Bryan, G
Carr-Jones, S Christopher, R Cook, T Coombs, J Dunseith, M Dyer, T Ferrari, S Flower, S Gibson, B Goringe, P Harrison, S Jespersen, C Jones, A Kerby, N Lacey-Clarke, C Lugg, L Miller, L O’Leary, E Parker, M Parkes, A Parry, M Penfold, B Pipe, V Pothecary, B Quayle, B Ridout, M Roberts, J Robinson, D Shortell, J Somper, G Sutte, D Turner, D Walsh, P Wharf and K Wheller.
There were no abstentions.
The following amendment was put by Cllr K Clayton seconded by Cllr B Heatley:-
“Amend paras 1.1 and 1.2 of the Budget Report (page 103) as follows (new text in italics, deleted text with strike- through):
1.1 The Council’s budget provides a financial framework for the Council to achieve its priorities and its cross-cutting commitment to addressing the climate and ecological emergency. These priorities are described …
1.2 The Council’s budget strategy is based on a commitment to deliver these priorities and action on the climate and ecological emergency within the resources it has available...
Amend para 4.4 (page 106) as follows
... An investment fund of £5m has been established to finance transformation projects which either have a material, lasting and positive impact on the revenue budget, and/or reflect the extra costs of doing something in a way that materially mitigates or adapts to climate change and/or improves Dorset's ecology.
Amend para 12.4 (page 114) as follows:
12.4 The work so far indicates that Dorset Council will be able to establish a prudent level of earmarked reserves and will work towards releasing some of these for investment in future service capacity and improvement once the direction of future funding is clearer. In particular, a priority for such released reserves will be the Transformation Fund (para 4.4 above) and the Council will decide in Autumn 2020 whether it is in a position to release a further £5m for this fund.”
Cllr P Barrow returned to the meeting.
In presenting the amendments, Cllr K Clayton stated that this was a modest proposal and the first part of the amendment giving the Climate and Ecological Emergency a place in the financial framework was analogous to the Corporate Plan priorities. The second part of the amendment gave substance to the first part by extending the scope of the Transformation Fund to include climate change and ecological projects and increasing its size by a further £5m in Autumn 2020 if Dorset Council’s reserves position so permitted.
Councillors discussed the amendment and particular reference was made to why the figure of £5m had been chosen? In response it was noted that the amendment was about putting climate change in the budget which would allow the opportunity for related projects to be considered in a similar way to transformation items. A request was made for there to be more ambition in this area which would require available funding.
The Portfolio Holder for Finance, Commercial and Assets recognized the aspiration of the amendment but noted that the Council should not commit money to a single issue as this could limit the ability of the Council to transform in the future. He provided examples of action already being taken in respect of climate change issues.
Upon being put to the vote the amendment was LOST. In accordance with procedure rule 19.6 a recorded vote was taken.
Those who voted in favour of the amendment:- Cllrs J Andrews, P Barrow, D Beer, R Biggs, A Brenton, K Clayton, T Cook, J Dover, B Ezzard, L Fry, M Hall, B Heatley, R Holloway, N Ireland, S Jones, P Kimber, H Legg, D Morgan, J Orrell, M Rennie, M Roe, A Starr, C Sutton, R Tarr, D Taylor, G Taylor, D Tooke and S Williams.
Those who voted against the amendments:- Cllrs R Adkins, T Alford, S Bartlett, P Batstone, C Brooks, P Brown, R Bryan, G Carr-Jones, S Christopher, S Cocking, R Cook, T Coombs, J Dunseith, M Dyer, T Ferrari, S Flower, S Gibson, B Goringe, P Harrison, R Hughes, S Jespersen, C Jones, A Kerby, N Lacey-Clarke, C Lugg, L Miller, L O’Leary, E Parker, M Parkes, A Parry, M Penfold, B Pipe, V Pothecary, B Quayle, B Ridout, M Roberts, J Robinsons, D Shortell, J Somper, G Suttle, D Turner, D Walsh, Peter Wharf, K Wheller and J Worth.
Abstentions:- Cllr M Barron
Proposed amendment Youth Centres
The following amendment was proposed by Cllr L Fry and seconded by Cllr N Ireland.
Amend item 5.2 (page 8 of report, page 106 of agenda).
5.2 Additional resources are being put into the budget to provide for increasing levels and costs of support for children and young people with more complex needs. In addition, any positive balance from the budgeted amount and actual national pay award will be directed towards provision for youth services, in the form of grants to properly constituted youth centres across Dorset. The Council is also examining how it might better use its capital budget to develop some of its own solutions to financial pressures caused by a limited national market where councils are competing for finite resources that can provide some of the services required.
Councillors discussed the issues arising from the amendment and during discussion the following points were raised:
· A point was raised that this was a modest amendment which would not commit funding until money was available. It would form a statement of intent and recognise the area as a priority
· A discussion was held in respect of the different ways that youth clubs could be supported
· A point was raised that the amendment should have been brought up and discussed during the budget scrutiny process
· The support for youth services and the intention of the amendment were recognised however it was planned to establish an executive advisory panel to look at youth services support moving forward. This was felt to be a more appropriate way of progressing the issue
· Various councillors shared their experiences of working with youth clubs within the council area
· Those councillors supporting the amendment urged the Council to vote in support so that work in this area could be progressed
· A point was raised that the amendment and the work of the executive advisory panel to be established could work alongside each other
· A point was noted that the amendment had been put forward as there were currently no proposals for youth services
· The need to support young people was recognised but a point was noted that it needed to be considered in a structured way.
Cllr P Barrow left the meeting prior to the vote taking place.
Upon being put to the vote the amendment was LOST. In accordance with procedure rule 19.6 a recorded vote was taken.
Those who voted in favour of the amendment:- Cllrs J Andrews, M Barron, S Bartlett, D Beer, R Biggs, D Bolwell, A Brenton, K Clayton, S Cocking, T Cook, J Dover, L Fry, M Hall, B Heatley, R Holloway, R Hughes, N Ireland, S Jones, P Kimber, H Legg, D Morgan, J Orrell, M Rennie, M Roe, A Starr, C Sutton, R Tarr, D Taylor, G Taylor, D Tooke K Wheller, S Williams and J Worth.
Those who voted against the amendments:- Cllrs R Adkins, T Alford, P Batstone, C Brooks, P Brown, R Bryan, G Carr-Jones, S Christopher, R Cook, T Coombs, J Dunseith, M Dyer, T Ferrari, S Flower, S Gibson, B Goringe, P Harrison, S Jespersen, C Jones, A Kerby, N Lacey-Clarke, C Lugg, L Miller, L O’Leary, E Parker, M Parkes, A Parry, M Penfold, B Pipe, V Pothecary, B Quayle, B Ridout, M Roberts, J Robinsons, D Shortell, J Somper, G Suttle, D Turner, D Walsh and Peter Wharf.
There were no abstentions.
Members returned to the original motion. Councillors thanked all those who had been involved in preparing the budget. The budget setting arrangements including the Budget Scrutiny Café had provided for a transparent process and allowed a high level of engagement.
Cllr T Ferrari proposed that the vote be taken.
Those in favour of the recommendation:- Cllrs R Adkins, A Alford, J Andrews, M Barron, S Bartlett, P Batstone, D Beer, R Biggs, D Bolwell, A Brenton, C Brooks, P Brown, R Bryan, G Carr-Jones, S Cocking, T Cook, R Cook, T Coombs, J Dover, J Dunseith, M Dyer, T Ferrari, S Flower, L fry, S Gibson, B Goringe, P Harrison, R Holloway, R Hughes, S Jespersen, S Jones, C Jones, A Kerby, P Kimber, N Lacey-Clarke, H Legg, C Lugg, L Miller, D Morgan, L O’Leary, J Orrell, E Parker, M Parkes A Parry, M Penfold, B Pipe, V Pothecary, B Quayle, M Rennie, B Ridout, M Roberts, J Robinson, M Roe, D Shortell, J Somper, A Starr, G Suttle, R Tarr, D Taylor, D Turner, D Walsh, P Wharf, K Wheller, S Williams and J Worth.
Those who voted against the recommendation:- Cllrs B Ezzard, M Hall, N Ireland and G Taylor.
Abstentions:- Cllrs K Clayton, B Heatley and C Sutton
(a) That the revenue budget summarised in Appendix 1 of the report to Council of 18 February 2020 be approved;
(b) That the increase in general council tax of 1.995%; to levy 2% as the social care precept, providing a band D council tax figure for Dorset Council of £1,694.79 be approved and
(c) That the full council tax recommendation as set out in Appendix 2 of the report be approved;
(d) That the capital strategy set out in Appendix 3 and the capital programme set out in Appendix 4 of the report be approved;
(e) That the treasury management strategy set out in Appendix 5 of the report be approved;
(f) That the assumptions used to develop the budget strategy and MTFP as set out throughout the report to Council of 18 February 2020 and summarised in Appendix 6 be approved;
(g) That the recommended balances on earmarked reserves and on general funds, including the minimum level of the general fund be approved;
(h) That the application of council tax premiums as set out in the report, for long-term empty properties, to encourage those homes back into use, be approved;
(i) That the responses to the recommendations and comments made as part of the budget scrutiny process (Appendix 8) be agreed;
(j) That the cost reductions flowing from reorganisation, summarised in Appendix 7 be 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).