Agenda item

Budget Scrutiny

The scrutiny committees are asked to consider the budget proposals on behalf of the residents of Dorset, and to provide constructive challenge to decision-makers before a final decision is made.


The committee was invited to consider the budget proposals for 2021/22 prior to consideration at Cabinet on 19 January 2021 and Full Council on 16 February 2021. 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 and sustainable budget for 2021/22.


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 19 January 2021 and taken into consideration as part of the budget setting process.


The Executive Director of Place and Executive Director of Corporate Development provided a short introduction to their budget areas and following this, councillors discussed the issues arising.


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:




·                Consideration to be given to developing an approach to increase car parking fees by 5% across the board.  This to be flagged up as a direction of travel for officers to undertake more detailed work on.

·                There is a need for careful funding plans for any future transition of libraries or tourist information centres.


·                Concern expressed with regard to the availability of budget/resources for work identified in the Dorset Council Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy action plan and the potential issues this may have on the climate and the reputation of the council.  The committee wishes to support the Leader of the Council in the continued lobbying of the government for a fairer funding deal for local government and the exploration of additional funding from government.


·                Councillors appointed as Dorset Council representatives on outside bodies are encouraged to resist requests for increases in funding for these bodies at this time.


·                Concern over the level of resource available for planning enforcement activities.  Note – this area to be reviewed by the Place and Resources Scrutiny Committee at the January 2021 meeting.


·                There is a need to review the impact of proposed reductions to staff training budgets.  The example raised at committee was within the Place budget and a reduction of 20%.  As a post meeting note, the Director of Place notes that this review may need to go wider than Place as it is thought that the council is proposing reductions across the board – therefore this may need to be dealt with as a corporate issue.


Corporate Development


·                There is a requirement for increased capacity in the Democratic Services, Team with particular reference to support to overview and scrutiny functions, if resources are available in the budget.


·                A concern is raised in respect of capacity within the Legal Services Team in order to ensure that the council can conduct its business requirements.

·                Concern raised with regard to the proposed level of council tax increase for residents linked to the current situation with Covid-19 and EU exit and the impact that this may have on the council’s collection rates.

·                The impact on the council of delays in the valuing of banding for new properties needs to be kept under review.

·                A request is made to include scrutiny of the Base Budget in next year’s budget scrutiny process.


·                Additional information is requested to be included in the appendices provided with the budget report – additional columns are requested in order to set out the current budget for each area and the variance between the current budget and the proposal for the next year’s budget.

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