Agenda item

Budget Scrutiny

The scrutiny committee is 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 2022/23 prior to consideration at Cabinet on 18 January 2022 and Full Council on 15 February 2022. 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 2022/23.  In addition, following the receipt by the council of the provisional local government finance settlement for 2022/23 on 16 December 2021, a supplement to the report had been published, which provided an update on various issues.


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 18 January 2022 and taken into consideration as part of the budget setting process.


The Executive Director of Place and Executive Director of Corporate Development and relevant portfolio holders provided a short introduction to their budget areas and in addition, the Corporate Director for Finance and Commercial provided an overview of Central Finance and Capital issues.  Following this, councillors discussed the issues arising.


Further to the discussion held, the Senior Democratic Services Officer and 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:




·            Fees and Charges – a regular financial report should be presented to the appropriate committee with regard to the monitoring of Dorset Council fees and charges

·            Fees and Charges – the Council should further explore and take into account inflation and market rates when setting increases to fees and charges for Council services

·            There may be a need for additional resource to progress work around the Dorset Council Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy and Action Plan.  This is linked to the point noted above related to opportunities for securing additional budget from raising fees and charges

·            Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Transport Savings – potential risk for the budget is identified in this area.  It is noted that further work is to be undertaken and future reporting to councillors will be undertaken through the Council’s transformation project

·            Car Parking – the committee wish to flag to Cabinet the potential risk that the new car parking regime (phases 1 and 2) may not generate sufficient income for the Council’s highways management requirements.  This needs to be kept under review.


At this point in the meeting, the committee had a five-minute adjournment and returned at 12.51pm.  The Chairman held a roll-call of committee members – those present: Councillors S Bartlett, A Canning, J Andrews, M Roberts, D Tooke and B Trite.


It was proposed by J Andrews seconded by M Roberts that the meeting continue beyond the 3-hour limit as set out in the Constitution.




·            Revenues and Benefits Service for Dorset Council – a potential risk is identified as the exit clause/fee for the existing arrangements with BCP Council is a negotiated amount and is yet to be factored into the budget.


Central Finance and Capital


·            Cost of Covid-19 to Dorset Council – this is flagged up as a significant risk and there is a need for a better understanding of what the Covid-19 Pandemic has cost the Council to date

·            Future finance settlements – there is currently uncertainty around future settlements to the Council and a report on the implications of this is requested to be presented to the Scrutiny Committee at an appropriate time

·            Provision of rural services – the Council needs to continue to lobby the Government for a better/fairer deal and understanding of the financial impact on the Council of providing rural services

·            There is a concern that the Government has not yet completed the detail of the social care reforms, therefore councillors are not in a position to be able to scrutinise the complete picture

·            Capital Programme – there is a need to continue to keep the Council’s capital programme under review in terms of its affordability and alignment with the Council’s priorities.


The Chairman thanked officers and portfolio holders for their work on the budget and the committee and other councillors present for their contribution to the meeting.

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