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Cabinet news round-up

Revenue and Capital Budgets and Council Tax

Cabinet has recommended that Council Tax for an average Band D household goes up by £5 for 2017/18.

This will take the Borough Council’s share of annual Council Tax bills to £185.45.

The rest of the bills will be taken up with demands from Staffordshire County Council; Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Areas of the borough with a town and parish council will also have additional sums to pay to these bodies.

Cabinet has recommended the rise to Full Council which will meet on 22 February.

Although this is a £5 a year increase for a Band D property, four out of five homes in Newcastle-under-Lyme are in Bands A, B and C and for them the rise is equivalent to six, seven and nine pence per week.

The Council’s net estimated expenditure for the year ahead is £11,886,990.

 The Borough Council’s funding “gap” for 2017/18 is £2.728m and the Council plans to tackle this through:-

  • The increase in Council Tax mentioned above will bring in £182,000.
  • There will be £1.237m from alternative sources of finance and savings – such as the New Homes Bonus; savings from advanced payments of superannuation contributions; additional business rates income etc.
  • £667,000 from good housekeeping efficiencies and more efficient use of budgets.
  • £624,000 from staffing efficiencies – no redundancies are anticipated from these proposals.
  • £184,000 from additional income.
  • £16,000 from reduced insurance premium renewals.

Work is already going on to see how the Council can tackle other significant budget shortfalls identified over the coming years which amount to £1.224m (2018/19); £1.353m (2019/20); £384,000 (2020/21) and £274,000 (2021/22).

As far as capital projects are concerned, a £3m programme has been proposed.

Cabinet was told a significant number of new schemes would have to be deferred and there are already commitments of more than £16m which will require funding up to 2021/22.

Over the eight years from 2008/09 to 2016/17, budget “gaps” of £19.282m will have been met from a combination of savings, efficiencies and additional income whilst continuing to deliver high performing, quality services.

 

Financial and Performance Management Report to the end of Quarter Three

Members were provided with a detailed report which looks back on the first nine months of the current financial year.

In that period the Council would have expected to have spent £10,603,910 and it did in fact spend £10,857,645 – which is an adverse variance of £253,735.

The three main reasons for this were described as:-

  • Income from car parking is significantly below the amount budgeted for.
  • Kidsgrove Sports Centre is operating at a net overspend due to income shortfall.
  • Issues linked to the introduction of the new recycling and waste service has meant additional costs for staff overtime, agency staff and the short-term hire of vehicles.

To deal with these issues the Council is:-

  • Carrying out further work to review income and expenditure on all council car parks.
  • Looking at how to retain current income levels at Kidsgrove Sports Centre while also pursuing additional income. This is paying some dividends as income is £26,000 higher in the third quarter compared to the same period last year.
  • Reducing additional costs in recycling and waste by limiting overtime, daily monitoring of agency staff and optimising income from the sale of recycled materials. In addition, the replacement waste collection vehicle fleet will be delivered during February and March and this will reduce short-term hire costs, save on fuel costs and also reduce vehicle repair costs. Despite the initial difficulties, the Council still anticipates making a saving of £500,000 in the next financial year.

Since July 2016, the Council has collected 470 tonnes more of recycling than it normally would – which works out at an extra 19 tonnes every week.

The Council receives about £50 per tonne from recycling credits and selling materials generates about £100 per tonne on top of this. This is helping to reduce the cost of the service to residents.

Cabinet was also told about a number of favourable variances:-

  • Employee costs are down due to vacant posts not being filled and staff taking flexible retirements.
  • Streetscene has operated without reducing service standards despite significant underspends in staff overtime and fuel costs.
  • Additional planning income has been received due to the receipt of a large application.

 

Income Generation Project

Cabinet supported the appointment of Strategi Solutions Limited from Newcastle as its partner on a joint income project.

This involves using council land for advertising hoardings and car parking signage.

Since its launch the scheme has generated about £30,000 in profits for the Council.

An initial two year contract will be in place with an option to extend for a further year if income targets and growth proposals are met.

 

Keele University – Ambitions for Growth

Cabinet members considered a wide-ranging report which explored the wider context for Keele University’s development and growth plans.

They endorsed the direction of travel which was indicated in the report which will see growth both in the university itself as well as the Science and Business Park and the surrounding environment.

Officers were authorised to take all “reasonable, proportionate and appropriate” steps to facilitate and enable growth of the university and the area around it.

The university’s 2015-20 Strategic Plan sets out its objectives for growth.

Other work going on includes:-

  • Development of a Keele University campus masterplan.
  • The recently signed Keele Deal which involves a variety of partners – including the Borough Council – in a project to deliver hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds in investment.
  • Newcastle West masterplan – which is currently being put together and this will consider the development potential of land to the west of Newcastle including Keele golf course.
  • Keele Neighbourhood Plan – the parish council has begun this process to frame the future development of the parish over the next five years.

 

Further information

Please note the agenda and all public background papers relating to the February Cabinet meeting are available on the Council’s website via the meetings, minutes and agendas quick link on the home page.