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Monthly Cabinet Decisions

Round-up of Cabinet Decisions - 7 February

Revenue and capital budgets

Cabinet is recommending that Full Council approves final proposals on the budget and Council Tax levels for 2018/19 at its meeting on 21 February.

The revenue and capital budgets for the next financial year have now been considered by the Finance, Resources and Partnerships Scrutiny Committee.

The Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) and the draft budget have been compiled against a continuing national picture of reduced funding from central government for local authorities.

The Council has accepted the government’s offer of a four year funding settlement covering up until 2020. The final allocation for 2018/19 was announced in February and was in line with the provisional amount which is a reduction of £359,000 or 7.8 per cent. Funding will reduce by a further £399,000, or 9.5 per cent, in 2019/20.

A funding shortfall of £1.696m is being plugged by a combination of measures including smarter procurement, good housekeeping and staff savings (no planned redundancies). Examples include a reduction in contributions to equipment replacement funds, a reduction in CCTV costs, the rationalisation of multi-functional devices and revenue savings following the move to Castle House.

The Medium Term Financial Strategy estimates the Council will face further shortfalls in the years ahead of £1.497m in 2019/20; £0.894m in 2020/21; £0.606m in 2021/22 and £0.433m in 2022/23.

The preference is to ask residents living in a Band D property to pay £5 more of Council Tax this year – £190.45 – for the services provided by the Council. This is an increase of 2.7 per cent and will raise an additional £184,000. Most homes in Newcastle-under-Lyme are classed as Band A or B – a smaller increase is being considered for these which will amount to just 6p and 7p more per week.

Overall, reserves are adequate to meet normal levels of expenditure. The level of minimum balances remains at £1.3m.

The limited capital programme allocates £1.552m to new projects such as the replacement of vehicles and equipment and £1.047m to current schemes.

It is also proposed that approximately £80,000 of costs incurred in the redundancy of the cleaners ahead of the move to Castle House is funded by the flexible use of capital receipts. This is allowed by the government in certain circumstances. Full Council is being asked to add this to the current year’s capital programme.

Continuation of the capital programme beyond 2018/19 is dependent upon the achievement of a continued programme of receipts from the disposal of assets.

Full Council is tasked with setting a robust and affordable budget.

Financial and performance management

Cabinet received a detailed update on how individual council services have performed during the third quarter of 2017/18 (October to December).

Services are generally progressing well. Out of 22 indicators monitored across four priority areas, 86 per cent met the target or were within tolerated levels.

Successes include the amount of recycling and food collected, major planning applications decisions issued within an agreed extension of time, customer contact resolved at the first point of contact, the amount of Council Tax collected, the number of people visiting the museum and leisure/recreational facilities as well as attendance at planned meetings by members.

Three indicators missed their target – the average stall occupancy rate for markets, non-major planning decisions issued within an agreed extension of time and the amount of garden waste collected. Information was supplied to explain these outcomes and what improvements are being made. For example, poor weather during December drastically reduced the amount of garden waste collected.

In a change to the reporting process, portfolio holders are now being named against each indicator they own.

Performance data is considered alongside the latest financial information.

The Council has spent £194,993 more than planned. There are several reasons for this – a shortfall in recycling income and overspending on agency/overtime costs, costs associated with the redundancies of the cleaners ahead of the move to Castle House, reduced car parking income, the independent elections review and the employment of agency staff in the elections team. The main favourable variance is employee costs in respect of a number of vacant posts and flexible retirements.

The budget for capital projects in 2017/18 totals £5,937,616. A total of £4,601,272 was expected to be spent by 31 December; the actual amount was £4,585,907, resulting in a favourable variance of £15,365.

Further quarterly updates will be provided in future reports.

Cabinet meetings

Full details of all reports considered by Cabinet are available on the Borough Council’s website – www.newcastle-staffs.gov.uk  – under the “Your Council” section.