To receive a presentation from the Executive Member for Finance and Systems.
The Executive Member for Finance and Governance gave a brief introduction to the presentation beginning with the budget gap for the year which had increased to £8.25M. The presentation detailed the main areas of the Executive’s draft budget proposals and the Executive Member for Finance and Governance highlighted the key assumptions within those proposals.
Following the presentation Councillor Axford thanked Officers and Executive Member for the work they had done in preparing the draft budget and for the presentation. Councillor Axford then asked whether car parking fees were due to increase and whether consideration had been given car to fees being means tested as a way of increasing revenue. Councillor Axford also asked about the Council’s position regarding discretionary services, for example the music service, and whether any of them would cease to be delivered by the Council.
The Executive Member responded to Councillor Axford that some answers would be provided at the meeting and others at the budget scrutiny sessions. The Executive Member then answered that consideration had not yet been given to means testing parking fines but that he would ask officers to investigate whether it could generate funds for the Council. With regards to street lighting the executive Member for Finance and Governance assured the Committee that officers would monitor the areas where lighting was to be reduced to ensure that the proposals did not impact public safety. The Executive Member of Finance stated that while discretionary services had been looked at it had not been with a view to reduce those services. The Committee were informed that the music service was struggling with capacity due to the high demand for the service.
Councillor Frass asked the Executive Member for Finance and Governance where the Council was up to on the lobbying programme. The Executive Member for Finance and Governance responded that the Council had approach local MPs and were looking to work with other stakeholders. The Director of Finance added that the role of the F20 group was not as vociferous as it had been during the previous year. The group was led by Leicestershire Council who had messaged the home secretary on two occasions regarding the funding the twenty Council’s received. Councillor Whetton added that the letter sent to the Government was copied to Graham Brady MP by Councillor Whetton along with additional wording in support. Graham Brady MP informed Councillor Whetton that he had forwarded on the letter and would use his influence to support Trafford Council in their lobbying efforts. Both the Chair and the Executive Member for Finance and Governance thanked Councillor Whetton for his support in lobbying Graham Brady MP.
Councillor Winstanley asked whether the gap reported within the presentation was additional to the savings proposed and whether further details could be given as to the proposed changes to staff terms and conditions. The Executive Member for Finance and Governance confirmed that the budget gap was additional to the savings proposed and that the staff terms and conditions was with regards to vacancy management rather than changes to staff member’s employment.
Councillor Procter noted the 8 reviews listed within the presentation and asked whether any of them were of higher priority than the others. Councillor Procter added that he felt that the enforcement activity would be a god area to focus upon to increase revenue. The Executive Member for Finance and Governance responded to the Councill and stated that all 8 areas were being considered and with regards to traffic enforcement he could confirm that it would not be a congestion charge, but rather increased enforcement of existing parking restrictions. The Committee were informed that any monies made from parking enforcement would have to fund related Council activity, such as increasing active travel provision.
Councillor Carter asked for details regarding the realignment of the treasury management fund. The Executive Member for Finance and Governance stated that due to the increase in interest rates on the cash balance that the Council held was earning more interest than expected. The other area was looking at the bad debt provision but had not looked at that yet. The Director of Finance and Systems added that there was flexibility in the amount of money the Council put aside to ensure that they could meet their debt repayment requirements.
Councillor Whetton asked whether the 1% Adult Social Care Precept was cumulative or just a one off each year and what the indexation figure for inflation would likely be and what impact it would have upon business rates payments. The Director for Finance and Systems responded that the Social Care precept had been used for several years and that it went to the Ault Social care. Stated that could provide information about how much was being brought in by the precept for a band D property. The Director of Finance and System then gave a breakdown of the inflation index and business rates and how the government had been protecting business rates payers by making a payment to Council’s to avoid increases on business rates. The Director of Finance and Systems added that Trafford Council’s business rates situation was particularly volatile due to the large amount tied into the Trafford Centre.
Councillor Whetton asked whether the government compensation would be around a 10% increase. The Director of Finance and Systems responded that had figured around a 5% increase and reminded the Committee that the government compensation did not cover all business rates.
Councillor Thompson asked about the money that came from the increase in interest rates and whether the Council could use that money for frontline services. The Director of Finance and Systems responded that it was not borrowed money but rather cash held in accounts by the Council and that any additional income gained through interest could be used on services.
Councillor Coggins asked where the decrease of £1.5M from the asset investment fund came from. The Executive Member for Finance and Governance answered that it was due to the Council not meeting projections for new investments in previous years, so the projected income had decreased.
Councillor Coggins asked about the consideration of a congestion charge and parking levy similar to what had been done by Nottinghamshire Council. The Executive Member for Finance and Governance responded that the Executive were open to all suggestions and that would be something to look at. The Executive Member for Climate Change and Transport Strategy added that he was aware of the work that had been done in Nottinghamshire and that he was looking at the possibility of replicating it in Trafford.
Following the discussions, the Chair thanked the Executive Member for Finance and Governance and the Director of Finance and Systems for attending the meeting. The Chair then confirmed that the first budget scrutiny session, to be held on the 29th November, would cover the savings from the place directorate, the Council reserves, and the investment management fund and the second session, to be held on the 1st December, was to be focused upon savings within Adult and Children’s services.
1) That the presentation be noted.
2) That the content of the Budget Scrutiny sessions be noted.