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Agenda item

Medium Term Financial Strategy and Budget Proposals


The Cabinet Member for Corporate Services introduce the report, stating that the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) was being drafted earlier in the year than previously. There was an end of year projected revenue overspend of just over £250,000, with the projected budget gap for 2024/25 being just over £900,000, which would increase to £4.5 million by 2028/29.


The Cabinet Member outlined the two key assumptions in drafting the MTFS, which were that Council Tax would be increased up to the referendum limit, (currently 3%), given the significant risk of financial uncertainty faced by the Council, and that the income generated through fees and charges would increase by 5% overall. The proposed fees and charges and capital programme would be presented in early 2024, following the announcement of the Local Government Finance Settlement in 2024, as this would influence the proposals. 


The reserves held by the Council, and recommendations made to the Cabinet by the Corporate Services Policy Advisory Committee were outlined. It was reiterated that the Council could achieve a balanced budget in the short term, but that careful consideration would be required in future years.


In response to questions, the Director of Finance, Resources and Business Improvement stated that:


·  The deficit was mainly due to an increased demand for temporary accommodation (TA), with the number of households in TA having increased to 250. It was a priority for the relevant Director and Head of Service to mitigate the effect to the Council. If demand continued increasing, the projected end of year deficit could increase, with it possible that alternative mitigation measures would have to be considered, such as not filling staff vacancies;


·  The loss of a tenant at LoveFood Lockmeadow was disappointing, but the site was likely to have a high tenant turnover given the nature of the premises, with prospective tenants waiting for available units. The majority of the income generated at Lockmeadow was through the venues holding long-leases, such as Odeon and Hollywood Bowl. The site was now included within the recently expanded Business Improvement District (BID), and would benefit from its events calendar; 


·  The proposed park and ride saving would not affect whether the site could be brought back to use and was an administrative saving. The site remained within the Council’s ownership;


·  The savings relating to the proposed emergency planning partnership arose from having a well-resourced emergency planning team with a good emergency planning manager in post. The services’ provision was explained, to include on-call staff and a council-wide rota of supporting staff. The saving could be delivered without affecting the ability to respond to emergencies and risks; 


·  The proposals would not impact staffing, involve redundancies or remove posts;


·  The MTFS proposals had been considered by the Council’s Policy Advisory Committees, with this Committee able to review the budget proposals in entirety. The capital programme could be presented in January 2024.


In response to concerns relating to proposed saving at the Park and Ride Site and the facilities general use, the Cabinet Member stated that the service had been underutilised and cost the Council a significant amount of money through subsidy. Commercialising the service having been unsuccessful, with significant investment needed to improve bus services, but that this was not realistic in the short-term. The Cabinet Member stated that freezing parking charges in the previous financial year focused on supporting the town and the use of its facilities, over sites such as Bluewater.


During the discussion, the projected increase in income generated through fees and charges were highlighted as part of the budget setting process overall, with references made to the provision of parking for residents in the town centre, parking fees, and the importance of a cautious approach to managing and having control of the Council’s finances.


Support was expressed for the proposals, with it recommended that the Cabinet agree the draft MTFS and budget proposals contained within appendices A and B to the report.




1.  The draft Medium Term Financial Strategy for 2024/25 to 2028/29 as set out in Appendix A to the report, be approved; and


2.  The budget proposals as set out in Appendix B to the report, be approved.


Note: Councillor Hastie left the meeting at 9.04 p.m. after the item’s conclusion.

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