Cabinet received a report as part of the Council’s formal budget process set out within the constitution and legislative requirements to set a balanced budget for 2015/16 and medium term financial strategy to 2024/25.
The purpose of the report was for Cabinet to commence the second and formal process to set a balanced budget for 2015/16 and medium term financial strategy to 2024/25 in line with the provisional local government finance settlement for 2015/16.
Following Council approval of phase one budget proposals at the meeting of 17 December 2014, the report set out phase two budget proposals for consultation to enable Cabinet at its meeting on 23 February to make recommendations to be made to the meeting of Council on 4 March 2015.
Councillor Seaton introduced the report and highlighted the main issues contained within.
Cabinet debated the report and key points raised and responses to questions included:
· The proposals which had been deferred from phase one to phase two, including were subject to ongoing discussions;
· It was disappointing that comments had been made by some Members in relation to a couple of small typos contained within such an extensive and well put together report;
· There had been no increase in council tax as this would mean the Council would lose a substantial government grant awarded to council’s that froze council tax, the amount lost against any additional charges would only mean a small increase in the Council’s budget;
· Keeping council tax low was a positive thing for household finances; and
· If Council Tax was increased, this would have an incremental affect upon Council Tax Support.
Cabinet considered the report and RESOLVED:
1. To commence formal budget consultation that set a balanced budget for 2015/16 and the medium term financial strategy to 2024/5 in line with the announcement of the local government provisional settlement for 2015/16 that:
a. is set in the context of the council priorities;
b. takes note of the budget monitoring position for 2014/15;
c. presents the draft revenue budget for 2015/16 and proposed cash limits for 2016/17 to 2024/25 (including the investment and saving proposals);
d. presents the draft capital programme for 2015/16 and proposed cash limits to 2024/25 and associated capital strategy, treasury strategy and asset management plan;
e. proposes a council tax freeze in 2015/16 with indicative increases for planning purposes of two per cent for 2016/17 to 2024/25;
f. education funding is spent at the level of funding resources available to both schools and the council in 2015/16 and future estimates to 2024/25;
g. the budget for 2015/16 is supported adequately with reserves, provisions and robust budget estimates set in the context of the risks outlined in the report; and
h. presents the draft fees and charges for 2015/16.
2. To seek feedback from Scrutiny and views from all residents, partner organisations, businesses and other interested parties on the budget and budget proposals outlined in the budget consultation document for phase two;
3. To have regard for the continuing uncertainty of national public finances that would not become known until the next parliament commenced, making it unrealistic to forecast with accuracy future government grants beyond the further grant reductions; and
4. To note that government grants would not be confirmed until the final settlement was released in February 2015.
REASONS FOR THE DECISION
The Council must set a lawful and balanced budget.
The Council was required to set a Council Tax for 2015/16 within statutory prescribed timescales and in accordance with the local referendum requirements contained within the Localism Act 2011.
Before setting the level of Council Tax, the Council must have agreed a balanced budget.
ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS CONSIDERED
Alternative budget proposals had been considered and rejected by Cabinet and had also been shared with the budget working group over the budget setting period. Cabinet rejected these budget proposals on the basis that the proposals would be detrimental to public service delivery or impact on delivery of the council priorities following feedback from the budget conversation undertaken over the past few months.
Cabinet considered alternative council tax levels and for the reasons set out within the Cabinet report, recommend that the offer by government to freeze council tax represented the best value for the residents of Peterborough.