Agenda item

Policy and Budget Framework - Medium Term Financial Strategy and the Council Strategy

Minutes:

The report before members included the Budget recommendations, Medium Term Financial Strategy, Council Strategy, Budget consultation report, Scrutiny Budget report and Due Regard Statement.

The Chief Executive explained the procedure that would be followed at the meeting for setting the budget. First, Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Leader of the Council, and Cllr Ray Theodoulou, Cabinet Member for Finance and Change, would be asked to present the budget recommendations from the Cabinet.

Second, in order to reach a position where a substantive motion could be debated, the other political groups would be invited to propose amendments to the budget but there would be no debate at that stage.  This would be a departure from the normal procedure where only one amendment could be moved and discussed at any one time.  The Chairman therefore proposed that under procedure rule 23.1 the following part of procedure rule 12.5 be suspended for the duration of the budget debate:

‘Only one amendment may be moved and discussed at any one time.  No further amendment may be moved until the amendment under discussion has been dealt with.’

The Vice-chairman seconded the motion and, on being put to the vote, the motion was supported.

Once the amendments had been presented, the Chairman would call for an adjournment to provide an opportunity for the Group Leaders to reach a common position. 

After the adjournment, the Leader of the Council would advise members of those areas where it had been possible to reach agreement.  Any amendments which had not been accepted or withdrawn would then be presented by the groups, debated and voted upon. 

Thereafter all members would have an opportunity to debate the Budget in line with the normal rules of debate.  At the end of the debate, the Leader of the Council would have the right of reply. 

Finally, a recorded vote would be proposed from the Chairman on the substantive motion, seconded by the Vice-chairman.

Conservative Group

Cllr Mark Hawthorne, the Leader of the Council, and Cllr Ray Theodoulou, the Cabinet Member for Finance and Change, presented the recommendation from the Cabinet meeting held on 30 January 2019.

 

 

Cllr Hawthorne advised that the Council continued to invest in services to support the most vulnerable people in local communities but at the same time was investing in ‘place leadership’ including Vision 2050.  The Budget would result in more money for both Children’s Services and Adult Social Care.  He thanked the leadership team and staff in Children’s Services for all work as part of the Council’s improvement journey.  He said that a permanent Social Worker Academy was being created to help the Council to ‘grow its own staff’ so there was less resilience on agency social workers.  Referring to people with complex needs, he stated that the Council could no longer rely on external providers and would be setting up its own dedicated ‘step-down’ facility within the next 12 months. 

 

He noted that the Council was now in Year 2 of the £150 million investment programme in Gloucestershire’s roads.  He said that opportunities were being taken to tackle traffic congestion across the county with investment in a number of major schemes across the county.  The Council had announced a major capital investment programme in schools and was supporting the roll-out of 5G technology and superfast broadband.  Shire Hall itself was part of the regeneration of Gloucestershire with its refurbishment creating a carbon-neutral building.

 

Cllr Theodoulou stated that he was proud to second the Cabinet’s Budget recommendation.  He said that the Budget would increase by more than £16 million (3.9%) to close to £430 million.  He noted that public consultation supported the major areas of Budget allocation with Adult and Children’s Services representing 58% of the total budget, an increase of 4% compared to 2018-19.  At the same time as investing in services for the most vulnerable, the Council had made savings of around £20 million through following best practice and the introduction of new technology.  The Council’s capital programme amounted to £605 million and included investment in roads, infrastructure, schools, facilities for young people, waste management, broadband, ICT, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service and regeneration.  

 

He reminded members about the Public Sector Equality Duty and the need for them all, as decision makers on the Council Strategy and the Medium Term Financial Strategy, to show ‘due regard’.  The Due Regard Statement formed an integral part of the Council’s Budget process.

 

Liberal Democrat Group

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, and Cllr Jeremy Hilton presented the Liberal Democrat Group’s amendments to the Budget (see below).

 

Cllr Hodgkinson expressed concern that national cuts to local government funding meant that local people would suffer from a significant rise in the County Council element of the council tax with a £62 increase for band D properties.  He believed that the Budget amendments put forward would go a    long way to improving the budget without placing undue financial burdens on the Council.

 

In seconding the Budget amendments, Cllr Hilton noted that an extra £58 million would have been available to the Council if there had been a standstill Budget, adjusted for inflation, over the last 10 years. This figure had been adjusted for inflation and took account of the inclusion of Public Health within the Council’s services.  He asked members to imagine how much more the Council could achieve if an extra £58 million was available to deliver public services in 2019-20. He said that the amendments proposed by the Liberal Democrat represented a modest set of proposals to improve the Budget and deliver better services for the people of Gloucestershire.  Referring to Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, he was pleased that the Administration had scrapped plans to make savings.  He asked for a commitment from the Cabinet Member for Public Protection, Parking and Libraries not to make any savings in future and to consider increasing the Budget in coming years. 

 

a)    Waste – £43,000 to reverse the mid-week cuts to county recycling centres.

b)   Waste - £84,000 to extend opening times of recycling centres from 5 to 7pm during the Summer months.

c)    Parking - £95,000 to avoid 20% increase in the cost of residential parking permits. 

d)   Public transport - £372,000 from the MtC3 Savings Contingency to fund the pressures in maintaining subsidised bus services.

e)    Highways - £530,000 from 2019-20 Capital Receipts to increase Highways Local for each member from £20,000 to £30,000.

f)     Physical Disabilities - £134,000 from the Adult Social Care levy to avoid the 1.2% cut to Services for People with Physical Disabilities.

g)   Public Health - £200,000 from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve for additional Public Health Nurses with a focus on Mental Health. 

h)   Public Health - £50,000 one-off contribution from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve for Suicide Prevention training.

i)     Public Health - £50,000 one-off contribution from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve for additional capacity in Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) testing.

 

Labour Group

Cllr Lesley Williams, Leader of the Labour Group, and Cllr Kate Haigh presented the Labour Group’s amendments to the Budget (see below).

 

Cllr Williams stated that despite the Government protestations about the end to austerity, the Council Budget still included £21 million of savings.  She said that, while the Council had been trying to meet extra demand in Adult Social Care, Children’s Services had been neglected in recent years. She referred  to the importance of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) initiative and the impact of events early in a person’s life.  She noted that it was not just about children in care but also about addressing the needs of children on the edge of care.  She questioned whether the Council Budget was doing enough to create a more diverse county that would encourage investment in key areas.

 

In seconding the Budget amendments, Cllr Haigh advised that local government had felt the brunt of the Government’s austerity measures with 60p lost in every £1 since 2010.  She expressed concern at the impact of the increase in council tax, particularly for those people who had lost their entitlement to benefits as a result of higher thresholds.  She hoped that the Government’s Fairer Funding Review would result in a better financial settlement for Gloucestershire. 

 

a)    Children’s Services - £60,000 one-off contribution from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve to provide a District Youth Pot (£10,000 in each area) controlled by County Councillors in each District.

b)   Children’s Services - £50,000 from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve to tackle Holiday Hunger.

c)    Highways - £30,000 one-off contribution from the MTC3 Savings Contingency for mapping existing cycle ways in the county.

d)   Children’s Services - a one-off contribution of between £70,000 and £100,000 from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve to give £1,000 to each Care Leaver.

e)    Children’s Services – To further promote the Apprentice Travel Card (scheme already in the Council base budget).

 

Green Group

Cllr Rachel Smith, Leader of the Green Group, and Cllr Eva Ward presented the Green Group’s amendments to the budget (see below).

 

a)    Highways - £1 million from Carriageways’ Budget for cycle infrastructure to increase the number of segregated cycle routes.  This will reduce carbon emissions, promote safe active transport, and improve traffic flow and air quality by taking cars off the road.

b)   Highways – Reallocation to a ring-fenced Integrated Transport Budget to ensure that spending is to the direct and quantifiable benefit of public transport users, pedestrians or cyclists.

c)    Highways - £50,000 from the MtC3 Savings Contingency for an additional Think Travel Coordinator.

d)   Corporate – Reallocate funds from vacant Political Research Assistant post to employ a Public Participation Officer with responsibilities for improving public experience of engaging with Council meetings and consultations.

In addition to the Budget amendments, Cllr Smith and Cllr Ward put forward the following amendment to the Council Strategy:

 

Environment – Moratorium on road construction or expansion without a net positive impact on air quality and carbon reduction.  The MTFS to include a statement of prioritisation, such that within the Highways Capital Investment Budget, there should be independent estimates of air quality and carbon impacts of all planned Capital spend based on nationally agreed methodologies.  Future budget documents to show independent estimates of air quality and carbon impacts of all planned Capital spend. 

 

The meeting was adjourned from 12.55pm to 1.40pm for the lunch break and  to provide an opportunity for the political groups to discuss and agree amendments.

 

Debate on decisions on the Budget amendments

Following the adjournment, the Leader of the Council set out the position of the Conservative Group in relation to the Budget amendments put forward by the Liberal Democrat Group, Labour Group and Green Group.

 

Liberal Democrat Group

 

a)    Rejected: Waste – £43,000 to reverse the mid-week cuts to county recycling centres.

b)   Rejected: Waste - £84,000 to extend opening times of recycling centres from 5 to 7pm during the Summer months.

c)    Rejected: Parking - £95,000 to avoid 20% increase in the cost of residential parking permits. Specific funding not identified.

d)   Counter offer accepted: Public transport - £150,000 from the MtC3 Savings Contingency to fund the pressures in maintaining subsidised bus services.

e)    Counter offer accepted: Highways - £265,000 from 2019-20 Capital Receipts to increase Highways Local for each member from £20,000 to £25,000 (of which £15,000 relates to Capital spend).

f)     Accepted: Physical Disabilities - £134,000 from the Adult Social Care levy to avoid the 1.2% cut to Services for People with Physical Disabilities.

g)   Withdrawn subject to keeping members informed about the employment of extra Public Health Nurses:Public Health - £200,000 from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve for additional Public Health Nurses with a focus on Mental Health.  Superseded by £5 million additional funding for Mental Health in Gloucestershire.

h)   Accepted: Public Health - £50,000 one-off contribution from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve for Suicide Prevention training.

i)     Accepted: Public Health - £50,000 one-off contribution from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve for additional capacity in Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) testing.

Labour Group

 

a)    Accepted: Children’s Services - £60,000 one-off contribution from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve to provide a District Youth Pot (£10,000 in each area) controlled by County Councillors in each District.

b)    Accepted: Children’s Services - £50,000 from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve to tackle Holiday Hunger.

c)    Accepted: Highways - £30,000 one-off contribution from the MTC3 Savings Contingency for mapping existing cycle ways in the county.

d)    Counter offer accepted: Children’s Services - £50,000 one-off contribution from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve for the investment and promotion of Gloucestershire Credit Union with a specific goal of supporting Care Leavers.

e)    Accepted: Children’s Services – To further promote the Apprentice Travel Card (scheme already in the Council base budget).

Green Group

 

a)    Rejected: Highways - £1 million from Carriageways’ Budget for cycle infrastructure to increase the number of segregated cycle routes.  This will reduce carbon emissions, promote safe active transport, and improve traffic flow and air quality by taking cars off the road.

b)   Rejected: Highways – Reallocation to a ring-fenced Integrated Transport Budget to ensure that spending is to the direct and quantifiable benefit of public transport users, pedestrians or cyclists.

c)    Rejected: Highways - £50,000 from the MtC3 Savings Contingency for an additional Think Travel Coordinator.

d)   Withdrawn subject to commitment to forming a scrutiny task group to look at public engagement:  Corporate – Reallocate funds from vacant Political Research Assistant post to employ a Public Participation Officer with responsibilities for improving public experience of engaging with Council meetings and consultations.

Rejected: Environment amendment to the Council Strategy – Moratorium on road construction or expansion without a net positive impact on air quality and carbon reduction.  The MTFS to include a statement of prioritisation, such that within the Highways Capital Investment Budget, there should be independent estimates of air quality and carbon impacts of all planned capital spend based on nationally agreed methodologies.  Future budget documents to show independent estimates of air quality and carbon impacts of all planned Capital spend.

Debate then followed on the amendments that had been rejected.

 

Liberal Democrat Group rejected amendments

A number of members spoke in support of the Budget amendments relating to the recycling centres and residential parking permits.  They noted the importance of the recycling centres in encouraging the public to recycle. They  were concerned that reducing the opening times would result in more fly tipping, the costs of which would have to be picked up by others including the District Councils.  They were concerned about the proposed increase in the cost of residential parking permits when enforcement was practically non-existent in parts of the county.  A concern was also raised that residents would be encouraged to convert their front gardens to hard standing with a consequent impact on drainage and increased likelihood of flooding.

 

Other members spoke against the Liberal Democrat Group Budget amendments.  They said that the recycling centres were not closed on the busiest days and changing the opening hours again would be confusing to local residents.  The Council was investing in the latest equipment to improve efficiency and safety at each site.  The recycling rate was 54% and continued to increase.  Referring to residential parking permits, they advised that their cost had not risen since 2009 and the proposed increase was still less than inflation over the intervening period.  They noted that a number of members had requested parking reviews in particular parts of the county and each one cost money to undertake.

 

On being put to the vote, the three Liberal Democrat Group amendments relating to the recycling centres and residential parking permits were not supported.

 

Green Group rejected amendments

A number of members spoke in support of the Budget amendments relating to cycle infrastructure, ring-fencing the Integrated Transport Budget and an additional Think Travel Co-ordinator.  As well as the environmental and lifestyle benefits, they noted the untapped economic benefits associated with cycling.  They believed that it was important to take steps now to tackle climate change and remove cars from the road.  A member questioned the value of a Council Strategy that promoted building roads that would result in more pollution from cars.  They felt that it was unsustainable and more work was required on developing proper alternatives to cars and improving public transport. 

 

Other members spoke against the Green Group Budget amendments.  They said that a great deal was being done to support cycling through carriageway repairs and putting in place new cycle routes.  They referred to a new cycle scheme in Lydney and the work being undertaken to develop a new cycle route between Gloucester and Cheltenham.  They believed that the Integrated Transport Budget was being used in the right way to support sustainable travel across the county.  In terms of roads, they noted the investment in schemes to reduce travelling times and improve traffic flows which would reduce air pollution in particular areas.  They recognised the need to put in place the infrastructure to allow new housing targets to be met.            

 

On being put to the vote, the three Green Group amendments relating to the cycle infrastructure, ring-fencing the Integrated Transport Budget and an additional Think Travel Co-ordinator were not supported. The amendment to the Council Strategy for a moratorium on road construction or expansion without a net positive impact on air quality and carbon reduction was not supported.

                       

General debate on the Budget 

Members acknowledged the work of officers in bringing the Budget and Council Strategy together and they thanked them for all their efforts.

 

Each of the Cabinet Members expressed support for the budget proposals and highlighted the investment in services within their own portfolios. 

 

Whilst welcoming the Budget amendments that had been agreed, some members expressed concern at the lack of funding for critical services.  They highlighted the need for more investment in roads, bus services, Early Years and Adult Social Care.  They did not believe that enough was being done to assess the impact of changes proposed to services before they were implemented. They suggested that the Council might have missed opportunities for commercial investment that would generate income.  They were concerned that Government was reducing central support and increasing the taxation burden on councils and local people.  

 

In summing up, Cllr Hawthorne advised that the Budget represented a £16 million (3.9%) increase in expenditure and was delivering extra money to the areas where it was most needed.  He believed that the Council was in a stronger financial position than most other councils and was able to invest in Adult Social Care, improving Children’s Services and major infrastructure including M5 Junction 10 and the A417 Missing Link.

 

On being put to the vote, it was:

 

RESOLVED

1

 

2

    That the Council Strategy 2019-2022 be approved.

 

To approve the following Budget amendments:

 

a)    Public transport - £150,000 from the MtC3 Savings Contingency to fund the pressures in maintaining subsidised bus services.

b)    Highways - £265,000 from 2019-20 Capital Receipts to increase Highways Local for each member from £20,000 to £25,000 (of which £15,000 relates to Capital spend).

c)    Physical Disabilities- £134,000 from the Adult Social Care Levy to avoid the 1.2% cut to Services for People with Physical Disabilities.

d)    Public Health - £50,000 one-off contribution from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve for Suicide Prevention training.

e)    Public Health - £50,000 one-off contribution from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve for additional capacity in Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) testing.

f)     Children’s Services- £60,000 one-off contribution from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve to provide a District Youth Pot (£10,000 in each area) controlled by county councillors in each District.

g)    Children’s Services- £50,000 from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve to tackle Holiday Hunger.

h)    Highways - £30,000 one-off contribution from the MTC3 Savings Contingency for mapping existing cycle ways in the county.

i)     Children’s Services- £50,000 one-off contribution from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve for the investment and promotion of Gloucestershire Credit Union with a specific goal of supporting Care Leavers.

j)      Accepted: Children’s Services – To further promote the Apprentice Travel Card (scheme already in the Council base budget).

3

       To note the overall financial impact of the Budget amendments as follows:

            £265,000 from Capital receipts

£134,000 from the Adult Social Care Levy

£180,000 from MtC3 Savings Contingency (£150,000 recurring)

£260,000 from the Vulnerable People’s Reserve 

 

4

 

That, having considered the additional consultation responses and the Public Sector Equality Duty Due Regard Statement, approval is given to the MTFS and the revenue and capital budgets for 2019-20, council tax for each valuation band, and to issue precepts on each district allocation fund as set out below:

 

 

a)     Gloucestershire County Council 2019-20 Budget:

 

 

£000

 

 

Original 2018-19 Budget

413,481

 

 

Inflation

4,388

 

 

Cost and spending increases

32,727

 

 

Cost reductions

-20,935

 

 

Total

429,661

 

 

Less:

 

 

 

Settlement funding

Public Health Grant

Improved Better Care Fund

New Homes Bonus

Other non-ring fenced grants

Collection Fund Surplus

Reserves

83,522

23,630

13,337

3,043

2,365

3,779

2,230

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total to be precepted (Council Tax Requirement)

297,755

 

 

 

 

  Taxbase

Total precept

 

 

 

                         Total

£

 

 

Cheltenham

           42,648.20

55,173,976

 

 

Cotswold

           41,683.06

53,925,375

 

 

Forest of Dean

           29,027.62

37,553,032

 

 

Gloucester City

           37,932.30

49,073,016

 

 

Stroud

           44,281.65

57,287,171

 

 

Tewkesbury

           34,585.03

44,742,653

 

 

Total

230,157.86

297,755,223

 

 

b)

 

 

 

 

5

 

 

 

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That approval is given to the Capital programme set out in Annex 8a of the detailed MTFS, and delegated authority is given to the Section 151 Officer to vary allocations between individual schemes in consultation with the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Change.

 

That the Council approves the Capital Strategy, set out in Annex 7 of the detailed MTFS, the Treasury Management Strategy and the Non-Treasury Investment Strategy for 2019-20, set out in Annex 10 of the detailed MTFS.

 

That approval is given to the Operational Boundary and Authorised Limits of Borrowing, as set out in the Treasury Management Strategy, at Annex 7 in the detailed MTFS as follows:

 

Authorised limit and Operational boundary

2017-18

Limit

£m

2018-19

Limit

£m

2019-20

Limit

£m

2020-21

Limit

£m

2021-22

Limit

£m

Total authorised limit for external debt and other liabilities

363.000

380.000

910.000

900.000

890.000

Split:

External debt        

 

343.000

 

360.000

 

305.000

 

346.000

 

352.000

Other liabilities

  20.000

  20.000

605.000

554.000

538.000

Total operational boundary for external debt

 

360.000

 

360.000

 

890.000

 

880.000

 

870.000

Split:

External debt

 

340.000

 

340.000

 

285.000

 

326.000

 

332.000

Other liabilities

  20.000

  20.000

605.000

554.000

538.000

 

a)    Noting the authorised limit for 2019-20 will be the statutory limit determined under Section 3(1) of the Local Government Act 2003.

b)    That the approval is given to the Prudential Indicators for Treasury Management set out in Annex 10 of the detailed MTFS for

 

 

 

(i)

The maturity structure of borrowings, and

 

 

 

(ii)

The upper limit of principal sums invested for more than 364 days of £200 million.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That the Council approves the schools funding set out in Section G and Annex 9 in the detailed MTFS.

 

 

A motion for a recorded vote had been proposed and seconded by the Chairman and Vice-chairman. 

 

The voting on the substantive motion on the Budget was as follows:

 

For (30): Cllrs Carole Allaway Martin, Phil Awford, Matt Babbage, Rob Bird, Richard Boyles, Kevin Cromwell, Stephen Davies, Andrew Gravells, Terry Hale, Tim Harman, Mark Hawthorne, Stephen Hirst, Dr Andrew Miller, Patrick Molyneux, Nigel Moor, David Norman, Shaun Parsons, Sajid Patel, Loraine Patrick, Alan Preest, Brian Robinson, Vernon Smith, Lynden Stowe, Ray Theodoulou, Brian Tipper, Pam Tracey, Robert Vines, Kathy Williams, Roger Wilson and Will Windsor-Clive

 

Against (2): Cllrs Rachel Smith and Eva Ward

 

Abstentions (18): Cllrs David Brown, Chris Coleman, Dr John Cordwell, Iain Dobie, Bernard Fisher, Kate Haigh, Joe Harris, Colin Hay, Jeremy Hilton, Paul Hodgkinson, Graham Morgan, Brian Oosthuysen, John Payne, Nigel Robbins, Steve Robinson, Simon Wheeler, Lesley Williams and Suzanne Williams