Agenda item

Policy and Budget Framework - Medium Term Financial Strategy

Minutes:

The report before members included the budget report and recommendations, Medium Term Financial Strategy, budget consultation report, scrutiny budget report, and Equality Impact Assessment.

 

The Chief Executive explained the procedure for this item, which would be the same process as used for the Council Strategy, except that a recorded vote would be proposed by the Chairman, and seconded by the Vice-Chairman, at each stage of the debate.

 

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 Council Strategy 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.

 

Conservative Group

 

Cllr Stowe and Cllr Hawthorne presented the recommendations from the Cabinet meeting held on 26 January 2022.

 

Cllr Stowe explained that the recommendation detailed in the report had since been updated because of changes in grant funding. Thanking members for their involvement in the budget scrutiny process, he stated his view that the budget proposals were the most positive for a generation based on the most positive statement from government for a generation. He stated that the budget formed the basis for investing in today, as well as investing in building back better for tomorrow.

 

Cllr Stowe explained that they would be asking taxpayers to pay an extra 1.99 percent, plus an extra 1 percent that was ringfenced for adult social care, but that this remained one of the lowest county council taxes in the Country.

 

Emphasising that the most vulnerable people in the County would always be the top priority, Cllr Stowe highlighted the extra £14million in this year’s budget for Children’s Services and £9million for Adults Social Care and for those living with disabilities. An extra £2million would be pumped into Community Safety to ensure that the County’s firefighters were equipped and trained to the highest standards; an extra £2.7 million would go towards highways maintenance; and £1million would go towards combatting climate change. Additionally, Highways Local had been firmly embedded within the budget.

 

Continuing to the capital programme, it was iterated that a further £100million would be invested into roads; £150million into new schools and refurbishments; and £20million into cycle routes. It was also noted that the general reserve position of just short of £22million was considered to be at the appropriate level.

 

Members were informed that the public had indicated its support for the proposed budget, as evidenced by the results of the public consultation.

 

Cllr Hawthorne, in seconding the proposed budget recommendations, endorsed the budget that would deliver for Gloucestershire and build back better over the coming 12 months.

 

Liberal Democrat Group

 

 

Proposal

One off or ongoing?

2022/23 Cost £000s

Revenue or Capital

 

Funded from

1

Reserve to fund shovel-ready 20mph schemes in 22/23

One off

450

Capital

£100k from cancelling council chamber upgrades + £350k from Council Tax (CT) & National Non Domestic Rates (NNDR) growth

2

TRO reserve

One off

100

Revenue

£94k from General Reserves + £6k from CT and NNDR growth

3

Reserve to fund initiatives coming out of the Levelling Up Conference

One off

120

Revenue

£88k of unspent money from the Growing our Communities Reserve + £32k from CT & NNDR growth

4

Trading standards

One off

40

Revenue

£40k from CT & NNDR growth

5

Scrapping resident parking fee increase for all households for one year

One off

33

Revenue

£33k from CT and NNDR growth

6

Additional funding for EV charging points targeted at rural communities

One off

88

Capital

£88k from CT & NNDR growth

Cllr Hodgkinson and Cllr Colin Hay proposed the amendments from the Liberal Democrat Group:

 

 

Cllr Hodgkinson stated that he was pleased to share these fully funded amendments, which were focused on protecting the public, helping struggling communities burdened by the highest inflation rate for 30 years, and protecting the environment, particularly in light of one of the warmest winters in history.

 

Cllr Hay seconded these amendments, stating that they were trying to make a difference to the lives of residents now. He expressed concern that the Cabinet Member for Finance and Change was proud that the Council had one of the lowest council taxes is the Country, suggesting that the Council was underfunded to the extent that it could not deliver some of the services it wanted to. He also thanked officers for their support when working up these budget amendments.

 

Labour Group

 

Cllr Bloxsom and Cllr Thomas proposed the amendments from the Labour Group:

 

 

Proposal

One off or ongoing?

2022/23 Cost £000s

Revenue or Capital

 

Funded from

1

Children's Social Care Services - resilience and improvement action

One off

220

Revenue

CT/NNDR Growth

2

Bus Services - increased subsidy in particular for towns and rural areas

One off

300

Revenue

CT/NNDR Growth

3

Climate Emergency Jury - set up of a cross generational group

One off

25

Revenue

CT/NNDR Growth

 

Cllr Bloxsom explained that the amendment for funding for Children’s Social Care Services was to help tackle the staff turnover problem in this area by encouraging workforce retention. Additionally, he explained that the amendment to subsidise bus services in towns and rural areas would help those services struggling during this period of crisis. He expressed concern that the Bus Service Improvement Plan might not prove to be ‘the cavalry’ it was claimed to be.

 

Cllr Thomas, in seconding these amendments, added that there was little in the budget to tackle the needs of communities in relation to bus services, and that their amendment could help to address the issue.

                                            

Green Group

 

Cllr Cody and Cllr Chloe Turner proposed the amendments from the Green Group. It was noted that they had intended to propose 3 amendments but had decided to withdraw one:

 

 

Proposal

One off or ongoing?

2022/23 Cost £000s

Revenue or Capital

 

Funded from

1

Resource for county wide biodiversity management officer, to identify opportunities on GCC land, and on other public estate in partnership with CLG members

One off

45

Revenue

Additional council tax receipts                            (within Technical & Countywide)

2

Circular economy project: establishment of pilot “tip shop” reuse outlet at one of the HRCs

One off

90

Capital

From Unallocated £90k within ‘Waste Disposal – schemes under £250k 21/22 onwards’

3

Withdrawn: Two-year pilot post of Farm Environment Adviser in each of Cotswolds, Stroud and Forest of Dean (our most rural districts), £135k per year

22/23 and 23/24

270

Revenue

Additional council tax receipts                            (within Technical & Countywide)

 

Cllr Cody explained that she hoped the two amendments would support the recommended budget by working to address climate change. Cllr Cody emphasised the inextricable link between nature and the climate emergency, as well as the importance of nature in supporting wellbeing and the economy. By introducing a countywide biodiversity management officer, the Council would also ensure that it fulfilled its new duties under the Environment Act.

 

Cllr Cody continued to explain the benefits of the amendment for a pilot ‘tip shop’ in that it would support the Council’s ambition to reduce waste and increase recycling, whilst also providing learning, financial and health opportunities for residents and supporting the economy.

 

Cllr Turner seconded the amendments, reiterating that they would help to further progress the Council’s ambition to reach net zero carbon emissions, and that these amendments reflected the urgency needed in the Council’s response to the climate emergency. She emphasised the opportunity to show real leadership in this area by providing support to local partners and setting an example to local businesses.

 

The Chairman adjourned the meeting until 2.15pm for Group Leaders to discuss the proposed amendments and identify areas of agreement.

 

Debate on the Budget Amendments

 

Following the adjournment, Cllr Hawthorne set out the position of the Conservative Group in relation to the budget amendments put forward by the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green Groups.

 

The following were accepted as friendly amendments to the budget proposal:

 

Political Group

Proposal

2022/23 Cost £000s

Revenue or Capital

Approved or Revised

Approved/ Revised Figure

Lib Dem

Reserve to fund shovel-ready 20mph schemes in 22/23

450

Capital

Revised to add £250k to Community Speedwatch funded from CT / NNDR

250

Lib Dem

TRO reserve

100

Revenue

Revised funded from CT / NNDR

100

Lib Dem

Scrapping resident parking fee increase for all households for one year.

33

Revenue

Agreed

33

Green

Resource for county wide biodiversity management officer, to identify opportunities on GCC land, and on other public estate in partnership with CLG members

45

Revenue

Agreed

45

Green

Circular economy project: establishment of pilot “tip shop” reuse outlet at one of the HRCs

90

Capital

Revised to £120k funded from CT / NNDR

120

 

The following amendments were not accepted:

 

Political Group

Proposal

2022/23 Cost £000s

Revenue or Capital

Rejected

Lib Dem

Trading standards

40

Revenue

VOTE Rejected - but MTFS bid expected for next financial year

Lib Dem

Additional funding for EV charging points targeted at rural communities

88

Capital

VOTE Rejected

Labour

Bus Services - increased subsidy in particular for towns and rural areas

300

Revenue

VOTE Rejected

 

The following amendments were withdrawn:

 

 

Political Group

Proposal

2022/23 Cost £000s

Revenue or Capital

Lib Dem

Reserve to fund initiatives coming out of the Levelling Up Conference

120

Revenue

Green

Two-year pilot post of Farm Environment Adviser in each of Cotswolds, Stroud and Forest of Dean (our most rural districts), £135k per year

270

Revenue

Labour

Children's Social Care Services - resilience and improvement action

220

Revenue

Labour

Climate Emergency Jury - set up of a cross generational group

25

Revenue

The debate on the amendments that had not been accepted then followed.

 

Liberal Democrat Group amendments

 

Some members spoke in support of the proposed amendment for additional funding for EV charging points targeted at rural communities, highlighting that this reserve would fill the gap in the Council’s EV strategy. They stressed that all chargers currently in the strategy would only be implemented if the Government felt they were necessary, which could affect rural communities, and a concern was raised that chargers might only be established in Cheltenham and Gloucester.  It was also highlighted that the sooner these charging points were funded, the sooner residents might choose to change their mode of transport to electric.

 

The Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning responded to the concerns raised. Whilst he acknowledged that the proposed amendment was well intentioned, he expressed his view that there was not a gap in the current strategy and explained that certain rural areas would receive EV charging points. He advised that the suggestion that government funding would only be available for large towns was inaccurate and stressed that the Council was actively looking at rural locations as part of the scheme. He added that he was open to conversations with parishes and communities on the issue.

 

A few members also spoke in support of the proposed amendment for Trading Standards. They stressed the need for funding to retain an agency staff worker within the team to provide continuity of service whilst junior staff members were fully trained. Concern was raised over the continued cuts to funding for this team, and that to refuse this proposed funding would be to put communities at an increased risk of rogue traders.

 

The Cabinet Member for Public Protection, Parking and Libraries responded to the concerns raised by stating that he regularly met with the Trading Standards team to discuss the issues of the team’s budget, staffing and future work. He explained that the team had underspent its budget for the last two years, but should the need arise, he would submit an MTFS bid to ensure the team could meet the needs of residents.

 

On being put to a recorded vote, those Liberal Democrat Group amendments which had not been accepted by the Conservative Administration as friendly amendments were not supported.

 

For (18): Cllrs Paul Baker, John Bloxsom, David Brown, Linda Cohen, David Drew, Ben Evans, Rebecca Halifax, Colin Hay, Alex Hegenbarth, Jeremy Hilton, Paul Hodgkinson, Graham Morgan, Gill Moseley, Steve Robinson, Lisa Spivey, Wendy Thomas, Roger Whyborn and Suzanne Williams.

 

Against (25): Cllrs Carole Allaway-Martin, Phil Awford, Matt Babbage, Alastair Chambers, Stephen Davies, Stephan Fifield, Andrew Gravells, David Gray, Terry Hale, Tim Harman, Mark Hawthorne, Stephen Hirst, Nick Housden, Mark Mackenzie-Charrington, Andrew Miller, Dominic Morris, Emma Nelson, Dave Norman, Alan Preest, Philip Robinson, Vernon Smith, Lynden Stowe, Brian Tipper, Kathy Williams and Susan Williams.

 

Abstained (4): Cllrs Cate Cody, Beki Hoyland, Chris McFarling and Chloe Turner.

 

Labour Group amendments

 

Several members spoke in support of the proposed amendment for bus services. Whilst recognising additional funds had been made available for highways and cycle routes, they argued that little, apart from funding for demand responsive services, had been set aside to address the gap in the bus service network. They highlighted the importance of this proposed subsidy in supporting struggling bus services which had been hit hard by the pandemic, as well as supporting residents commuting to work and school.

 

The Cabinet Member for Economy, Education and Skills explained that the proposed sum of £300k to fund the amendment would at best subsidise two routes and did not compare to the amount the Council already provided as subsidies for public and community transport. He advised that he would make a representation to the Chancellor regarding continued support for bus services affected by the pandemic, and stated that the Council’s Bus Service Improvement Plan reflected the Council’s commitment to changing the bus service landscape across Gloucestershire.

 

The Leader of the Council also echoed that the figure proposed by the Labour Group was not sufficient to achieve what the amendment was proposing, and that was why it had been rejected by the Conservative Administration.

 

Some members restated their view that the figure proposed would make a difference in helping to encourage a few more people to take the bus and in providing a lifeline to those individuals who may otherwise be isolated.

 

On being put to a recorded vote, the Labour Group amendment which had not been accepted by the Conservative Administration as friendly amendments was not supported.

 

For (18): Cllrs Paul Baker, John Bloxsom, David Brown, Linda Cohen, David Drew, Ben Evans, Rebecca Halifax, Colin Hay, Alex Hegenbarth, Jeremy Hilton, Paul Hodgkinson, Graham Morgan, Gill Moseley, Steve Robinson, Lisa Spivey, Wendy Thomas, Roger Whyborn and Suzanne Williams.

 

Against (25): Cllrs Carole Allaway-Martin, Phil Awford, Matt Babbage, Alastair Chambers, Stephen Davies, Stephan Fifield, Andrew Gravells, David Gray, Terry Hale, Tim Harman, Mark Hawthorne, Stephen Hirst, Nick Housden, Mark Mackenzie-Charrington, Andrew Miller, Dominic Morris, Emma Nelson, Dave Norman, Alan Preest, Philip Robinson, Vernon Smith, Lynden Stowe, Brian Tipper, Kathy Williams and Susan Williams.

 

Abstained (4): Cllrs Cate Cody, Beki Hoyland, Chris McFarling and Chloe Turner.

 

Vote on the budget

 

On being put to a recorded vote, the substantive motion was carried:

 

For (29): Cllrs Carole Allaway-Martin, Phil Awford, Matt Babbage, Alastair Chambers, Cate Cody, Stephen Davies, Stephan Fifield, Andrew Gravells, David Gray, Terry Hale, Tim Harman, Mark Hawthorne, Stephen Hirst, Nick Housden, Beki Hoyland, Mark Mackenzie-Charrington, Chris McFarling, Andrew Miller, Dominic Morris, Emma Nelson, Dave Norman, Alan Preest, Philip Robinson, Vernon Smith, Lynden Stowe, Brian Tipper, Chloe Turner, Kathy Williams and Susan Williams.

 

Against (2): Cllrs David Drew and Graham Morgan.

 

Abstained (16): Cllrs Paul Baker, John Bloxsom, David Brown, Linda Cohen, Ben Evans, Rebecca Halifax, Colin Hay, Alex Hegenbarth, Jeremy Hilton, Paul Hodgkinson, Gill Moseley, Steve Robinson, Lisa Spivey, Wendy Thomas, Roger Whyborn and Suzanne Williams.

 

RESOLVED

 

1.  That the Council Strategy for 2022/23 be approved.

 

 

2.  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 2022/23, council tax for each valuation band, and to issue precepts on each district collection fund as set out below:

 

 

 

a) Gloucestershire County Council 2022/23 Budget:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total to be precepted:

 

 

b)    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 Cabinet Member for Finance and Change.

 

3.  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 2022/23, set out in Annex 10 of the detailed MTFS.

 

4.  That approval is given to the Operational Boundary and Authorised Limits of borrowing, as set out in the Capital Strategy, at Annex 7 in the detailed MTFS as follows:

 

 

a) Noting that the authorised limit for 2022/23 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 for principal sums invested for more than 364 days of £200 million.

 

5. That the Council approves the Schools Funding set out in section I and Annex 9 in the detailed MTFS.

 

6. That the following amendments to the draft budget be approved:

 

 

Political Group

Item

Amount (£000s)

One-Off

Lib Dem

Reserve to fund shovel-ready 20mph schemes in 22/23

250

One-Off

Lib Dem

TRO reserve

100

One-Off

Lib Dem

Scrapping resident parking fee increase for all households for one year.

33

One-Off

Green

Resource for county wide biodiversity management officer, to identify opportunities on GCC land, and on other public estate in partnership with CLG members

45

One-Off

Green

Circular economy project: establishment of pilot “tip shop” reuse outlet at one of the HRCs

120

One-Off