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Agenda item

Council Fund Revenue Budget 2017/18

Decision:

(a)       That Members of the Committee note the report;

 

(b)       That the Committee recognises that finding future efficiencies of any scale, beyond the adopted business plan, will be limited without seeing significant impacts on service frequency and quality; and

 

(c)       That a workshop is arranged in the Autumn for all Members on recycling.

Minutes:

The Chief Executive presented an update on the financial forecast for the 2017/18 financial year.  This included budget pressures and proposed efficiencies for Planning & Environment and Streetscene & Transportation for 2017/18 as the third and final year of the current portfolio business planning cycle.

 

The Committee was asked for its support on the efficiencies set out and to recognise that any further cuts could cause unacceptable risks to services.  The approach to budget consultation at this earlier stage had received positive support from other Overview & Scrutiny committees which helped to strengthen the case being made by the Council to the Welsh Government (WG).

 

A presentation was given by officers covering the following areas:

 

·         Local Context - Planning & Environment and Streetscene

·         Current Plans - Streetscene & Transportation

·         Comparative Analysis

·         Business Plan Efficiencies and Pressures

·         Resilience Statements

·         Ancillary & Waste Services

·         Transportation & Logistics

 

In summarising the overall financial position, the Corporate Finance Manager highlighted the £14.4m projected gap in the revised financial forecast for 2017/18 based on a number of assumptions including a 1.5% cut in the Revenue Support Grant and 3% increase in Council Tax.  Members were reminded of the Council’s three part strategy to identify solutions to the financial challenges.  Work on this would continue over the summer, however even if the £6.321m of efficiencies and income growth were to be achieved, a projected gap of £8.1m would remain outstanding for 2017/18.

 

Whilst Councillor Chris Dolphin acknowledged the scale of the financial challenges, he pointed out that many members of the public did not understand the reasons behind the financial pressures and the need for efficiencies.  He commented on the need for more regular gully cleaning and grass cutting services, particularly in rural areas where there could be safety issues.  He felt that the delivery of acceptable levels of service should be accommodated within the 24/7 service now provided by Streetscene.

 

Councillor Bernie Attridge stressed that road safety was a priority of the service and asked that specific safety concerns such as those on grass cutting be raised directly with Streetscene supervisors who were the designated contacts.  He gave reassurance that gully cleaning took place at all hours and suggested that those concerns be discussed with the Highways Network Manager following the meeting.  Members were able to inspect the gully cleaning work schedule and raise any issues with the supervisors.

 

Councillor Nancy Matthews agreed that further cuts to the portfolio were a particular concern as these services impacted on all residents.  On efficiency plans in Transportation & Logistics to encourage more rail travel by officers, she felt that all options for cheaper tickets should be explored.

 

When asked about plans to include other plastic recyclables, the Waste & Ancillary Services Manager stated that the future aim was to incorporate mixed plastic recycling as the market was improving.  Councillor Kevin Jones spoke about discussions with WG on the potential for plastic recycling facilities in Wales and advised that mixed plastic recycling would be introduced prior to the enforcement on side waste.

 

In response to comments from Councillor Cindy Hinds on the need for more clarity amongst the public on recycling items, the Waste & Ancillary Services Manager advised that an education campaign would take place.

 

The Committee supported Councillor Matthews’ proposal for an initial workshop to re-educate Members on recycling, as a starting point.

 

Councillor Ian Dunbar welcomed the controlled efficiencies made in the service.  He suggested that information could be shared with Members on hotspot areas for side waste and that lengthy delays in the pest control service should be addressed.  On the latter point, the Chief Officer was unaware of these delays and advised that a new addition to the team would help to deal with telephone calls to the service.  Future plans for the pest control service were included in the presentation.  In response to a query on planning fees, it was explained that the introduction of the new regime mid-year in 2015/16 meant that the Council only partially benefited from the increased income.  This applied where planning applications were determined within timescale or subject to agreement by the applicant.  On the potential to explore electric-powered vehicles at the Alltami depot, Councillor Jones spoke about the need to first determine and agree on values of the electricity generated by the solar farms, and the possibility of also utilising that power at County Hall.  Councillor Dunbar welcomed the involvement of Town/Community Councils on the review of subsidised bus services but relayed complaints about the withdrawal of a service in Shotton.  Councillor Jones explained that the establishment of the scheme would require support from nominated representatives and would be piloted in Holywell, Mold, Buckley and along the Deeside strip.

 

Councillor Mike Peers referred to the amber risk levels in the portfolio and asked about the implications if these were to change to red.  The Chief Executive spoke about the expectation to work towards the full target of efficiencies next year and questioned whether the resilience rating on Streetscene should be amber rather than green.  He added that the amber risks supported the case to the WG for a national debate on funding.  The Chief Officer referred to the implications of a red risk level for resilience as failure to meet key performance indicators and deliver Improvement Plan Priorities, along with negative customer feedback.

 

Councillor Peers also asked whether the £2.105m of efficiencies within the portfolio for 2017/18 represented the expected 30% target.  The efficiencies for Planning and Environment were 27.6% of its budget, extending to 30% over the three years, with those for Streetscene & Transportation as a whole at 34%.  Councillor Jones referred to the challenges in achieving these levels of efficiencies whilst maintaining services.

 

In response to questions from Councillor Haydn Bateman, Councillor Jones gave an explanation on the levels of gas to be produced from the former landfill sites.  On the enforcement of side waste, the Waste & Ancillary Services Manager pointed out that the vast majority of residents complied.  He summarised the approach to be taken to enforcement involving education targeted at specific areas, the ceasing of collections and use of stickers and barcoding, with fixed penalty notices as the last resort.

 

In summary, the Committee indicated no objections to the efficiencies and recognised that further cuts would cause unacceptable risk.

 

RESOLVED:

 

(a)       That Members of the Committee note the report;

 

(b)       That the Committee recognises that finding future efficiencies of any scale, beyond the adopted business plan, will be limited without seeing significant impacts on service frequency and quality; and

 

(c)       That a workshop is arranged in the Autumn for all Members on recycling.

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