Agenda item

Council Fund Revenue Budget 2021/22 - Final Closing Stage


As detailed in the recommendations.


The Chief Executive introduced the report and explained that the full reports on the previous stages of the budget setting process for 2021/22 were appended to the report.


            In January Cabinet had set an upper minimum budget additional requirement for 2021/22 of £16.750m and a lower minimum budget requirement of £13.873m.  The upper figure included provision for national pay awards at 2% across the board, and the lower figure made no provision for pay.  The lower figure was being used for the purposes of balancing the budget as there was no provision within the UK Government budget statement for any public sector annual pay awards with the exception of pay awards for employees with salaries of under £24k per annum.  As a consequence of that, Welsh Government (WG) had received no uplift in funding to support any annual pay awards for local government employees and teachers.


            Cabinet in January also considered the issues which remained to be closed as part of the budget-setting process.  This report recommended solutions to all of those issues and set out recommendations for the Council to be able to reach a legal and balanced budget.


            The formal response of the Council to the WG consultation on the Provisional Local Government Settlement 2021/22 was appended to the report.  The response fully took into account the views expressed by Cabinet as a collective and those of the body of elected Members.


            The report also set out the Council Tax resolution for setting taxation levels for 2021/22.  A formal resolution was proposed for Council later that day as notification of the precepts of the Police and Crime Commissioner and all Town and Community Councils within Flintshire had been received. Council had set a clear direction to keep the increase of Council Tax to below 5%.  The budget proposals included an overall increase of 3.95% to meet the budget requirement, which comprised 3.45% for Council budgets and 0.5% as regional contributions to the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority, North Wales Economic Ambition Board and the Coroners Service. This equated to a weekly increase of £1.32.


            The report included tables, and commentary, on the following:


·         Table 1: Revised Minimum Additional Budget Requirement 2021/22;

·         Table 2: Proposed Budget Solutions 2021/22;

·         Table 3: Proposed Budget 2021/22; and

·         Table 4: Medium Term Forecast 2022/23 – 2023/24


Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee had received the report on 11th February 2021 where it was unanimously supported.


A presentation was delivered by the Chief Executive and the Corporate Finance Manager which supported the report.  A key slide showed a summary of proposed solutions which showed the revised budget requirement and how this could be brought down to £0.000m based on the following:


·         Provisional Settlement Uplift;

·         Corporate Efficiencies;

·         Social Care Workforce Grant;

·         Council Tax; and

·         Reduction to Contribution to Reserves.


Flintshire’s Band D charge was proposed at 3.95%, which was a difference of -0.20% on the Wales average, and -1.04 of English Council average.


The Corporate Finance Manager provided details of the open risks in 2021/22 and the unearmarked reserves.  He explained the importance of building on reserves to safeguard against the open risks and for the future.  Therefore, an additional contribution of £0.471m had been included in the budget proposals to ensure that an emergency reserve of a minimum of £2.0m was available going into 2021/22.


Formal advice was given by the Corporate Finance Manager, including his professional opinion, which was:


“Setting a budget in the midst of a national emergency is unprecedented.  The scale and length of the pandemic poses significant financial challenges which will continue into the new financial year; the welcome support from the national Hardship Fund is likely to continue but it is not known how long this can be sustained; the budget also includes some significant open risks around pay and social care demand; essential to protect in full the Contingency and Emergency Reserves to safeguard against these risks and any other unforeseen events; the recommended budget represents a balanced risk based approach”.


The professional opinion of the Chief Executive was as follows:


“The budget has been built-up according to our adopted budget-setting model; we have taken a prudent and balanced approach as required by law and the principles of good governance; the Council accepts that there are no new cost reductions or efficiencies of scale; Council, as advised by Cabinet, has concurred with this advice and we have protected all services; our strategy for achieving a legal and balanced budget is heavily reliant on the sufficiency of Government Funding; we set out our future expectations clearly in the response to the Provisional Settlement”.


Councillor Roberts thanked the Chief Executive for the amount of work he had undertaken on the Councils finances over many years, given this was his last budget setting at the authority.   


He also thanked the residents of Flintshire for their co-operation during the lockdown which had resulted in Foundation Phase children being allowed back into classrooms for face to face learning from 22nd February.  He also thanked all of the employees of Flintshire County Council for the work they had undertaken during the pandemic, which had required many services to work in different ways.


The increase in Council Tax was never a decision taken lightly, but he thanked officers for the work undertaken to ensure that a Council Tax rise of under 5% could be recommended to Council.  He welcomed the investment in schools, particularly for secondary schools who were operating deficit budgets and for children with additional learning needs.


Councillor Banks praised officers for the continuation of provision of core Council services, and he thanked Welsh Government for their assistance.  He also welcomed the investment in schools, and supported the proposed uplift to reserves.


Councillor Bithell thanked the Chief Executive, the Corporate Finance Manager, Councillor Roberts and Councillor Banks for the well-constructed letter that had been sent to the Minister for Housing and Local Government, which demonstrated the difficulties Flintshire faced as a local authority.


Councillor Butler also commended all staff for their work during the last year, with many also dealing with illness and bereavement.  A number of employees had volunteered to be re-deployed to other areas where demand was high and undertake duties they would not normally undertake. 


Councillor Thomas commented on the grants that the Council applied for and the innovative ways in which they were used, with officers always looking to be efficient whilst still delivering what was expected. 




(a)       That the revised budget requirement for 2021/22 be noted and approved;


(b)       That the final proposals for the corporate efficiencies which will contribute to the budget be approved;


(c)        That Cabinet recommends to Council a legal and balanced budget based on the calculations as set out within the report;


(d)       That the open risks which remain to be managed in the course of 2021/22 be noted;


(e)       That Cabinet recommends an annual increase in Council Tax for 2021/22 of 3.95%, and invites Council to pass the formal Council Tax resolution now that notification had been received of the precepts of the Police and Crime  Commissioner and all Town and Community Councils within Flintshire; and


(f)        That the medium-term forecast as a basis for the next review of the Medium-Term Financial Strategy be noted.

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