Agenda item


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This item was considered first on the agenda.


The Assistant Director, Resources presented the Financial Plan 2023 to 2028 and noted changes that had already happened since the report was published and that there would be further changes when final settlement allocation figures are published which would be reflected in the final report to Council.


The Chair thanked the Assistant Director for the report.


The Chair invited the Portfolio Holder for Finance to address the Panel.


The Portfolio Holder for Finance explained that the total fees and charges generated £15m revenue and explained that if fees and charges were not increased the Council would lose out on not generating additional income.  It was planned to increase fees and charges where possible by an average of 10%.  The Panel was advised, however, that some that some fees and charges were dictated to the Council. The proposed increases would hopefully generate £1m.  The Portfolio Holder for Finance also commented on the staffing budget of approximately £18m in total.  Staff costs are important and the next paper would include details of what the Corporate Performance Panel wished to see in the way of more definition on years as it goes forward.


The Portfolio Holder for Finance referred to different services the Council delivered and explained that he was moving towards producing a traditional profit and loss account for each project and gave an overview of the Town Hall as an example.


The Chair invited questions and comments from the Panel, a summary of which is set out below.


The Assistant Director, Resources responded to questions from Councillor Ryves on the effects West Norfolk Housing and West Norfolk Property companies in relation to loans, interest and rental income for those properties in existence.  The Assistant Director, Resources referred Councillor Ryves to pages 52, 93 and 94 of the report.


Under Standing Order 34, Councillor Bone (Zoom) asked if the decision at Full Council on 31 January 2024 regarding adjustments to council tax would help to address the budget gap in future years.  In response, the Assistant Director Resources explained that it was a difficult question to respond to as discussion is required with the County Council and it could not be determined how those discussions would go at this time.  The Assistant Director added that the Council’s Cost Management Income Generation Plan factored in council tax that this authority could get from schemes based on full amounts and it was believed that the council would not realise the full amount at this stage and assessing this would require further work.  The Second Homes premium would not be implemented until 2025 and an overview was provided of the process to be undertaken in the meantime.


The Assistant Director, Resources responded to questions from Councillor Jones on the fees and charges for licensing and the consultation process and exercise undertaken.


The Assistant Director, Resources responded to questions from Councillor Ryves in relation to reserves brought forward in relation to income generation projects.  The £3m reserve was within the projects reserves.  The Assistant Director provided an overview of the work which had been undertaken regarding earmarked reserves and that a further £3m had been transferred to support the medium-term Financial Plan which was an action agreed at Council in February 2023.


In response to questions from Councillor Lintern on Appendix 6, special expenses for parishes, the Assistant Director, Resources explained that there were a number of services the Council provided across various ward areas, for example, grounds maintenance, street lighting, dog bins, etc.  It was explained that when the report was presented to Full Council a full breakdown of special expenses would be attached as an appendix.


The Assistant Director, Resources responded to questions from Councillor Ratcliffe on the cost of temporary accommodation for people at risk of homelessness and undertook to circulate the information requested separately.


The Assistant Director, Resources responded to further questions from Councillor Ryves on profits from ongoing residential development projects.


Councillor Dark thanked the Assistant Director for the report.


The Assistant Director, Resources responded to questions and comments from Councillor Dark on the underspends and lessons learnt.


The Assistant Director, Resources and Financial Services Manager responded to questions from Councillor Long on the fees and charges relating to stray dog recovery.


At the invitation of the Chair, the Portfolio Holder, Finance addressed the Panel.


The Portfolio Holder, Finance responded to comments made by Councillor Ryves on the £3m invest to win reserve and advised that any proposals to utilise the reserve would require full Council approval.  The Portfolio Holder, Finance also responded to comments made by the Panel on the underspends.


Following a question from Councillor Ryves, the Assistant Director Resources advised that the Financial Plan would not result in the issuing of a Section 114 notice and felt that good progress was being made towards achieving a sustainable budget.


RESOLVED:  The Joint Panel supported the recommendations to Cabinet as set out below:


Recommendation 1


It is recommended that Council note the revision to the Forecast for 2023/2024 as set out in the report.


Recommendation 2


Council is recommended to approve the Policy on Earmarked Reserves and General Fund Balance and the maximum balances set for the reserves as noted in the report and at Appendix 7.


Recommendation 3


It is recommended that Council:


1)          Approves the budget requirement of £24,353,670 for 2024/2025 and notes the projections for 2025/2026, 2026/2027 and 2027/2028.

2)          Approves the level of Special Expenses for the Town/Parish Councils as detailed in the report (Appendix 6).

3)          Approves the Fees and Charges 2024/2025 detailed in Appendix 4.

4)          Approves a Band D council tax of £148.37 for 2025/2025.


Recommendation 4


It is recommended that Council approves a minimum requirement of the General Fund balance for 2024/25 of £1,217,680 (5% of estimated budget requirement).


Recommendation 5


Pursuant to Section 25 of the Local Government Act, Council is asked to have due regard to this statement at Section 9 of this report when considering and approving the budget and the level of council tax for 2024/2025.


The Leader thanked the Finance Team for the significant work undertaken.


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