This report presents the results of the Council’s revenue budget monitoring for
Quarter 1 of the 2018/19 financial year.
Members considered a report which presented the results of the Council’s revenue budget monitoring for Quarter 1 of the 2018/19 financial year.
The Chief Finance Officer reported that, after proposed management action, an adverse forecast variance of £4.861m was projected but he expected the quarter 2 monitoring report to show a reduction in this figure.
A Member commented that the financial pressures facing the Council reflected the difficult local government situation nationally and a concern was that, as the position worsened, it would become even more difficult to set a balanced budget.
Reference was made to the non-recurrent actions totalling £1.27m (paragraph 5.2.4) and, given the lack of detail in the report, a briefing note on this was requested.
Members then discussed the following issues:
Medway Matters – a concern was expressed at the overspend on the magazine and the Assistant Director – Transformation advised this was due to an under recovery of advertising income.
Castle Concerts – some Members expressed concern that the Castle Concert ticket sales had underachieved compared to their income budget by £305,000. It was argued that the alcohol ban on 4 of the 5 days had significantly impacted ticket sales and it was questioned whether this policy should be changed. The point was also made that it was very difficult to decide on which acts to book when bookings had to be made a year in advance. The size of the venue was also an issue as it was costly to run but not big enough to attract more prominent acts.
The Assistant Director – Transformation commented that ticket sales had been affected by the World Cup and other events in Kent. The decision on the alcohol ban had been taken after advice from the Safety Advisory Group. One event had sold out so the ban had not been an issue for that evening. Going forward the Council would be looking more closely at which acts to book and the event overall would be reviewed to ensure it resulted in value for money. A Member welcomed the new approach and hoped the events would be more successful next year and also asked that the alcohol ban be reviewed, noting alcohol had been allowed at the Proms event without any problems. As the World Cup quarter and semi-final dates had been known well in advance then the World Cup should not have been an issue.
Better Care Fund (BCF) - a Member asked if the £214,000 underspend due to the use of improved Better Care Fund to offset additional and continuing placement pressures could be retained by Adult Social Care given the BCF was time limited. The Chief Finance Officer replied that the Council’s advisors were reasonably confident the BCF would be replaced by alternative funding so the assumption was that the Council would not suddenly lose the £6m grant. If that was to happen then using the £214,000 from the underspend would make little impact.
Car Parking Charges – A Member argued that the increase in car parking charges had led to a significant increase in on street parking causing problems for residents as well as affecting businesses in the high street as motorists had gone to out of town shopping centres where parking was free. The Chief Finance Officer advised that a large part of the £1.5m pressure was a result of controlled parking zones not going ahead following representations from residents during the consultation process. More income had been generated but the assumptions about levels of additional income had been ambitious, although it was important to set challenging targets. In response, a Member commented that the controlled parking zone proposals should not have been built into the budget proposals without consultation first taking place. A Member also commented that the assumptions about additional income had been much too high and there was a lack of imagination about where additional revenue could be found. The shortfall would lead to a deterioration in the condition of roads as the maintenance budget would be reduced and also a reduction in business rates.
Leisure centres - a Member noted income had increased but expressed concern that there were not enough lifeguards to keep all the swimming pools open and asked that staffing levels be reviewed. The Assistant Director – Transformation stated that she was not aware of this issue but would look into the matter and review staffing levels.
Independent Review Officers (IROs) - a Member referred to the adverse variance of £483,000 resulting from the use of agency staff to cover vacant IRO posts and asked what plans were in place to address this. The Assistant Director – Transformation replied that agencies charged the Council a significant sum for temporary contracts. The Council had advertised for IROs on several occasions but a more aggressive advertising camping was starting in September, including a more competitive package, with the aim of attracting people to come to Medway.
Innovation Park Medway - in response to a query, the Chief Finance Officer confirmed that the £422,500 increase in the budget for the Masterplan for the Innovation Park Medway had been agreed by the Council and not the Local Enterprise Partnership.
The Committee agreed to:
a) note the result of the first round of revenue monitoring for 2018/19, and;
b) request briefing notes on the non-recurrent actions totalling £1.27m referred to in paragraph 5.2.4 of the report and also on staffing levels at leisure centres.