This report presents the results of the first round of the Council’s revenue budget monitoring for 2019/20.
Members considered a report which presented the results of the first round of the Council’s revenue budget monitoring for 2019/20.
The following issues were discussed:
· Forecast pressures - a Member noted that a large proportion of the forecast pressure of £6.262m related to Children and Adults services, much of it driven by increased need.There was a tension between the need to find savings due to financial pressures and the consequent impact of savings on the vulnerable. Another Member advocated a policy of investing in services in order to make future savings. The Chief Finance Officer commented that, in principle, this was a good idea but finding funding to invest for initiatives which would identify savings in the future was often very difficult.
· Write off of debts – in response to a question about lessons learned, the Chief Finance Officer replied that the main lesson was to ensure that, in future, clear evidence trails existed so that bad debts could be successfully pursued.
· Revenue savings – concern was expressed at the effect on staff given the high number of posts being held vacant to offset pressures.
· Deangate – Members asked what action was planned to address the forecast pressure. The point was made this had been described as an emergency shutdown but information not made available at the time had now become apparent. It was queried whether Medway Norse were being charged for storing their vehicles on the site. The Chief Finance Officer commented the decision to close Deangate had been made by Cabinet as it was making a loss. Medway Norse were not being charged for storage as this was an interim measure.
· Castle Concerts – a request was made for the review of the Concerts to come to an Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
· ICT underspend – concern was expressed at the underspend given the pressures on the IT system.
· Sports, Leisure, Tourism and Heritage forecast pressure – a Member asked for a breakdown of the £511,000 pressure, including an analysis of the reduction in income and revenue across Medway. Whether the Council should cease to run gyms in view of the rise in the number of low cost gyms was questioned. The Chief Finance Officer agreed it was an appropriate time to look at this model.
· Mental Health Services – in response to a question, the Chief Finance Officer advised that extra mental health funding had not yet found its way to the Council.
· Services for older persons – referring to the deep dive aimed at understanding the drivers for the increase in demand, a Member asked for more information on this once it was completed.
· Looked after children data – a Member asked for more information about trends and historic spending on Looked After Children.
The Committee agreed to note:
a) the results of the first round of revenue budget monitoring for 2019/20;
b) the proposed variation and addition to the charges for Private Sector Housing enforcement set out at paragraph 5.3.7 of the report, and;
c) that the Cabinet has approved the write-off of the three irrecoverable sums against the corporate bad debt provision of £145,729.98; £115,223.47 and £106,932.13, as detailed in sections 4.2.7, 5.3.6 and 5.3.9 of the report.