Mr A Wood, Corporate Director of Finance and Procurement, and Miss M Goldsmith, FSC Finance Business Partner, were in attendance for this item.
1. Mr Wood introduced the report and explained that some figures in the budget had been updated since the briefings which were held for each political group. He outlined the key issues as follows:-
· the reduction in KCC’s grant allocation from Government had been larger than expected, so the discrepancy to cover is larger, at £15m.
· in addition, spending demands have been updated and have risen by £2m, so the discrepancy to cover is now £17m.
· the final draft budget will be published on 14 January and all party groups will have a further briefing soon after. The budget will then go to Cabinet on 23 January and full Council on 14 February.
· identifying sufficient extra savings within this timeframe will be a great challenge, and there is no time to launch a second public consultation exercise.
He responded to comments and questions from Members, explaining the following:-
a) it had previously been forecast that there would be an ‘easier’ year and a ‘tougher’ year, in terms of the level of savings required. 2013/14 was meant to be the ‘easier’ year, with a savings target of 1.5%, but the factors outlined above had increased this required saving to 4%. This is the third of four years of planned savings and the overall total will be around £350m;
b) there is now no automatic increase in government grant funding to take account of demographic trends, eg an increasingly elderly population. Government funding is instead based on business rates, split between the County and District Councils in a ratio of 20:80%, but the actual spending pattern simply does not reflect this ratio; and
c) a view was expressed that the government funding this year reflected the pattern seen many times before, and the County Council would cope this time as it had coped before. It is clear that Children’s Services should be protected from having to find savings, but proposals for adult services raise concern, and whether or not these will deliver sufficient savings. The speaker did not share the pessimism of others as the stock market has risen since September 2012 and there is a new mood of optimism in the business economy.
2. The Committee discussed the need for a further meeting of the Informal Member Group to look again at the budget before the County Council meeting in February. It was asserted that the purpose of an IMG is to inform and strengthen the stance the Cabinet Members should take when supporting their portfolios’ budget allocations at County Council, and that the IMG allows Members to look at issues in depth. Others felt that another meeting of the IMG would serve no purpose, as the detail of the budget can be explored at Member briefings. It was pointed out that the role of Member briefings and an IMG are not the same. Mr L Christie then proposed and Mr S J G Koowaree seconded that a further meeting of the IMG be convened.
Lost, 8 votes to 2
3. RESOLVED that the information set out in the report and given in response to comments and questions be noted, with thanks, and no further meeting of the budget IMG be convened.