Report to follow.
1) Mr Oakford introduced the report and said that the 2022-23 Budget and Medium-Term proposals had been developed against a background of considerable uncertainty and volatility. It was recognised that there were always some uncertainties within the Budget as it was difficult to predict spending on demand led budgets with a high degree of accuracy. The presentation of the capital programme had been enhanced to show a 10-year horizon. It was essential that additional borrowing was minimised to avoid pressures on the Revenue Budget and only borrow where it was essential to meet statutory obligations. It was not a legal requirement to set a balanced medium-term financial plan. However, a medium-term financial plan was important to demonstrate the financial sustainability of the authority.
KCC was facing exceptional spending demands in the forthcoming year including as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which had significantly changed demands and there was additional latent demand, increasing complexity, changes in social and working lives as well as the economic impact of rising inflation. It was vitally important to distinguish between known changes, variances from the current approved Budget or known changes in the forthcoming year as there was little scope other than to accept and fund these and the forecast for future changes. Within the forecast challenging targets had been set to bear down on future prices and demand pressures in order to set an affordable and balanced Budget.
Provisional grant allocations had been included in the draft Budget but these were not enough to fully fund growth pressures. Hence the council will have to continue to find savings. It was proposed to increase council tax within the government’s 2% (+1% social care levy) referendum limit.
2) Mrs Chandler said that the consultation responses had indicated that respondents were most uncomfortable with savings within Children’s Social Services and early intervention to prevent the need for more costly interventions was also strongly preferred by respondents. This had been reflected in the Integrated Children’s Services draft Budget. Savings were focused on improvement of service outcomes rather than reduction of services.
3) Mrs Prendergast said that the biggest financial challenge was the funding of support for children with SEND. There had been a large increase in children accessing home to school transport. It was expected that the inclusion agenda would relieve pressure in this area as more children would receive their education closer to home.
4) Further to questions from Members, the following points were noted:
· There was to be a central contingency budget. Funds from this budget could be applied for if demography impacts could be evidenced. This had been agreed in consultation with the corporate directors.
· There had been delays in delivering some savings due to the impact of the pandemic.
· Savings relating to school transport had not been possible previously, but work was underway to look at efficient ways of transporting children such as standard pick-up points, charging for post-16 and pass price increases. Any changes would be subject to consultation.
3) RESOLVED to agree the recommendations outlined in the report.