This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Henley, Corporate Resources
Report Author: Kerry Prisco (Management Accounting and Reporting Lead)
The portfolio holder for Corporate Resources introduced the report and raised the following points.
· The report detailed that the General Fund was forecasting an overspend of £437k. This was the second report of the financial year and there was normally change in the position by the end of the year. Covid and the pace of economic recovery continued to impact the Council.
· Raised that there had been a reduction in car parking income which was a concern. The number of people coming in and using the Council’s car parks had not returned to pre Covid levels.
· Income had been impacted by Covid grants, in year underspends and budget volatility. For some underspends items were identified in the report where budget carry forwards had been requested due to the overflow of work into the next financial year. £437k of budget carry forwards were proposed if these were approved there would then be a nil variance.
· The Council remained in a strong financial position with adequate general fund reserves still forecast.
· The current forecast spend of this financial year was an overspend of £242k.
· Somerset West and Taunton Council’s finances were robust compared to many other district councils. The Council had not had to cut services or staff during Covid. We had and would continue to have challenges to close the budget gap but we have options for doing this.
During the debate the following points were raised.
· Car parking losses from April to June were partially made up for my Covid grants. It was questioned whether there would be any further grants for the rest of the year? It was responded by officers that the scheme was a government scheme which was only for the first quarter.
· It was raised that some funds were taken from the emergency risk fund for car parking. It was responded by officers that we had our own reserves, including a risk and volatility reserve from which £517k was taken during quarter two to mitigate car parking loss.
· It was recognised that the change in parking behaviour had had a significant impact on income.
· It was asked for clarity about what we can and cannot do with income from parking and what it can be spent on. It was also requested for information about what the funds which are making up for the loss of car parking income are being used to fund. Officers responded that a Car Parking Review would be coming to a future meeting of the committee.
· An update on how well the asset management under External Operations and Climate Change was performing compared to previous years was requested. It was responded that officers will provide this information at a later date.
· It was questioned whether there was any room for improvement regarding voids under Housing and Communities.
· Investment properties were down by 1.3% and interest and investments had gone up by £243,000. It was asked whether this was because the Council was over cautious and borrowing rates were more favourable. It was responded by officers that this was a combination of the commercial investment strategy and the legacy assets inherited by this council.
· It was asked if further elaboration could be given on the funds to the leisure contract budget and it was queried whether the Council were contractually obliged to support them. It was responded by officers that part of this was commercially confidential so could not be answered. The funds included in the report were a contingency whilst negotiations were ongoing with our partner who were going through the impacts of a pandemic. It was not an indication that those funds would be paid to the partner.
· The position of having both an overspend and underspend in External Operations and Climate Change was questioned. Officers responded that a significant number of savings had been made in External Operations leading to the underspend but the overspend was from car parking.
· It was asked if any government funds for Covid could be used for the leisure contract. It was responded that the funds from Sport England for Covid had been passed to the contractor already but that there had been no further rounds of funding available from Sport England.
Corporate Scrutiny Committee noted the report.