Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) EXE23-041
The Council received the recommendations of the Executive in respect of the updated Medium Term Financial Strategy (the MTFS) for the period 2024/25 to 2028/29. The Portfolio Holder for Finance, Councillor Roberts advised that a timetable with clear milestones had been drawn up as part of the Strategy which included a further update in September 2023.
The Portfolio Holder highlighted the key points of the update, including the creation of an updated Budget Timetable and a new focus on budget proposals through additional scrutiny by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The MTFS was a five year plan and would continue to be updated on a quarterly basis.
The Portfolio Holder addressed the £11m shortfall in the General Fund and referred to the consultation underway to identify savings, to be considered by the Council at the end of September 2023. Included within the proposals was the redundancy of approximately 60 full time equivalent (FTE) members of staff, for which a full and open consultation would be run. All decisions would be fully challenged and scrutinised throughout the process.
In respect of the deficit of £1.2b, the position was currently being reviewed and further discussions with the Department for Housing, Levelling Up and Communities (DHLUC) were expected in the coming weeks.
The proposals before the Council were debated at length, with Members recognising the impact on residents, business and Council staff. Councillor Brown expressed concerns over the proposed increase in parking charges for the coming year, and the potential increases in subsequent years, and the impact on the number of drivers using the car parks. Councillor Brown further advised that he could not agree to the indefinite suspension of the Investment Programme, and the impact on the flood alleviation scheme in Byfleet. In view of this, Councillor Brown moved and Councillor Davis seconded the following amendment to the recommendations of the Executive:
Point (V)(ii) Due to the pressing nature of the works and the significant progress made, the Byfleet Flood Alleviation Scheme is prioritised, so that as soon as the funding becomes available this crucial investment project is unsuspended. Measures will also be taken to find this funding as soon as possible, including liaising closely with external stakeholders to ensure its prompt delivery.”
Councillor Brown advised that construction had been due to start in 2024, to be completed in the subsequent year, and as such it was hoped that the Council would prioritise the work so that the work could be undertaken once funds had been identified. The Leader of the Council stated that the flood alleviation scheme was a critical project and was clearly included in the Investment Plan. However, the Investment Plan was currently suspended and only when the Council was able to spend funds on the Plan could the priorities be confirmed. The Leader added that Officers were looking for other funding opportunities that could be used to progress the flood alleviation scheme.
Sympathy was expressed with those impacted by the suspension of the Investment Programme, including ... view the full minutes text for item 8
Reporting Person – Brendan Arnold
Councillor Roberts, Portfolio Holder for Finance, introduced the report which provided an updated Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for the period 2024/25 to 2028/29 and which also set out a timetable with clear milestones for a further update of the MTFS in September 2023. An updated Budget Timetable (Annex 4 to the report) was tabled at the meeting. It was noted that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, at its meeting on 10 July 2023, had considered the MTFS report under its remit for pre-decision scrutiny.
The Portfolio Holder explained the background to the report, drawing attention to the Section 114 Notice which had been issued by the Section 151 Officer on 7 June 2023 and the Chief Executive’s Response. The Executive was informed that the MTFS set out the strategic financial approach that the Council would adopt in supporting delivery of the Improvement and Recovery Plan. The Plan would be reported to an Extraordinary Council Meeting on 22 August 2023. It was noted that the MTFS and Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) would be reported quarterly to the Executive. Regarding the budget shortfall of £11m, the Executive was invited to support the recommendation to undertake consultation and engagement to allow the Council to take decisions on the Budget in September 2023 and February 2024. Engagement with residents had commenced in early July regarding discretionary services, and formal consultation with staff and Unison would commence on 24 July 2023. It was noted that a reduction in staff headcount of approximately 60 FTE in the Council overall was expected given the scale of the savings proposals. The Executive expressed regret at the proposed staff redundancies and gave a commitment for the process to be done in a responsible and compassionate way and to conduct the proper consultations. Regarding the Deficit of £1.2bn, it was noted that engagement with the Government Department (DLUHC) would commence shortly led by Commissioners with the Council’s statutory officers.
The Executive acknowledged that it was a difficult and challenging time for residents, business and Council staff. The positive relationship between the Council and the Commissioners appointed by Government was highlighted, noting that the aims of both were fully aligned. Regarding the assumed 20% rise in car park charges in 2024/25, it was highlighted that planning assumptions would be revised following the Parking Strategy due in Autumn 2023 which would consider best value. The Portfolio Holder undertook to review the 14 Guiding Principles with the Interim Director of Finance to ensure that the Council was not undermining its approach to the Greener Woking agenda. It was added that there was a need to review the Woking For All Strategy and that Net Zero would form part of that review. Following a question regarding Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), it was noted that the Interim Director of Finance was preparing a briefing note on CIL for Members.
The Executive commended Officers for their resilience and commitment during this challenging time. The Leader of the Council advised that the survey on discretionary ... view the full minutes text for item 6