Reporting Person – Julie Fisher
Councillor Ashall, Portfolio Holder for Corporate Financial Planning and Policy, introduced a report which provided an update on the financial position of the Council for 2022/23 to 2024/25 following the earlier report to the Executive at its meeting on 15 July 2021. It was noted that the draft budget proposals would be reported to the Executive at its meeting on 18 November 2021. Councillor Ashall explained that there remained uncertainty as the country emerged from the impact of the Covid pandemic. The significant loss of income from car parking and commercial rents in 2020/21 and the first quarter of 2021/22 was highlighted. The Executive was informed that it was not possible to propose a balanced Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) position without the use of reserves. Due to work on the Fit for the Future programme and MTFS over the last three months, the report forecasted a reduction in the use of reserves of some £10m. It was noted that since the July Executive, the scale of the savings target had increased by £0.85m to £6.85m by 2025.
The Executive noted the work taking place on the Fit for the Future programme which was a cultural and extensive programme of change, as well as the Digital Transformation programme. The Leader of the Council, Councillor Azad, advised that both programmes were part of a recalibration of the Council towards greater engagement in a more open and transparent culture which listened to the needs of residents. Regarding Digital First, the Leader confirmed that personal interaction would be maintained for those that were not able to engage through digital means. The Leader was pleased to announce a series of community roadshow events to be delivered through November 2021 to obtain community feedback from residents regarding the priorities for the Council and communities. It was intended to hold a Member Briefing on the Fit for the Future programme in November 2021.
Following a question regarding the use of reserves, the Executive was advised that reserves had a variety uses, most importantly to provide resilience against unforeseen events such as the Covid pandemic, and also for strategic planned investments that supported the development of the Council’s business and transformational change.
Regarding the Masterplan consultation, it was noted that the Council was leading on the consultation and had commissioned some external resource to provide additional capacity and expertise.
Following a question on the results of the 2021 Employee Survey on page 800 of the Agenda Pack, the Executive was informed that an action plan had been developed in response to the key areas of feedback from the Survey.
The Director of Finance confirmed that the payment to the Council of £2.8m received from High Speed 2 (HS2) funding was for long term maintenance commitment of a site at Brookwood Cemetery.
RESOLVED That the following be noted:
a) update to the funding and economic outlook;
b) progress on the Medium Term Financial Strategy following work over the last 3 months;
c) progress on the Fit for the Future Programme;
d) progress on Community Engagement and proposals for a series of community roadshow events;
e) the Council joins the Surrey Business Rates Pool for 2022/23 if offered the opportunity.
Reason: To update Members on the issues which need to be taken into account in the priority and budget setting process for 2022/23 – 2024/25 and beyond.