Agenda item

General Fund Budget and Council Tax Setting 2024-25 OSC24-015

Reporting Person: Eugene Walker


The Section 151 Officer introduced the item.

The Council was expecting to receive confirmation of a capitalisation directive from Government which would allow the Council to set a balanced budget.

The Council currently had negative reserves.  The General Fund Budget included provision for a reserve of £5 million for 2024/25 to help the Council respond to unexpected costs.  The reserve was higher than might be set by other Councils, typically 10% of a Council’s net budget, due to the relative increased level of risk facing the Council from its historic investments.  There were additional earmarked reserves of £11 million.

It was a statutory requirement for the Section 151 Officer to produce a Section 25 statement indicating the robustness of the budget and adequacy of reserves.

The Government had placed an expectation on the Council to raise its proportion of Council Tax by 10%, an increase of 1.2% on a household’s overall Council Tax bill.  The increase equated to £1 million additional revenue for the Council which alleviated the need to find an equivalent saving.

The Council operated a 100% Council Tax relief scheme for those on low incomes, which was not operated by all Councils. £100,000 of the additional revenue was being directed to relief schemes; £50,000 would be provided to Citizens Advice Woking to provide support to the community; £25,000 would be used to extend the Council Tax relief scheme; and £25,000 to replicate the household support fund.

The hardship fund would be carefully rationed and monitored.

In response to a query, the Strategic Director of Communities confirmed that the Service Level Agreement between the Council and Citizens Advice Woking (CAW) would be amended to ensure the additional funds were used for the purposes of hardship support.  It was anticipated that CAW would operate a linking service connecting support services across the sector.

It was not possible to determine what Government would direct for Council Tax increases in future years.

If the historic debt issues were excepted from the budget, the Chief Finance Officer considered that the Council would be setting a truly balanced budget.

The Section 151 Officer confirmed that Community Infrastructure Levy funds would be honoured.

The Council received a very high amount of commercial income, relative to its overall budget and compared with similarly sized Councils.  It was yet to be determined what would be an appropriate size but it was recognised that it should be reduced.  This would consequentially lead to a drop in income.  As such, discussions with Government would necessarily need to include sustainability of revenue as well as repayments of debt.

Historically, the Council did not operate proper profit and loss accounts for its commercial assets, this was now being brought in.  A provision of £20 million had been approved at the previous Council meeting under the Capital Programme.

The Committee requested that recommendation (xviii) have the wording ‘per annum’ added to make clear that the £26.31 Council Tax increase for a Band D property was the additional cost for the whole year and not monthly.  The recommendation was accepted by Officers who undertook to disseminate the wording most appropriately outside of the meeting.


That the report be noted.

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