Reporting Person – Leigh Clarke
Councillor Ashall, Portfolio Holder for Corporate Financial Planning and Policy, introduced the report which provided a forecast of the financial position of the Council for the four years to 31 March 2025 with the 2021-22 budget approved by the Council in February as a base. Councillor Ashall advised that the current environment remained uncertain due to the Covid-19 pandemic and highlighted the Council’s shortfall of income during the current financial year, namely around car parking income, commercial rents and the level of support expected from Government. The Executive noted that the government’s published roadmap provided some optimism going forward.
The Executive was advised that the Council had applied to the government for ‘exceptional support’ to fund Covid related income losses in 2020-21 and 2021-22. A decision on the Council’s application was expected in mid to late May 2021.
The Executive welcomed the news that the Council had been awarded a Decarbonisation Grant of £3.1m from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to connect Export House and Midas House to the Poole Road Energy Centre. It was explained that a Council contribution towards the Export House connection costs was required as it was a more expensive building to decarbonise and it would not generate sufficient carbon savings to pay for the works required. It was highlighted that the works to both buildings would help positively towards the Council’s Climate Change Strategy goals.
Discussion ensued on HG Wells and the plans in place for alternative conference facilities and alternative premises for community groups. The Executive was advised that the new hotel in the Victoria Square development would be used by the Council for civic functions. Regarding displaced community groups and users of HG Wells, the Executive was informed that Officers hoped to accommodate all groups. For example, an auditorium was available at the Welcome Church, and work was underway for a new performance space as part of the Victoria Square development which would be suitable for smaller groups. Officers would deal with groups on an individual basis to assess their requirements.
Following a question from Councillor Hughes regarding an estimation of the unanticipated costs in paragraph 9.7 of the report, Councillor Ashall agreed to provide Councillor Hughes with an answer outside of the meeting.
Following a question regarding Morris House, the Chief Executive provided an update on the reason for its original acquisition by the Council and the future plans for the building. The Executive heard that Victoria Square would use the space for some six months to accommodate some of its operatives, after which it was expected that a proposal would come forward for its future use.
The Executive thanked the Finance Director and her team for their hard work in compiling the Medium Term Financial Strategy.
REcommended to Council
That (i) the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) report be approved;
(ii) the Council accepts the £3.148m Decarbonisation Grant from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to connect Export House and Midas House to the Poole Road Energy Centre, and approves the Council contribution of £1.479m in the Investment Programme to be funded temporarily by borrowing and recovered through service charges; and
(iii) an allowance of up to £600k from the Economic Regeneration budget be allocated for a programme of works to the Council’s assets to facilitate letting of vacant space, to be approved by the Director of Finance.
Reason: The decision is sought to agree the framework for Officers to develop further proposals for consideration, in due course, by the Council to ensure the medium term financial stability of the Council.