Agenda item

2023/24 Budget Strategy and Medium Term Financial Plan

To consider the report of the Director Finance.





RECOMMENDED that Council note the contents of the report and approve the principles of establishing a balanced Revenue Budget and Capital Programme.


Reason for Decision: As set out in the report and amended at the meeting.











The Executive received the report on the strategic overview of the budgetary position for the 2023/24 financial year and beyond, which included the likely level of available resources, the known demand for resources and proposals to ensure that a balanced budget could be achieved. Members noted that the Council was required to set a balanced budget and Council Tax prior to the start of the financial year.


The Leader moved an amendment to the wording of the report recommendation as follows:-


·        That the contents of the report are noted and that the principles of establishing a balanced revenue budget and Capital Programme are approved.


The Director Finance made particular reference to:-


·        the provisional one year settlement had been received from the Central Government in late December 2022, with indications on what was expected in 2024;

·        the Government had provided additional funding in the settlement, the majority of funding went to upper tier authorities but a guaranteed minimum funding grant had been provided to District Councils, with Exeter to receive £849,000;

·        all Councils would receive a minimum increase of 3% in their funding, which was higher than was anticipated in the Medium Term Financial Plan, but was still below the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation;

·        the Service Grant had been retained which Exeter was awarded £160,000, which was less than the previous year, due to part of the grant being given for National Insurance contributions funding, for the now abandoned Health & Social Care Levy;

·        the New Homes Bonus had been renewed for one year only at £672,000, with no more legacy payments;

·        the principles of the Council Tax Referendum had been increased for District Councils, who must set a Council Tax of less than 3% or £5, or otherwise a referendum would be triggered. For the first time an increase of 2.99% would be marginally higher than a £5 increase for the Council;

·        the other budgetary assumptions in the report, showed an increase of 98% for electricity and 158% for gas, which highlighted the challenges to the Council’s budgets;

·        a significant amount of work had been undertaken by officers to make suitable proposals to help balance the budget, totalling £3.8 million for the next financial year. More detail would be provided ahead of Council on 21 February 2023; and

·        the General Fund Capital Programme had been reviewed to bring forward a more affordable programme. The cost of the programme had increased during the financial year from interest rate rises and construction costs. A draft programme had been put forward based on officer recommendations to deliver the minimum programme required to keep the Council safe. Some projects which may not be included, were deemed as non-essential projects to address the financial pressures. Some projects would be carried forward and the draft programme would be finalised ahead of Council in February.


The Leader advised that he had received questions in relation to the report from Councillor Jobson and Councillor D. Moore and that he had provided written responses to the questions and the responses are appended to the minutes.


Councillor D. Moore, as an opposition group leader, spoke on this item. She thanked the Leader for responses to her previously submitted questions and asked the following questions:-


·        it would be useful for the budget report to have clarity on what had been removed and what had been completed;

·        there was an increase in the Capital Budget for IT, with a recurring cost of £200,000 a year to Strata. Was the Council getting value for money from this service?

·        was there a specific maintenance budget for equipment at St. Sidwells Point?

·        the removal of Mallison Bridge from the budget especially with partner commitment to match funding was a concern. Discussions had been held about including Mallison Bridge for either CIL or Section 106 funding which needed to be addressed; and

·        Northernhay Gardens had been closed for several months and investment needed to be made on refurbishing the infrastructure and maintenance as a location of civic pride and green space for the city centre.


The Leader thanked Councillor D. Moore for the further questions and requested that the questions be sent to him, so he could provide a response.


During the discussion the following points were raised:-


·        Directors and officers were thanked for their hard work in addressing the vast challenges needed to make savings for the financial year; and

·        there had been many cuts made to local services and funding over the last decade, however, service expectations had not changed. It was disappointing that there had been another one-year settlement received from the Government, rather than a long-term plan to help the Council in delivering its services.


In response to a Member’s question, the Director Finance advised that although part of the budget had been deferred as part of the re-profiling of the Capital Programme, Corporate Property had re-profiled £100,000 for the roof on Bradninch Place into this financial year.


The amendment to the recommendation was seconded by Councillor Wright, which was voted on, and unanimously supported.


RECOMMENDED that Council note the contents of the report and approve the principles of establishing a balanced Revenue Budget and Capital Programme.


Supporting documents: