The Board considered a report from the Operational Director, Finance, which outlined a recommendation to Council in respect of the Budget, Capital Programme and Council Tax for 2022/23.
The Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) was approved at the Executive Board meeting on 18 November 2021. It was reported that there were funding gaps of around £12.0m in 2022/23, £4.2m in 2023/24 and £2.6m in 2024/25. The Strategy had the following objectives:
· Deliver a balanced and sustainable budget;
· Prioritise spending towards the Council’s priority areas;
· Avoid excessive Council Tax rises;
· Achieve significant cashable efficiency gains;
· Protect essential front line services and vulnerable members of the community; and
· Deliver improved procurement.
In terms of consultation, it was noted that the Council used various methods to listen to the views of the public, and Members own experiences through their Ward work was an important part of that process. Individual consultations had taken place in respect of specific budget proposals and equality impact assessments would be completed where necessary.
The proposed revenue budget for 2022/23 totalled £113.891m; the departmental analysis of this was shown in Appendix C and the major reasons for change from the current budget were shown in Appendix D. Further to the £1.783m savings approved by Council on 8 December 2021, Appendix B presented further proposed budget savings for 2022/23 of £0.504m.
The Board was advised the final Local Government Finance Settlement figures were awaited, along with confirmation of some 2022/23 grant allocations including the Public Health grant. It was confirmed that the Council would continue to participate in the pilot of the 100% Business Rates Retention Scheme, as part of the Liverpool City Region (LCR).
Further information was provided on the budget outlook, Halton’s Council Tax, Parish precepts, Police, Fire and Liverpool City Region Mayor precepts, the Capital Programme, Prudential Code and School Budgets.
It was noted that Members’ had received copies of letters from Derek Twigg MP and Mike Amesbury MP, opposing the closure of Runcorn Swimming Pool, as part of the budget savings for 20922/23. Members of the public had also made their objections known to the proposed closure of the pool. Following the Board’s consideration of the matter the Leader proposed an amendment to the recommendation. This was seconded and agreed by the Board.
1) Council be recommended to adopt the resolution set out in Appendix A, which includes setting the budget at £113.891m, the Council Tax requirement of £57.174m (before Parish, Police, Fire and LCR Combined Authority precepts) and the Band D council Tax for Halton of £1,595.67;
2) the recommendations in the report relating to the setting of the 2022/23 budget, set out in Appendix B and Capital Programme set out in Appendix F, be supported and recommended to Full Council for approval, with the exception of the proposal contained therein in relation to the closure of Runcorn Swimming Pool;
3) the proposal to close Runcorn Swimming Pool be put on hold for a period, no longer than six months, to allow time to see if an alternative delivery model can be identified by giving the opportunity for a third party to come forward with a costed and sustainable business plan to take over the running of the baths. That opportunity would be widely advertised to attract potential interest;
4) any proposal must cover both the capital and revenue costs of running the pool in the future;
5) if no such proposal is submitted that meets the above criteria within that six month period then the closure of the pool would proceed at that point; and
6) the subsequent gap this causes in the budget currently recommended by officers be met by increasing the amount of reserves and balances being utilised to set a legal budget for 2022/23.