To consider the report of the Interim Chief Finance Officer (copy enclosed).
The Council considered the report of the Interim Chief Finance Officer seeking Members’ approval of the recommendations within the Provisional Outturn 2022 / 23 report (attached at Appendix A to the report). These recommendations had previously not been approved by the Strategy and Resources Committee (S&R) at its meeting on 22 June 2023.
The report provided a brief outline of the discussions that had taken place at the S&R meeting and background information around each recommendation was provided. Members were advised that if the recommendations were not approved the Council would be unable to fulfil its statutory and legal commitments and many existing projects would have to cease or be paused while a review of all commitments was undertaken.
The Leader of the Council presented the report to the Council and highlighted the importance for Members to seek clarification and gain understanding of reports prior to attending a meeting. He noted that Officers were willing to work with Members and assist with any questions they may have. The Leader explained that the decision of the S&R would have a detrimental impact on Council projects. He then moved the recommendation set out the report.
In her presentation of the report the Interim Chief Finance Officer drew Members’ attention to paragraphs 3.3 and 3.4 of the report which highlighted three of the recommendations (set out in Appendix A) and how if not approved the Council would not be able to fulfil its statutory commitments. In respect of the movement in earmarked reserves it was noted that the Council had already approved the majority of these during previous financial years and therefore the majority were just for noting.
Councillor A S Fluker commented on the report and requested that when Committees were dealing with high impact corporate recommendations that these be recommended to the Council for approval rather than resolved by a Committee. He expressed concern regarding use of the New Homes Bonus (NHB) to support the General Fund and how additional business rate monies should be used to support and attract new businesses to the District. Councillor Fluker then proposed that no funds from these two reserves be allocated without approval of the S&R.
In response the Interim Chief Finance Officer provided some clarification regarding the NHB and business rates income and how had they not been used as detailed in the report the pressure on the Council would have increased and left the budget gap unaddressed.
There was some discussion about the Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) in Heybridge and the Leader of the Council advised that the Environment Agency (EA) had the monies in place for this FAS which would be coming forward in the future for completion. The Director of Strategy and Resources provided further background information regarding the FAS and his understanding that it could be fully funded by the EA who would consult on the options in the coming months.
The Chairperson moved the recommendation set out in the report and this was agreed by assent. In response to a query from Councillor Fluker regarding his proposal, the Chairperson advised the proposal had been seconded and could therefore be included.
Post Meeting Note: Although the Chairperson was of the view that the proposal had been seconded adding an extra item to the recommendation of the report, that was subsequently shown not to be the case and the Chairperson rules that Councillor Fluker’s proposal was never seconded and could not form part of the decision to assent the proposals.
(i) That the Provisional Outturn position for the 2022 / 23 financial year be noted;
(ii) That the Revenue Commitments detailed in Appendix 2 to the report be approved to be brought forward into 2023 / 24;
(iii) That the movement in Earmarked Reserves in Appendix 3 to the report be approved;
(iv) That the Capital Commitments set out in Appendix 4 to the report be approved to be brought forward into 2023 / 24;
(v) that £421k of additional business rates income is used to close the budget gap for 2023 / 24.