Agenda and minutes
Venue: Town Hall, Watford
Contact: Ishbel Morren Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies for Absence/Committee Membership
Apologies were received from Councillors Fahmy and Shah.
Disclosure of Interests (if any)
There were no disclosures of interest.
The minutes of the meeting held on 28 November 2018 to be submitted and signed.
The minutes of the meeting held on 28 November 2017 were submitted and signed.
This report informs Budget Panel of the expected financial position at the end of the financial year, based on the actual performance at the end of November 2017 (Period 8).
The Head of Finance introduced the Finance Digest for period 8 2017/18. This showed the expected financial position (forecast outturn) for the current financial year, based on the actual performance at the end of period 8 (November 2017) set against the latest budget.
It was reported that the 2017/18 forecast outturn was under £15 million (£14.917 million), which gave a favourable variance of £548,000. The variance was better than previously forecast and was the result of a number of factors including: reduced temporary accommodation costs and increased income from planning applications and building regulation fees.
The Head of Finance highlighted the capital programme, the forecast outturn for which was expected to be £12.123 million higher than the latest budget. This was mainly the result of a decision by the Property Investment Board to purchase two additional investment properties in Wallington and Wakefield following the disposal of a site in Watford.
Budget Panel members discussed the overall saving on temporary accommodation costs (of £535,000). The Head of Housing advised that the reduction was due to lower than anticipated demand, together with a reduced reliance on more expensive temporary housing provision. Homelessness rates across the country were increasing and Watford’s current rates bucked this trend. Efforts continued to secure additional temporary accommodation in the town, particularly for families with children in local schools.
Panel members considered the roll out of universal credit and its likely impact on homelessness locally, particularly in regard to rent arrears problems. The Director of Finance advised that the government had acknowledged the difficulties which recipients had encountered in other parts of the country where this policy had been trialled and, as a consequence, policies had been put into place to alleviate the problem.
that Budget Panel notes the content of the Finance Digest 2017/18, period 8.
The report sets out:
§ the revenue budgets for the period 2018-21 and a revised budget for 2017/18
§ the capital programme for the period 2018-21
§ the Council’s income charging policy (including the individual service fees and charges)
§ the Treasury Management Strategy 2018/19
all of which are subject to Council approval
The Panel received the report of the Head of Finance which would also be presented to Cabinet on 22 January. This report included details of the proposed fees and charges for 2018/19.
Introducing the report, the Director of Finance highlighted some of the key features for Budget Panel to note. She advised that the papers included: the revenue budgets for 2018-21 and revised 2017/18 budget, capital programme for 2018-21, Council’s income charging policy (including fees and charges) and the Treasury Management Strategy 2018/19. Changes to the revenue account mirrored the position outlined in the Finance Digest 2017/18, period 8.
The Director of Finance stated that it was currently envisaged to increase council tax by a further 2.99% in 2018/19. This was in line with the government’s assumption of the council’s spending power requirements. For a Band D property, payments would increase by £7.62 a year or just over £0.14 a week. Hertfordshire County Council and Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner were expected to seek full rises in their precepts.
Looking at the capital strategy and investment programme for 2017-21, members sought clarification on the timings for the planned redevelopment of the Town Hall. The Deputy Managing Director advised that the planned £2.31 million investment still required some feasibility and design work to be completed before a planning application could be submitted. This was likely to take a further six months.
The Chair questioned proposed fees and charges increases for cemeteries, in particular proposals to increase burial fees at the North Watford Cemetery for both Watford and non-Watford residents in 2018/19. He suggested that the fees for Watford residents should be frozen at current levels with proportionately higher fees for non-Watford residents in order to balance the budget in this area.
In response, the Head of Community & Environmental Services advised that the fees for this service had been increased by around the rate of inflation. He also explained that work was currently being undertaken to look at additional burial provision in the borough.
Additional work could be undertaken by a scrutiny task and finish group to investigate comparable charges in surrounding authorities and to establish a more accurate understanding of usage by Watford and non-Watford residents. Any significant changes to the fees and charges at the cemetery could then be introduced in the budget for 2019/20.
The Chair suggested that the demographic usage of the cemetery should be a further area of investigation. He stated that Muslim people had a religious obligation to be buried, rather than cremated, in the town in which they died and any increase in fees and charges would impact this community disproportionately. Any proposed changes should require an equalities impact assessment.
The Chair proposed a motion to recommend to Cabinet that the proposed increases in fees and charges for burials for Watford residents should be frozen at current levels with proportionately higher fees introduced for non-Watford residents in order to remain budget neutral. On being put to the vote, the motion was carried. Five members of ... view the full minutes text for item 25.
Dates of Next Meetings
· 14 March 2018
It was noted that the next meeting would take place on:
• 14 March 2018.