(NOTE: Councillors H. Shepardson and R. Sparks having previously declared an interest in this item redeclared that interest and remained in the meeting )
The Committee considered a report on the Council’s Revenue Budget Strategy 2023/24 to 2025/26, as endorsed by the Executive Board for consultation purposes at its meeting held on the 9th January 2023. The report provided Members with the current view of the Revenue Budget for 2023/2024 together with indicative figures for the 2024/2025 and 2025/2026 financial years based on officers’ projections of spending requirements and took account of the provisional settlement issued by Welsh Government on the 14th December 2022.
The Committee was informed that the announced provisional settlement represented an average increase of 8.0% across Wales on the 2022/23 settlement, with Carmarthenshire’s increase being 8.5% (£26.432mm) thereby taking the Aggregate External Finance to £338.017m for 2023/24. While the settlement was significantly above the initial indicative figure of a 3.4% increase and provided some £15.5m more than the Council’s original assumption, the Welsh Government had recognised the increased figure would still not be sufficient to meet inflationary pressures facing councils, pay awards and fuel price increases and difficult decisions would need to be made.
Whilst the budget proposals assumed the full delivery of all savings proposals, it was noted further work would be required to develop the cost reductions for the 2024/25 and 2025/26 financial years to be able to maintain the current Budget Strategy and level of Council tax.
It was noted that given the current risks around the Budget Strategy and the ongoing inflationary backdrop, together with other budgetary pressures, the proposed Council Tax increase for 2023/24 had been set at 7% to mitigate reductions to critical services. In years 2 and 3, the financial picture remained uncertain and, as such, modelled indicative Council Tax rises of 4% and 3% had been made purely for planning purposes and sought to strike a balance with budget reductions. Those proposals would be considered by the Council in setting the Council Tax level for 2023/24 at its meeting on the 1st March 2023. Additionally, as the Welsh Government final settlement figure was not due to be announced until the 7th March, 2023 any amendments required to be considered to the budget strategy as a result of that announcement would need to be considered by Council.
The Committee thereupon considered the following detailed budget information appended to the Strategy relevant to its remit:
· Appendix A(i) – Efficiency summary for the Regeneration, Leisure, Place and Sustainability and Non HRA Housing Services;
· Appendix A(ii) – Growth Pressures summary for the for the Place and Sustainability Services, - none for the Regeneration, Leisure and Non HRA Services;
· Appendix B – Budget monitoring report for the Regeneration, Leisure, Place and Sustainability and Non HRA Housing Services;
· Appendix C – Charging Digest for the Regeneration, Leisure, Place and Sustainability and Non HRA Housing Services;
The following questions/issues were raised on the report:-
· With regard to the recent budget seminars held for county councillors, it was confirmed no changes had been made to the Strategy following the seminars. However, the outcome of the formal budget consultation exercise, that included the Council’s Scrutiny Committees and the public, would be collated and incorporated within the budget consultation report to Cabinet and Council as part of their considerations on the Budget Strategy.
RESOLVED THAT IT BE RECOMMENDED TO THE CABINET/COUNCIL THAT: -
The 2023/24 – 2025/26 Revenue Budget Strategy Consultation be received.
The Charging Digests for the Regeneration, Leisure, Place and Sustainability and Non HRA Services, as detailed in Appendix C to the report, be endorsed.