Agenda item

2023/24 budget setting

To seek the views of the Scrutiny Management Board on the budget proposals for 2023/24 following the announcement of the provisional financial settlement.


The Chair introduced the item and noted that the key lines of enquiry for consideration of the revenue budget were;

  • Robustness of information
  • Questions around the Medium Financial Terms Strategy
  • Robustness of the estimates
  • Questions around base budget


To assist public understanding of the papers the committee sought clarification to the term ‘Central’ that appeared on page 266 of the papers.


The s151 officer confirmed that the term ‘Central’ related to the cost of borrowing in relation to employee pension costs. It is held centrally rather than trying to allocate the costs across the council.


The committee raised questions about the rates of inflation that had been used in the medium term financial strategy. They asked whether there was a narrative on which the assumptions had been made. There was concern that there was a danger of over inflating the figures in the MTFS. There would be no objection to the use of the figures provided there is an explanation on how the figures had been created.


The Cabinet member responded, advising that national inflation and CPI do not necessarily reflect where inflation hits the council in terms of the kind of services the council deliver and those that we procure through others.


The s151 officer advised that they (Cabinet) have to take a view going forward and that the council has to set a balanced budget. In terms of assumptions around inflation they are prudent. At the moment no one knows in which direction inflation will go. He confirmed he was comfortable with the assumptions as they are reasonable and fair.


There followed a discussion about the rates of inflation that had been used in setting the budget, whether other indices had been considered such as construction industry bodies and what sensitivity analysis had been done. The committee concluded that there needs to be a narrative provided to justify the inflation figures used for the budget in the MTFS.




That a narrative be provided, in preparation for the cabinet meeting, to justify the inflation figures used for the budget and the MTFS



The committee sought confirmation around figures that has been used for the Social Care Support Grant, the Market Sustainability and Cost of Care and the New Homes Bonus.


The committee were advised that the figures have come from the Directorate understanding of what the government likely grant schemes will be. The government has changed the calculation for the New Homes Bonus to net off empty homes. The Market Sustainability and Cost of Care only runs for a further year so it is being incorporated into the social care funding pressure.


The committee enquired about the Economy and Environment budget which has been flat for the last 3 years and whether it could respond to the climate change pressures.


The Director for Economy and Environment advised that there was a new Economic Plan being developed in partnership with other organisations. The department seeks external grant funding for projects rather than requesting increases to base budgets. The team are always looking at how best to utilise the grants that are available. Looking to redraft the climate change actions as the team are delivering far more across the Directorates then that which is being reported on.


The committee asked whether any public consultation had been taken into account and reflected in the figures being presented.


They were advised that the market town face to face consultations were completed but that the online comments were still being reviewed.




Summary of consultation results to be published, in preparation for the Cabinet meeting, together with the changes made to the budget as a result of the feedback


The committee recommend that cabinet set up a working group to consider where and how other local authorities are reversing the trend of reducing percentage allocations of budget to Economy and Environment priorities.



The committee pointed out that the budget assumes children’s services remains within the council. They sought assurance as to whether work has been done on an alternative budget for a Children’s Trust and what effect that has on the council being able to achieve a balanced budget?


The committee were advised that work had not been done on an alternative budget for a Children’s Trust. The council were considering all options in the event that children’s services do not remain within the council.


The committee enquired about the all ages social care budget being used to offset the review of children’s services and how it was being applied across the two Directorates?


They were advised that it is being kept under review and that it was a back stop fund working across both Directorates.


The committee asked about the recruitment position with regards to adult social care workers.


There was recognition of the difficulty of recruitment into the domiciliary care market but the council were working well with Hoople and the NHS in trying to encourage people into the care industry. There is a current gap of 20 adult social care worker vacancies with interims being appointed although the number of permanent staff has remained static. It is proposed to launch a micro site to advertise the benefits of working in Herefordshire.


The committee asked whether the Transformation Strategy in children’s with regards to the edge of care and prevention offer, is developed well enough to know it can be delivered in year?


The committee received reassurance that is future years children’s will not be a large share in the budget as the investment will assist with future budget.


The committee asked whether the 14.1 million worth of savings across the 4 Directorates could be achieved? Because if more could be achieved then the council tax increase to 4.99% could be reduced.


The committee heard that it would be very difficult to achieve additional savings to reduce council tax but that if scrutiny can identify additional savings then this would be welcomed.


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