Agenda item

Budget Report and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2022/23

To scrutinise the proposed Revenue Budget, Capital Programme and Council Tax 2022/23.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report that set out the proposed Revenue Budget, Capital Programme and Council Tax 2022/2023 for approval at Budget Council on 23rd February 2022. 

 

It was noted that the information contained within the report was subject to approval of the Mayor of Greater Manchester Council Tax precepts for 2022/23.

 

Members were informed that the report also outlined the Medium Term Financial Strategy 2022/23 to 2026/27 which provided the latest budget position for the Council, set out the key financial challenges and issues that would be faced over the period and provided details of the assumptions and estimates which underpinned the budget.

 

The Chair then invited comments and questions from Members.

 

During the course of the discussion, the following points were raised:

 

  • In response to a question regarding the expected final balance on the 2021/22 budget transfer to the Equalisation Reserve - it was explained that the Quarter 3 update report was currently being prepared and based on current proposals it was anticipated that there would be an underspend.  However, if all carry forward requests submitted were approved this would create a balance deficit.
  • It was noted that a Council Tax reduction scheme for 2022/23 was proposed, which would offer targeted support to working-age households in receipt of Local Council Tax Support facing financial difficulties.  The scheme would provide a credit of up to £150 on account. If the amount of Council Tax to pay was less than £150 the bill would be reduced to £0.
  • In response to questions, the Chief Finance Officer explained that the Government had announced measures to help with rising energy bills, one of which was a £150 ‘council tax energy rebate’ for all households in Bands A to D. The proposed Council Tax reduction scheme was separate to the Government’s council tax rebate.  It was explained that the details of the rebate scheme were awaited; however, it was anticipated that the Council would administer the scheme on behalf of the Government and Council Tax data would be used to issue payments directly to households that paid Council Tax by Direct Debit.  It was agreed that an easy to understand guide would be circulated to all councillors, which explained the details of the Government’s council tax energy rebate scheme and the authority’s Council Tax reduction scheme.
  • In responding to a query, the Chief Finance Officer agreed to provide the Committee with information regarding the number of households that would be receiving a Council Tax bill of £0 - £50.
  • It was requested that details of the Mayor of Greater Manchester Council Tax precepts and budget setting process be circulated to the Committee.
  • Councillor Wraighte wished to place on record her support for social care workers being paid the real living wage.
  • Concerns were raised regarding the proposed increase of Council Tax, in light of rising energy bills and inflation, and it was suggested that a freeze on Council Tax to benefit all residents should be considered.
  • In addition, it was suggested that rather than an increase on Council Tax, the Council’s balances and reserves should be utilised.  Concern was raised that the Council’s balances had remained unused, despite the difficulties over the past two years.  In response, the Chief Finance Officer explained that the balances held represented 3% of the Council’s overall spend.  In addition, she said that in the early stages of the pandemic the balances had placed the Council in a strong position to react to Covid.  It was explained that it was prudent to maintain the Council’s balances until there was more certainty regarding longer term funding from the Government and the resources that may be required to recover from the pandemic.  The Government’s fair funding review would set a new baseline funding allocations for local authorities and funding for the Council would not be known until next year.

 

 

RESOLVED –

 

     I.        That the report be noted.

 

    II.        That an easy to understand guide be circulated to all councillors which explained the details of the Government’s council tax rebate scheme and the authority’s Council Tax reduction scheme.

 

  III.        That the Chief Finance Officer be requested to provide the Committee with information regarding the number of households that would be receiving a Council Tax bill of £0 - £50.

 

  IV.        That the Chief Finance Officer be requested to circulate to the Committee details of the Mayor of Greater Manchester Council Tax precepts and budget setting process.

Supporting documents: