Agenda item

Budget Monitoring

Scrutiny of the Revenue and Capital Outturn reports for 2020-2021


Jonathan Davies presented the report and answered the members’ questions with Stacey Jones, Frances O’Brien, and Mark Hand.


Besides Audit Manager (shared with Newport), are there other areas that we share with other councils?

Yes, there are several examples of shared service arrangements throughout the authority. The most recent example is the decision to amalgamate with Cardiff Council’s procurement service. If there is a benefit to be had then we explore the possibility. When we collaborate with other councils or bodies we are able to capitalise that cost, allowing us to meet the costs from capital resources, rather than burdening the revenue account. We’re looking to do this for procurement for the current financial year: £208k pressure that would have been in the revenue budget is being capitalised.

Does the collaboration with Cardiff on procurement include shared salaries?

That included a transfer of the service and secondment of officers to Cardiff. We would then pay a fee for that service, effectively. So, in effect, we pay the salary but through a fee arrangement rather than directly.

Passenger transport unit and civil parking enforcement: has the new scheme of civil parking started, and will the pressures be resolved in the coming years?

The PTU service has a number of pressures. We’ve seen increased maintenance costs, additional staffing costs, increased pupil numbers requiring transport, etc. The modelling of those numbers is very complex in terms of applications coming in for home to school transport each year. We often get late applications and it is difficult for us to predict where pupils will go. We’re looking at putting a recovery plan in place for PTU for next year; last year we received a substantial amount of Welsh Government funding that helped mitigate some of the issues in the services, but they still exist. We’re looking at the current staffing structure and doing a comparison between internal and external operations to see if there is any leeway there for reducing costs. But they mainly relate to fluctuations in numbers – when we receive the new numbers in September, the direction we need to take will be clearer, and there will be another review.

Civil parking enforcement has been in place for just under two years but between staff vacancies, sickness and the pandemic, we have probably only had about three months of full activity. There’s currently a shortfall in income against the target; we have started a review to ascertain whether the target is realistic in the first place. We weren’t enforcing during the flood events and staff were redeployed during the pandemic, so we’re only now getting the service bedded in. This will be an area for the committee to watch as we move along, and we can report back in the coming year.

Have our private contracts been affected?

Yes, we’ve reduced our private hire because of Covid. We are now starting to get back into the private hire market and getting jobs in on that end. Hopefully, as the year goes on, income will steadily progress. We need to ensure that we have the staffing structure to deliver our core services, i.e. children to school, and the first point of call will be picking up swimming lessons once they start again. We will watch the market very closely and develop our service to match the needs and produce income from private hire as it does offset our overall costs.

Could there be further training in reading accounts, and perhaps members could suggest ways of phrasing things, etc.?

Officers will consider this and get back to the committee.

Chair’s Summary:

We thank the officers for a detailed report on the revenue and capital outturn position and we are grateful for the concise explanation of the key budgetary issues in the service areas that fall within our remit. We recognise that reports need to be detailed, however, local government finance is complex and we would like some further training on analysis of the finance reports in due course. Our role is to satisfy ourselves that effective budget monitoring is taking place and as a committee, we feel fairly confident that this is the case. We recognise that the 2 winter storms had significant implications for the financial position together with the already challenging service area positions, notably children’s services, Passenger Transport Unit and Waste and Recycling, the increased pay award and the late settlement from Welsh Government further compounding a challenging situation. We particularly thank officers for providing us with an overview of the financial implications of the Covid pandemic, which will help us in our scrutiny of the pandemic learning that we will undertake in September. Thank you officers for your time this morning and your hard work in collating these reports.


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