REVENUE AND CAPITAL BUDGETS 2022/23 AND COUNCIL TAX RESOLUTION
The Cabinet Member for Resources presented the Council Tax Resolution and Revenue and Capital Budgets for 2022/23.
The Council is bound by Statute to specific timescales for Council Tax setting and is also required to make certain defined resolutions. The recommendations that form the major part of this report are designed to comply with those Statutory Provisions.
The recommended resolutions also draw together the Council Tax implications of precepts proposed by the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent and Town and Community Councils, thereby enabling the County Council to establish its headline Council Tax levels at the various property bands within each Town or Community area.
The Leader of the Opposition welcomed that the Council Tax increase is below the rate of inflation referring to the higher settlement from Welsh Government. He expressed concerns about increased fees and charges e.g. burial services and domiciliary care. He expressed disappointment that an increase to Council Tax on second homes had not been considered.
Concerns were expressed at the increased cost of Children’s Services locally and nationally particularly for Children Looked After and Additional Learning Needs provision against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis. The new administration was urged to address poverty and inequality.
It was suggested that the delay to the Local Development Plan is an opportunity to include higher energy efficiency standards in homes to be built.
Frustration was expressed that UK Government did not support a Level Up Fund bid and suggested that some Council’s reserves are used to refurbish Caldicot Leisure Centre as a priority.
A business case for Ash Dieback disease was requested. Savings made from the new waste contract were challenged with Household Waste Transfer Centres (HWTC) being open fewer days per week. A breakdown of Investment Committee portfolio costs was requested. The Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services confirmed that there is a plan for Ash Dieback and the Tree Officer can provide strategy details. Referring to the three HWTCs, it was confirmed that there is sufficient capacity, an efficient service and an effective kerbside collection service.
The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People welcomed improved investment in schools urging Welsh Government to disburse Covid funding appropriately, to review the funding formula and to reform Council Tax. He highlighted that the impact of the pandemic disproportionately affected children and young people and significant investment will be required over significant time to repair the damage.
The Cabinet Member for Governance and Strategic Planning thanked the Cabinet Member for Resources and the officers for their work on the budget. He welcomed the improved settlement but noted that the funding formula is a disbenefit to rural councils and Monmouthshire is the lowest funded council in Wales. Requests for senior officer Investment Committee time costs, it was commented that it is not possible to separate costs for senior officer time.
The Chair of the Governance and Audit Committee reported on the Committee’s consideration of a report to assess the robustness of the budget process, and adequacy of reserves. The Governance and Audit Committee approved the report’s ten recommendations. The Committee also considered the 2022/23 Capital Strategy and Treasury Management Strategy. Considering the latter, the Committee satisfied itself that steps were being taken to mitigate risks relating to inflation and rising interest rates where possible.
The Cabinet Member for Economy emphasised that the Investment Committee’s portfolio is for a longer term vision to sustain future services. The Enterprise Directorate works hard to create the right environment for investment by businesses. The tighter Covid restrictions in Wales will make it harder for businesses to catch up. The Cabinet Member supported the new Level Up bid for Caldicot Leisure Centre.
The Cabinet Member for Resources replied to the following points.
· Increases to fees and charges were kept as low as possible and where possible were not raised.
· The latest announcement on second homes has been received too late for inclusion in the budget; implementation cannot be until 2024/25.
· Planning permission cannot be granted within the rules around phosphates and this is delaying the building of thousands of homes.
· Reserves were augmented in the last two years and this year to maintain the minimum reserve position.
· The Governance and Audit Committee reviews the Investment Committee annually. Investments contribute significantly to maintaining frontline services. Information that officer time is charged to core budgets has been provided. The costs of advisers and agents is charged to Investments and that information can be provided.
· The 1% is £600,000 covered by additional grants and savings – a table is available in the Cabinet Report.
· Higher energy standards for new homes and rising costs in Children’s Services are items for the next administration.
Upon being put to a vote Council resolved to accept the recommendations as set out in the report.