This presentation will outline the Council’s strategy to the 2021-22 Budget within the context of the Corporate Plan. The presentation will provide details of the approach to setting the budget for the next financial year and the broad impact this will have on the delivery of services.
Councillors N Oliver, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services and G Sanderson, Leader, provided a power point presentation which outlined the Council’s strategy to the 2021-22 Budget within the context of the corporate plan. A copy of the presentation would be filed with the signed minutes and be uploaded to the Council’s website, with the following information noted.
Members were advised that the budget was being presented in a different way this year and there had been an on-line question and answer session and a “have your say” consultation undertaken between 10 December 2020 and 20 January 2021 which had been open to residents to have their say and this would be fed into the budget process. 2020 Had been a very difficult year for everyone and the Council’s budget would reflect what had happened and the lessons learned on what could be done differently whilst still providing all the services which residents relied upon. The Administration were very proud of the staff for the work undertaken for the residents of the County during this time and thanked them all for their efforts.
Budget 2021-22 Approach
· Maintain the frontline services important to residents and businesses
· Continue to support the most vulnerable in communities whilst giving communities more control.
· Leading economic recovery following Covid and investment in a green recovery.
· Meet budget challenges through a programme of continuous innovation and improvement.
State of the Area
· Public Health - the most up to date Covid figures were provided and it was hoped that the peak had been reached in Northumberland. Hospitals were extremely busy and it was important that everyone followed the current Government guidelines to prevent infections.
· Economy – Covid had created a major shock to the economy, however there was a need to create an environment to allow the economy to recover quickly. A lot of workers had been furloughed during the pandemic and there had been an increase of 62% in unemployment figures since March 2020, with retail, leisure and hospitality sectors hit. It was hoped the sectors would be able to recover quickly following the lifting of restrictions with work being undertaken to development the tourism sector.
· Council Services - Throughout Covid the Council maintained the services most important to residents and successfully adapted to news ways of working, embracing more use of digital solutions and by continuing to improve and innovate services. Children’s Services were rated by Ofsted as ‘Good’ in 2020. Local democracy was maintained by successfully switching to virtual meetings and, critically, preparing for the coming local elections.
Budget 2021-22: Financial Context
· Next year savings target circa £8.3 million.
· Improving frontline services.
· Increasing demand for services.
· Covid-19 pandemic.
· Ambitious capital programme.
· Still investing in infrastructure and services whilst delivering savings.
Details were provided of the funding analysis from 2014 – 2024 along with the overall funding arrangements, including the decision to increase the Adult Social Care by the minimum of 3% over two years. Details were also provided on the savings to be made by each directorate and the summary of savings by year. It was proposed that Council Tax would be increased by 1.99%. In respect of debt, Members were advised that there was a need to balance investment with manageable debt and it had not been considered that the previous levels were sustainable.
Budget 2021-22: Summary
· The budget position, whilst challenging, was under control.
· Through managing debt better, revising assumptions around social care and local government reform, the savings gap had been reduced.
· The organisation was in much better shape to do more and provide better value.
· Increased costs and growing pressures in demand remain, particularly in adult and children’s services.
· Tough decisions were still to be made but the Administration was committed to protecting the most vulnerable.
· Ambitious for our future with targeted £748 million capital investment programme.
· Investment from North of Tyne Devolution Deal to really make a difference to people’s lives.
· Borderlands Growth Deal could act as a catalyst for further investment.
· Determined to shine a light on all that is great about Northumberland as a place to work, live, visit and do business.
Details of investments going forward were highlighted, including the strengths of the current pharmaceutical and global industries, agriculture, natural resources, the importance of tourism and the upcoming investments in Energy Central within Blyth along with the transformations in travel and connectivity and the green recovery.
Councillor Hill also congratulated staff on their efforts and the many positive ways in which the situation had been managed. She advised that Berwick had received more support than any time previously. In response to her request for a flavour of what the cuts and efficiencies would be in the budget, Councillor Oliver advised that these were being finalised and would be included in the final budget documents, however the efficiencies would be driven in order to provide value for money for residents and would not be based on geographical areas.
Councillor Bridgett whilst acknowledging that it had not been an easy year for delivering services and commending the Administration for the capital projects which had been delivered, advised that there were still residents within his area who had no access to mains electricity. He was aware that this was not the responsibility of the Council however they did need to push Government to deliver this most basic service. Councillor Sanderson advised that he was aware of this and he gave a commitment to talk to both colleagues, the National Park and energy providers regarding this provision.
Councillor Seymour agreed that a great deal had been provided within Berwick and questioned what the cost of delivering the green recovery had been as this had not been in the previous budget. She advised that in her opinion that the tough decision made in respect of joining the LA7 and requesting that Northumberland be included in Tier 3 had been the right decision highlighting the large numbers of people with Covid which had spread throughout the County. Councillor Sanderson thanked her for those comments as he had received a lot of criticism for his decision in trying to protect residents, however he had felt it was the right decision. In respect of the green recovery he advised that a new team of officers appointed to develop an action plan and develop new initiatives. Councillor Oliver advised that it was a complex question and difficult to quantify as it depended on what you actually included, but he would try to provide a figure. All grants that were available were being utilised.
Councillor Roughead asked that if the Council were aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030 was there a possibility of this being extended to the County being carbon negative with the potential for an additional revenue stream to sell to those who were unable to achieve their targets. Councillor Sanderson advised that it was going to be significant challenge in hitting the carbon neutral target by 2030, however we would need to see how much progress was being made and if it was possible then it would be done.
Councillors Sanderson and Oliver were thanked for their presentation.
RESOLVED that the information be noted.