When invited to make his presentation, Councillor Yates, Cabinet Member for Financial Services made the following points:
· It was difficult to predict accurately developments in local government finance due the prevailing national economic situation;
· The MTFS was therefore not much different from the previous one;
· The level of government grants was falling;
· The recently adopted MTFS was drafted in the context of the new corporate priorities which were focusing on the Growth, Environment and Community.
Mr Tim Willis, Deputy CEx and s151 Officer advised the meeting of some non material amendments to the report.
Thereafter Members asked questions and made comments as indicated below:
· Why was there a fall in business rates?
· The decrease in business rates and government grants would leave the council finances in a worse situation;
· Was there a target for generating income in relation to the following potential income sources?
§ The creation of a housing company to develop accommodation for market rent and possibly sale;
§ Consideration of using the Minor Works team to generate income from selling handyperson services;
§ A review of printing services income and expenditure including scope to in-source more printing;
§ Growth in income generated from fees and charges;
§ Investigation of the appetite with our partners for more shared services including leadership teams;
§ Seek to expand the CCTV service to sell to other external organisations;
§ Drive to increase the use of direct debits to improve income collection across all chargeable services.
· The council committee structure was going to be considered as part of the review?
· The Finance team worked with openness in the drafting process of the council budget;
· Would there be sufficient income from the sale of the Dreamland freehold to fund other debts?
· How could the council know if the sale of the freehold would service the debts if the value of the freehold had not been ascertained?
· Had the compensation amount for the Dreamland site been communicated to the Council?
Members thanked the Finance team conducting the budget briefing sessions for Members as part of the budget building process.
Mr Willis and Mr Tim Howes, Director of Corporate Governance & Monitoring Officer responded to Member comments as follows:
· The review of business rates would be conducted this year and it was anticipated that the council would receive close to the baseline amounts;
· The assumption was that the revenue support grants from government would decline over the coming years, and possibly end altogether in 2021/22;
· TDC had not been eligible to receive the New Homes Bonus for sometime, unlike other councils who would be expecting huge amounts;
· Thanet would be one of the hardest hit by those changes, highlighted above, and this point was further illustrated at a recent Kent Finance Officers’ meeting attended by s151 Officers from Kent, at which a presentation was made by Local Government Association;
· The MTFS spelt out some ideas on financial management in the medium term. Those ideas would be further developed and detailed out in the coming annual budgets; ... view the full minutes text for item 220
Cabinet considered the report that set out Thanet District Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for the next four years. The MTFS provided an integrated view of the whole of the council’s finances and set out objectives to be met, risks to be managed and the policies to be applied over that period.
Members were advised that the council had been exposed to and had to manage a number of significant financial risks. Decisions made in the past meant the council had to “firefight” events rather than being able to focus on improving service delivery.
As a result of the above, reserves remained low and the council was forced to adopt a risk-averse position. Moving forward, the financial management culture of the organisation required improvement and a review of financial management was planned for later this year, which would assist stabilise finances and build for the future.
Councillor Campbell and Councillor Pugh spoke under Council Procedure 20.1.
Councillor Yates proposed, Councillor Albon seconded and Cabinet approved the Medium Term Financial Strategy 2020-24.