Agenda item

The 2014/15 Budget and Council Tax

The circulated report sets out the detail of the budget proposed for 2014/15 and how this has been developed as well as the medium term financial outlook.  The report also sets out the council's planned capital programme to 2016/17 and sets out an appropriate level of technical detail on the ring fenced Dedicated Schools' Grant, Housing Revenue Account and Prudential Treasury Indicators.

 

The Appendices referred to in the report are circulated separately.

Minutes:

The Council had before it a report seeking approval of the 2014/15 revenue and capital budgets and to the Council Tax to be levied.  It set out the process for developing the budget, a breakdown of service area budgets and the overall budget requirement in 2014/15.

 

The Leader of the Council, Councillor Butt, addressed the meeting in support of the proposed budget.  He drew attention to the need for the Council to make £18 million savings next year and £53 million savings in the two years following meaning that by 2017 the Council would have £133 million less to spend on vital services relied on by local people.  He stated that the picture beyond these figures was of families struggling to get by as wages were frozen, benefits cut and rising household bills.  He submitted that the unprecedented cuts imposed on the Council were a matter of political choice by the coalition Government.  However he felt that local councils could still make things better for their residents by protecting the poorest and by working together the aim was to build a fairer and more prosperous borough.  Although the cuts being made were not out of choice, Councillor Butt stated that the Council would not defer from making the difficult decisions it was forced to make whilst also trying to protect frontline services.  He outlined initiatives within the budget including a freeze on Council Tax for the fifth year running, supporting the Big London Energy Switch, paying the London Living Wage to all staff and restricting the ability of payday lending firms to advertise in the borough.  He added reference to the support provided for keeping open every Sure Start centre in the borough despite a 50% fall in government funding, the achievements of young people in gaining qualifications and seeking further education or employment.  The volume of the borough’s waste recycled had increased from 21% to 43% and new facilities provided in parks and sports centres helped reduce health inequalities.  One priority was to help local businesses grow to create more jobs for local residents, as seen in the Wembley regeneration area and another being to provide new homes such as in Kilburn.  Councillor Butt saw an opportunity for the Council to renew the borough’s sense of community make it a fairer place with jobs for local people.  He commended the budget to the Council.

 

Councillor Lorber responded by criticising Councillor Butt for blaming somebody else when the past Labour government was responsible for the war in Iraq, bailing out the banks and reducing the number of Police Community Support Officers.  Locally the Labour council had stopped parking scratch cards, overseen a reduction in the condition of the local environment and lost the trust of local communities by closing half the borough’s libraries. He referred to his tabled amendments to the budget which proposed additional expenditure on libraries, highways, parking, street cleaning and waste management, festivals and events, school crossing patrols and the introduction of a Council Tax discount for special constables resident in Brent.  He proposed this would be met by savings from setting a vacancy factor, reducing the number of interim staff and deleting some senior posts, streamlining the Mayor’s office and reducing the costs of supporting ward working.  There would also be reductions in the transformation reserve and remuneration reserve to fund one-off spending.  He so moved his amendments to the budget.

 

Councillor Kansagra responded by saying he felt he had heard all the Leader of the Council had said before.  He agreed with the sentiments expressed about the need to protect the citizens of Brent and with the proposal to freeze the Council Tax.  He added that the first freeze came under the Liberal Democrat/Conservative council in 2009/10 and had since been supported by Government policy and funding when in the past under Labour it had increased.  He referred to the Leader of the Council regularly referring to the need to save over £100 million but not explaining that the cuts were spread over five years.  Councillor Kansagra pointed out that the Government had removed the ring fencing of grant meaning that the Council was free to spend resources on the projects and services it wanted to provide.  He referred to the debate at the last Council meeting on Councillor Colwill’s motion which had sought to reduce the burden on those on benefit having to pay at least 20% of the Council Tax. Because any change to the Council Tax Support Scheme required further public consultation he would not be proposing a change at present but declared his intention to review the scheme in the future if the opportunity presented itself.  Councillor Kansagra continued by referring to additional funding the Council benefited from and moved amendments to the budget which sought to assist the development of voluntary sector libraries, deleting the ward working programme; promoting and furthering the borough’s cultural life by restoring support to community organisations to celebrate cultural and religious events within the borough, introducing one hour free parking on the borough’s high streets where conditions permitted in order to support local businesses and to reduce the level of reserves to £6 million.  He criticised the lack of information provide on the sale of old Council offices which meant he could not be certain about the level of money available to the Council.

 

Councillor Hopkins, Chair of Budget and Finance Overview and Scrutiny Committee, thanked members of the committee and supporting officers for their work over the past year.  She reminded members of the role of overview and scrutiny and the importance of its work in protecting the interests of the borough’s residents. She pointed out a key recommendation from the committee that the Council should not assume restoration of any funding from a successive government.  Councillor Hopkins highlighted other recommendations from the committee, including the importance of the One Council programme and what it saw as high risk areas such as the public realm contract and the parking contract.   She reported that the committee had expressed concern over the top slicing the New Homes Bonus and felt the Community Infrastructure Levy had to be optimised with provision of transparent information to Members.  The committee had also felt that the civic centre was not generating the income that had been part of its cost justification and that innovative thinking was needed to improve this.  She expressed the committee’s concern over the Council’s use of interim and consultant staff and the procurement process behind this which often did not represent best practice. The committee had recommended more transparent processes for this. Finally, she felt the Council needed to engage more closely with residents and hear their views.

 

Councillor R Moher, Lead Member for Resources, stated that every effort had been made to identify efficiency savings and develop new and better ways of working.  She outlined the level of efficiencies made as well as the savings achieved through the One Council programme. This included adopting new procurement techniques, agreeing a new public realm contract and the savings created by moving to the Civic Centre.  Councillor Moher referred to the impact of the welfare reforms and the efforts made by the Council to mitigate these by for instance moving to a position of exempting residents on higher and lower incapacity benefit from paying Council Tax.  She referred to the work of the ‘Navigators’ who had helped people some of the most socially excluded get back into work.  She criticised opposition members for not being concerned about the plight of individuals and instead being more concerned about inconveniences such as parking and potholes.  She commended the budget as one that sought to protect the most vulnerable and help everyone get on in tough times.

 

A general debate followed with members commenting on the proposed budget and the amendments put forward.  It was submitted that some members seemed to think that the Council was only responsible for parking and libraries, ignoring the long list of support services the Council provided for families and young people.  The view was put that tough decisions had been taken on the budget in order to protect valuable services.  Some members referred to the need for the Council to find £53M savings in the next two years and yet proposals had been put forward requiring additional funding.  A view was expressed that the libraries issue was being used as a political weapon because discussions were taking place with community groups on the issue but this was being ignored.  The public realm contract was referred to as an example of the excellent work being done by the Council and how this had been recognised by it being shortlisted for the Excellence in Public Procurement awards.   The Council was taking aggressive action against fly tippers in the borough and improving sports facilities.  However, it was also submitted that Government support had enable the Council to freeze the level of Council Tax.  A view was expressed that the Government was successfully reducing the public deficit and that this work needed to continue.   In referring to the discussion on parking it was confirmed that parking scratch cards would be withdrawn later in the year because the existing system was not working effectively and the new electronic system delivered an improved service.  In addition visitor household parking permits, a trusted visitor pass and health emergency badge for medical professionals making home visits were all being introduced.  Some of the key aspects of the budget were referred to such as providing homes, creating school places, regenerating the borough, increasing the pupil premium and protecting the elderly.  It was submitted that the past actions of the Labour administration had reduced funding for local health services.  It was suggested that removing people from the housing list denied them the chance of being housed.  A view was expressed that the future of Bridge Park needed to be resolved and it was felt that a school should be built there to provide much needed places in that area of the borough. Further contributions referred to the wide provision of adult care services and health services provided by the Council and the lack of any contributions from opposing members that addressed the funding and need for these services.  Reference was made to the provision of housing and the introduction of a licensing scheme for the private rented sector to improve conditions.

 

The Leader thanked everyone for their contributions and Councillor Hopkins for her committee’s report.  He referred to some of the contributions made by members which he felt failed to address the financial situation facing the Council. 

 

The amendments proposed by Councillor Lorber were put to the vote en bloc and declared LOST.  In accordance with The Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014, voting was recorded as follows:

 

FOR:                           Councillors Beck, Brown, Hashmi, Hopkins, Kataria, Lorber, Matthews and CJ Patel (8)

 

AGAINST:                  Councillors Aden, Adeyeye, Al-Ebadi,  Allie, Arnold, Bacchus, Butt, Chohan, S Choudhary, A Choudry,  Crane, Daly, Denselow, Gladbaum,  Harrison, Hector, Hirani, Hossain, Jones, Kabir, Long, Mashari, McLennan, Mitchell Murray,  J Moher, R Moher, Naheerathan, Ogunro, Oladapo RS Patel, Pavey, Powney,  Ketan Sheth, Krupa Sheth, Singh, Thomas and Van Kalwala (37)

 

ABSTAINED:            Councillors Baker, Colwill, Kansagra, BM Patel, HB Patel and HM Patel (6)

 

The amendments proposed by Councillor Kansagra were put to the vote en bloc and declared LOST.  In accordance with The Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014, voting was recorded as follows:

 

FOR                            Councillors Baker, Colwill, Kansagra, BM Patel, HB Patel and HM Patel (6)

 

AGAINST:                  Councillors Aden, Adeyeye, Al-Ebadi,  Allie, Arnold, Bacchus, Butt, Chohan, S Choudhary, A Choudry,  Crane, Daly, Denselow, Gladbaum,  Harrison, Hector, Hirani, Hossain, Jones, Kabir, Long, Mashari, McLennan, Mitchell Murray,  J Moher, R Moher, Naheerathan, Ogunro, Oladapo RS Patel, Pavey, Powney,  Ketan Sheth, Krupa Sheth, Singh, Thomas and Van Kalwala (37)

 

ABSTAINED:            Councillors Beck, Brown, Hashmi, Hopkins, Kataria, Lorber, Matthews and CJ Patel (8)

 

The recommendations in the report submitted were put to the vote en bloc and declared CARRIED.  In accordance with The Local Authorities (Standing Orders) England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014,.voting was recorded as follows:

 

FOR:                           Councillors Aden, Adeyeye, Al-Ebadi, Allie, Arnold, Bacchus, Butt, Chohan, S Choudhary, A Choudry, Crane, Daly, Denselow, Gladbaum,  Harrison, Hector, Hirani, Hossain, Jones, Kabir, Long, Mashari, McLennan, Mitchell Murray, J Moher, R Moher, Naheerathan, Ogunro, Oladapo RS Patel, Pavey, Powney, Ketan Sheth, Krupa Sheth, Singh, Thomas and Van Kalwala (38)

 

AGAINST:                  Councillors Baker, Beck, Brown, Colwill, Hopkins, Kataria, Lorber, Kansagra, Matthews and BM Patel, CJ Patel and HM Patel (12)

 

ABSTAINED:            Councillors Hashmi and HB Patel (2)

 

RESOLVED:

 

(i)         that the General Fund revenue budget for 2014/15, as summarised in Appendix A of the report, be agreed;

 

(ii)        that the Service Area budgets including the cost pressures and savings detailed in Appendices B and C of the report be agreed;

 

(iii)       that the report of the Budget and Finance Overview and Scrutiny Committee attached as Appendix D to the report be noted;

 

(iv)       that Appendix E of the report be noted and the budgets for central items and other budgets be agreed;

 

(v)        that the report from the Chief Finance Officer in Appendix C(iii) of the report in respect of his statutory duty under Section 25 of 2003 Local Government Act be received;

 

(vi)       that there be no increase in the Council’s element of Council Tax for 2014/15;

 

(vii)      that the advice of the Director of Legal and Procurement as set out in Appendix M of the report be noted;

 

(viii)     that the instalment dates for Council Tax and NNDR for 2014/15, and the recovery policy for Council Tax as set out in Appendix F(ii) of the report be agreed;

 

(ix)       that decisions on individual applications for reducing Council Tax payable in accordance with section 13A(1)(c) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 be delegated to the Chief Finance Officer;

 

(x)        that the Medium Term Financial Outlook in Section 5 of the report be noted;

 

(xi)       that the School’s Budget set out in Appendix H of the report be agreed;

 

(xii)      that the Housing Revenue Account budget set out in Appendix I(ii) of the report be agreed;

 

(xiii)     that the 2014/15 to 2016/17 capital programme as set out in Appendix J of the report be agreed;

 

(xiv)     that the levels of unsupported borrowing forecast for 2014/15, based on the borrowing levels agreed by the Council on 28 February 2013 be noted;

 

(xv)      that the Treasury Management Strategy and the Annual Investment Strategy for 2014/15 set out in Appendix K be agreed;

 

(xvi)     that the Prudential Indicators set out in section 7 of the report and Appendix L of the report for affordability, capital spending, external debt and treasury management be agreed;

 

(xvii)    that in relation to the Council Tax for 2014/15:-

 

the following amounts be now calculated by the Council for the year 2014/15 in accordance with Sections 31 to 36 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 as amended:

(a)       £1,059,811,000 being the aggregate of the amount that the Council estimates for the items set out in Section 31A(2) of the Act,

(b)       £975,937,657 being the aggregate of the amounts that the Council estimates for the items set out in Section 31A(3) of the Act,

(c)        £83,873,343 being the amount by which the aggregate at (a) above exceeds the aggregate at (b) above, calculated by the Council, in accordance with Section 31A(4) of the Act, as its Council Tax requirement for the year,

 

(d)       £1,058.94 being the amount at (c) above, divided by the amount for the taxbase specified above calculated by the Council, in accordance with Section 31B of the Act, as the basic amount of its Council Tax for the year, and

 

(e)       Valuation Bands

 

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

£

£

£

£

£

£

£

£

705.96

823.62

941.28

1,058.94

1,294.26

1,529.58

1,764.90

2,117.88

 

being the amounts given by multiplying the amount at (d) above by the number which, in the proportion set out in Section 5(1) of the Act, is applicable to dwellings listed in a particular valuation band divided by the number which in that proportion is applicable to dwellings listed in valuation band D, calculated by the Council, in accordance with Section 36(1) of the Act, as the amounts to be taken into account for the year in respect of categories of dwellings listed in different valuation bands;

 

(xviii)   that it be noted that for the year 2014/15 the proposed Greater London Authority precepts issued to the Council, in accordance with Section 40 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, in respect of the Greater London Authority, for each of the categories of dwellings shown below:

 

Valuation Bands

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

£

£

£

£

£

£

£

£

199.33

232.56

265.78

299.00

365.44

431.89

498.33

598.00

 

(xix)     that, having calculated the aggregate in each case of the amounts at (e) above and the precepting authority referred to in xviii above, the Council, in accordance with Section 30(2) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, hereby sets the following amounts as the amounts of Council Tax for the year 2014/15 for each of the categories of dwellings shown below:

 

Valuation Bands

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

£

£

£

£

£

£

£

£

905.29

1,056.18

1,207.06

1,357.94

1,656.70

1,961.47

2,263.23

2,715.88

 

(xx)      that it be noted that the Chief Finance Officer has determined that the Council’s basic amount of Council Tax for 2014/15 is not excessive in accordance with the principles approved under Section 52ZB of the Local Government Act 1992;

 

(xxi)     that the Chief Finance Officer be and is hereby authorised:-

 

(a)       to give due notice of the said Council Tax in the manner provided by Section 38(2) of the Local Government Act 1992,

(b)       when necessary to apply for a summons against any Council Tax payer or non-domestic ratepayer on whom an account for the said tax or rate and any arrears has been duly served and who has failed to pay the amounts due to take all subsequent necessary action to recover them promptly, and

(c)        to collect revenues and distribute monies from the Collection Fund and is authorised to borrow or to lend money in accordance with the regulations to the maximum benefit of each fund.

Supporting documents: