The attached report provides a summary of revenue and capital outturn expenditure for 2020/21 and compares this expenditure with the approved budget.
The Interim Group Head of Corporate Support & Section 151 Officer presented this report outlining that 2020/2021 had been an exceptional year due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Unfortunately, the audit of the Council’s financial statements had been delayed until November 2021. The report before the Committee was the draft Outturn report and no further changes were envisaged. It was anticipated that the audit would be completed in November 2021 with the Audit & Governance Committee signing off the accounts at a Special Meeting to be held in January 2022.
As already mentioned, 2020/21 has been a challenging year with much uncertainty and additional costs to the Council, yet it had managed to achieve a very positive financial outturn. The Council had received significant Covid-19 funding in addition to the sales of fees and charges compensation scheme which had helped to back up the Council’s additional expenditure accrued mainly in areas such as homelessness, rough sleepers, supporting the leisure contract and areas of central support such as office buildings, rapid reception area adjustments to support homelessness cases and areas such as IT to allow all staff to work from home. Support had also been given in reaction to the need for additional cleaning in the Civic Centre and to areas such as Environmental Health. There had been some positive income streams in areas such as Planning whose income was above budget as the lockdown had led to a surge in planning applications being submitted. During the year the Council had approved supplementary estimates totalling £1.6 million which included the worst case support scenario for the leisure contract which had not been required and so the Council had managed to absorb this into its general outturn.
In reaction to the report, praise was given to the Interim Group Head of Corporate Support and her team for their work during the past year and for meeting the challenges that had been set. It was very pleasing to be told that despite the challenges highlighted, the Council had managed to maintain a favourable balance and had not needed to raid the Council’s reserves which had been an extraordinary achievement.
The Interim Group Head of Corporate Support then drew Committee’s attention to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) outturn which was under budget and to Recommendation 3 of the report which was asking approval to carry forward £1million Housing Capital spending from 202/21 to 2021/22 to support and complete a number of projects that had been unavoidably delayed due to the pandemic.
In response to this, it was felt important that the Council’s share of the capital receipts which it could spend should only be spent on new social housing. There was reference made in the report that the phasing of the programme would be a key factor. Councillor Walsh confirmed that he wished to suggest that the Committee made a strong recommendation to the appropriate Service Committee that the housing capital revenue programme would take account of that and would make sure that the Council would spend this money only on social housing and be sure that none of these funds would be returned to Central Government. Praise was also directed to Central Government for the support they had shown the Council by way of provision and the ability to apply for Covid-19 related grants.
In addition to this, Councillor Walsh commented on developer contributions as outlined in Paragraph 7 – Section 106 Receipts and the amount that the Council held which was £9.122 million. His concern related to past experiences where other external bodies who had been responsible for the spend of some of these monies had not successfully spent this funding. Councillor Walsh confirmed that he was referring to the National Health Service [NHS] and given the pressures that the District was facing in these areas it was essential for the Council to insist that the NHS met its obligations on spending such funding on capital projects rather than on further unnecessary studies as to how the money should be spent.
In response, the Chair sought confirmation as to whether Councillor Walsh had a seconder for his two proposals and whether he wished to amend any of the recommendations listed 1 to 7. Councillor Walsh confirmed that he wished to add these proposals as new recommendations.
To assist with the debate, the Chief Executive confirmed that in strengthening the Council’s handling of Section 106 spending and other parties and their spending, the Council had created a post in Planning which monitored the spend of Section 106 funding to ensure that none of the funding was misused. He confirmed that since an Officer had been in post, he was not aware of any funding not being spent as it should. He was happy for the request on Section 106 funding to be fed back to the relevant Service Committee.
Councillor Stanley then seconded Councillor Walsh’s proposals. On these being put to the vote, they were declared CARRIED.
The Chair then returned to the substantive recommendations as amended, which he duly proposed, and these were seconded by Councillor Pendleton.
RESOLVED – That
(1) The Outturn Report at Appendix 1 be noted;
(2) The revenue and capital outturn expenditure for 2020/21, subject to audit be noted;
(3) The carry forward of £1million Housing Capital spending from 202/21 to 2021/22 as outlined in Paragraph 4.5 of the report be approved;
(4) The level of balances and unused Section 106 sums at 31 March 2021 be approved noting the reasons explained for the increase in reserve balances;
(5) The additional £0.833 million contribution to the Funding Reserve be noted; and
(6) The transfer of £0.538 million to the Covid Contingency Reserve be noted;
(7) The Residential & Wellbeing Services Committee be asked to ensure that the housing capital revenue programme would ensure that capital receipts will only be spent on social housing and that none of these funds would be returned to Central Government; and
(8) The Planning Policy Committee be asked to ensure that all Section 106 spending is administered in line with requirements.