Agenda item

Committee General Fund Revenue and Capital Budgets and Housing Revenue Account Budgets 2024/25

The purpose of the report is for this Committee to consider and recommend its revenue budget for inclusion in the Council’s overall 2024/25 revenue budget. The report also considers the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget for 2024/25. These recommendations will be submitted to the Policy and Finance Committee on 8 February 2024 when it considers the overall revenue and capital budgets for 2024/25 so recommendations can be made to a Special Meeting of the Council on 21 February 2024 regarding the budgets to be set and level of Council Tax for the District for 2024/25


The Group Head of Finance and Section 151 Officer was invited by the Chair to present the report.  The report recommended this Committee’s Revenue, Capital and Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budgets to the Policy and Finance Committee on 8 February 2024, as part of the overall revenue and capital budget.   He highlighted some key points from the report advising that the revenue budget in overall terms had decreased by approximately £151k from 2023-24 and included financial strategy savings of £580k.  He explained that it was expected that the HRA balance would remain below £2 million until 2027-28.  However, the balance was expected to increase to £1 million during 2024-25. The HRA surplus for 2024-25 had been budgeted at £530k and included an increase for 7.7% in rents and garage rents.  Referring to the Capital Programme, he reported that the Sheltered Accommodation and Carbonisation projects continued to be delayed.  Turning to the Revenue budget he advised that the financial forecasting continued to be difficult in the current financial climate due to the high inflation rates, although they were expected to reduce in the coming months.  There was no growth in the budget proposals, only cost increases, with the council continuing to provide the same level of service.  He drew attention to the table at paragraph 4.4 that provided details of the net change in the revenue budget between 2023-24 and 2024-25.  In particular he explained that the ’Supported Accommodation’ budget increase had arisen because the subsidy set by the Department for Work & Pensions often did not cover the cost of the rent.  The budget of £590k  for financial support to Freedom Leisure  was not required in 2024-25.  Attention was drawn to the table at 4.5 with details of the savings and the risks associated with them, in particular the Emergency Accommodation and Temporary Accommodation savings .  It was noted that the Council will receive additional homeless prevention grant funding during 2024-25, which it was hoped would help absorb some of the financial pressures the council was facing in this respect.  


The Group Head of Finance and Section 151 Officer said that whilst he expected that members may have questions on some elements of the budget, he explained that if any amendments were made to increase the total budget for the Committee would create additional financial pressure on the Council’s revenue reserves.


          The recommendations were proposed by Councillor Walsh and seconded by Councillor Yeates.


          The Chair invited members to make comment or ask any questions where and a full debate was had where a number of points were raised including the following, which were responded to by officers:

·       Information was sought regarding the increasing Voids costs, where the Committee was advised that there would always be a number of voids due to tenancy changes.  However, this was the beginning of a voids plan to improve the situation.  Included in the figures were a number of long-term vacant properties, designated for regeneration or redevelopment, which had affected the figures. 

·       Concern was raised about the lack of progress on the sheltered accommodation review and the effect of this on the District’s most vulnerable residents.   It was explained that work had now started with a detailed options appraisal prepared.  A member briefing would be arranged in the next few weeks to provide members with details of the proposals.

·       It was confirmed the vacant Community Warden post would be re-advertised.

·       The impact on the housing stock if used for Emergency accommodation costs

·       The impact on the Council’s housing waiting list if emergency accommodation costs were reduced by using the Council’s housing stock.  It was agreed that this was a challenging saving.  An emergency accommodation action plan would be developed, as well as ways to increase the HRA housing stock.  Although the demand could not be controlled action could be taken to reduce the costs, in particular reducing the use of nightly paid accommodation.

·       With regards to the LAHF scheme intended to support Afghan refugees, discussions were taking place with West Sussex County Council to identify those in need. 

·       A member sought reassurance that savings would be achieved in respect of temporary accommodation and voids, the Group Head of Housing advised that there would be a range of actions that would contribute to this aspiration.  He acknowledged they were ambitious and some were statutory functions that the Council had no choice over the demand for them.  A suite of measures would go into the Emergency Accommodation Reduction Plan with a suite of measures to deliver the savings set out in the report.  He confirmed that none of the staffing posts, listed at paragraph 4.5, related to the management of void properties within the housing estate.  He would provide more information on the voids under the key performance indicators item.

Three non-members of the committee were allowed to make comment and ask questions as follows:


·       A non-member identified a number of typographical errors in the report and made other comments, which were responded to by the Group Head of Finance and Section 151 Officer.  Clarification was then sought regarding the proposed savings in respect of the Community Wardens Service, the proposal to introduce Service Charges, Emergency Accommodation and the LAHF scheme and clarification was sought, which the Director of Environment and Communities advised officers would provide a response, outside of the meeting. 

·       A non-member congratulated officers on the budget and encouraged members to submit questions in advance of the meeting to aid a constructive debate.  He congratulated the Group Head of Housing on the ambition in putting forward the savings.  Unfortunately the council was in a position where Government funding had been reduced.  The council was in a good financial position and this budget sought for that to continue.  He welcomed the Committee to agree the budget and asked that if they had opposing views to put them forward. 

·       A non-member also paid tribute to officers and welcomed the level of information that had been provided to them on the budget, which he recommended the Committee to commend.  The budget was trying to minimise the financial impact on the council’s residents and should be commended.

Councillor Pendleton was given permission to provide a personal explanation.


A request was made by Councillor Pendelton for a recorded vote to be completed.


The Chair recognised the challenging times the officers were currently  facing and believed they were working very hard to rise to these challenges.


Councillor Walsh, as proposer, urged the Committee to support the budget.


Councillor Yeates, as seconder, fully supported the budget.



          The Committee:


                     RESOLVED to


(a)    Agree the 2024/25 Revenue Budget as set out in Appendix A of this report;

(b)    Agree the 2024/25 HRA Revenue Budget set out in Appendix B of this report;

(c)    Agrees to allow the HRA Balance to remain below the minimum level of £2.0m for the period 2024/25 to 2027/28 to enable the realisation of savings in Repairs and Supervision & Management expenditure to deliver a sustainable HRA;

(d)    Recommend HRA rents for 2024/25 are increased by 7.7% in accordance with the provisions of the rent standard;

(e)    Recommend that HRA garage rents are increased by 7.7% to give an average rent of £15.60 per week (excluding VAT) and heating and water/sewerage charges be increased on a scheme by scheme basis, with the aim of balancing costs with income;

(f)     Agree on the 2024/25 Capital Programme as illustrated in Appendix C of this report;




(g)    The General Fund Revenue Budget, HRA Revenue Budget and Committee Capital Programme be included in the overall General Fund Budget when considering the overall budgets on 8 February 2024.


Those voting for the recommendations were Councillors Birch, Butcher, Haywood, Long, Walsh, Wiltshire and Yeates (7) those abstaining were Bence, Bicknell, Elkins and Pendleton (4).  There were no votes against the recommendation.

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