Upon the invitation of the Chair, the Interim Group Head of Finance and Section 151 Officer presented the report which asked the Committee to consider and recommend its revenue budget for inclusion in the Council’s 2023/24 revenue budget for 2023/24. This would then be submitted to Policy and Finance Committee on 9 February 2023 when it considered the overall revenue and capital budgets for 2023/24 so recommendations could be made to a Special Meeting of the Council on 1 March 2023 on the budgets to be set and level of Council Tax for the District for 2023/24. It was noted that this was the second year of preparing the budget under the committee style governance system and that the budget had been prepared against a backdrop of a significant budget gap for 2023/24. The main budget changes from 2022/23 were highlighted - the full year cost of the proposed planning restructure being reflected in the establishment budget, £293k having been included for the Local Plan (£123k in the previous year), and the budget anticipating an increase in development control fees of £400k with a budget of £1.6m for 2023/24.
The Chair noted that this Committee was the budget holder for the entire Planning Service, with responsibility for both its own budget and statutory Development Control (Planning Committee). Members then took part in a full debate on the item where a number of points were raised. Clarification was sought on whether the figure quoted for ‘Employees’ was for a full compliment of staff given recent recruitment problems and whether there was any contingency within the budget to deal with additional pressures. The continued use and cost of agency staff was also raised. Further information was sought on the assumptions made on ‘Other Income’, as well as the figures for Local Plan expenditure and statutory fees in paragraph 3.8 of the Officer report [on page 3 of the supplementary pack].
It was confirmed that a full compliment of staff had been budgeted for and that there was some contingency in the budget before the need for requests of supplementary estimates to be made to Full Council. It was explained that expenditure could be earmarked at the end of the previous year in order to meet agency costs for example. If no funding was earmarked then the Planning Service would have to stay within its funding envelope, though through the Establishment budget held corporately there was the possibility of virement from elsewhere. It was further explained that due to the cost of living crisis assumptions for income were broadly flat, that though the Local Plan was paused some studies were ongoing hence the expenditure, and that statutory fees were set by statue over which the Council had no control.
As this was the final Planning Policy Committee meeting the Interim Group Head of Finance and Section 151 Officer would attend before leaving Arun, the Chair and Members thanked her for her services to this Committee and to the Council and wished her well in her future role.
That 2023/24 Revenue Budget as illustrated in Appendix A of the Officer report be agreed.
RECOMMEND TO POLICY AND FINANCE COMMITTEE
That the Revenue Budget for this Committee be included in the overall General Fund Budget when considering the overall budgets on 9 February 2023.