Agenda item

Final Budget Proposals (including Money Plan and Capital Programme)

To consider the report of the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources seeking approval of the council’s final Budget Proposals.


81.1       Councillor Cook moved and Councillor Norman seconded the motion.


81.2       Councillor Cook stated that he wished to thank his Cabinet colleagues, particularly Councillor Norman on their hard work in preparing the budget. He thanked senior officers, particularly the Director of Policy and Resources and those in the finance team in formulating the budget. He stated that challenges had continued throughout the year, predominantly owing to the Coronavirus Pandemic, and more recently the cyber incident and that he was proud of the achievements of the Conservative administration. He said that the administration had made sure that Council Tax was kept low despite the pandemic and other financial related pressures. He said that COVID-19 had damaged the financial stability of both individuals and authorities. He stated that the authority was also facing the unknown cost of the cyber incident. He stated that the Council was forecast to be £238,000 over budget at year end, which in consideration of the mitigating circumstances, particularly of the COVID-19 Pandemic was moderate compared to many other authorities and that should be applauded.


81.3       Councillor Cook said that the Property Investment Strategy had enabled the Council to deliver on priorities. He said that work had already begun on the High Street Heritage Action Zone and that it had received praise for the work already conducted. He stated that a new exit onto Metz Way had been completed as part of the wider regeneration of the area, which would include the lighting of the underpass going into the train station. He stated that work had temporarily seized on Barbican Site but that the ambition was still to provide a new halls of residence for 200 students there by September 2022. He said that the works in Kings Square had almost been completed and that there should be a formal opening of the area in May 2022. He said that The Music Works and JOLT were well placed to contribute to the cultural regeneration of the City. He stated that the works on the Forum would begin in the following month. He said that the purchase of the former Debenhams building by the University of Gloucestershire would bring up to 4,700 students into the area. He stated that remediation had already began at the Fleece Hotel. He stated that a lot of this work had been made possible due to the £20 million fund from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities grant.


81.4       Councillor Cook thanked Urbaser for managing to keep up with waste collection largely. He stated that the City had seen an increase in recycling rates, and this was in part down to the work undertaken by Urbaser. He noted that Urbaser had also installed 83 new bins. He stated that most of these bins were upgrades to existing sites. He said that the current contract with Urbaser would come to an end after March 2022, where Ubico would take over.


81.5       Councillor Cook stated that the environmental team had been working hard and had issued 86 Fixed Penalty notices. He said that the cultural and leisure portfolio had been performing well. He stated that Gloucester had been nominated as a priority place by Arts Council England. He stated in the past 18 months, City Council ran buildings had received £275,000 in funding. He said that Kings Square would become an entertainment area for all. He added that Gloucester Goes Retro, Gloucester History Festival and other events had brought thousands of people out, both locally and nationally.


81.6       Regarding Planning, Councillor Cook stated that on the 18th February, 18 new apartments were opened in Quedgeley. He stated that developments in Olympus Park had provided a mixture of apartments for future tenants. Councillor Cook said that the Next Steps Accommodation Programme had provided £1.7 million to help to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping.The Leader stated that £395,000 had been granted to the Planning Department by the Department of Levelling Up to help develop software to streamline the planning application process. He said that additionally, there had been progress with the City Plan, that a report would go before Cabinet in March or April before it went back to the Planning Inspectorate. Councillor Cook said that regarding the Communities and Neighbourhoods portfolio, the City Protection Officers had carried on their diligent work. He said that the Holiday Activity and food programme had provided parks and open spaces. He said that they had also provided 14,000 hot meals. He said that Safer Streets had provided £405,000 to provide better lighting.


81.7       The Leader informed Members that the Council was undertaking the City’s largest tree planting exercise in history. He said that 13,000 trees would be planted and that they would be in every ward. He commended the work of the Climate Change Manager and the Open Spaces Manager for their effort in this regard. He said that looking forward, the new Council Plan had the theme of creating a greener, better, and fairer Gloucester. He stated that the new plan sought to continue to build on promises, improve the City through plans of regeneration and culture, to tackle inequalities, climate change and keep residents safe. He stated that they would build a socially responsible Council.


81.8       Looking forward to the 22/23 budget, Councillor Cook advised that the financial situation continued to be difficult. He stated that the Council had made £5.5 million in savings over 8 years, whilst generating additional income. He stated that there would be an increase of £5 in Council Tax for Band D residents. He said that the Conservative administration had averaged an increase of 2.3% per annum, which was impressive when compared to 10% per year before it was a Conservative led administration. He stated that because of the recent cyber incident, the Council had to put in place a Cyber Recovery Reserve of £380,000 and that they would invest heavily in IT. He stated that the less the administration spent now, the less they would have to cut. He stated that the administration would partially accept the Labour Group’s second amendment and would move £10,000 from the Budget Equalisation Reserve into funding recommendations of the Monuments Review.


81.9       He concluded by stating that despite the difficult wider financial environment, the Conservative administration had demonstrated its ambition, had demonstrated that it was looking to make improvements and that the budget showed that they were the party of delivering.


81.10   Councillor Norman stated that she was pleased to second the motion and that she would focus on specific points within the five year Money Plan. She stated that Local Government Funds continued to have a tough outlook, predominantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and for Gloucester specifically, the cyber incident. She stated that the budget savings were outlined in Appendix 2 of the report. She stated that in her own portfolio, savings would be made from the relocation of the City Council’s Office Accommodation Shire Hall into Eastgate Market and that additional income would be generated from the opening of the Food Dock. She stated that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had enabled the increase of Council Tax by 2% (or £5, whichever was greater) for tax band D users. She further added that the Chancellor had provided a Council Tax rebate for band A-D residents. She encouraged all band A-D Council Tax payers, who did not pay by direct debit to contact the Council at to ensure that they did get their rebate. She stated that she acknowledged that they may need to adjust the Budget, as they were based on best assumptions. She stated that it was essential that the Council retained their reserves.


81.11   Councillor Hilton moved and Councillor Wilson seconded the following amendments:


·       That £25,000 be put aside from the Cyber Recovery Reserve to fund an independent inquiry into cyber attack that knocked out the council’s IT Systems in December. The inquiry to focus on why it happened, how the recovery was managed and to provide reassurance to the council that it will be properly protected against further such events.


·       That the council applies to the Government for a grant from the £37.8m Cyber Security Fund to help cover the financial cost of recovering from the cyber-attack on the council’s IT systems. Any award to be deposited in the Cyber Recovery Reserve before being used.


·       That the council freezes Shopmobilty charges for the next year, which would result in lost income of £450 in next 12 months. Funded via the Shopmobility Reserve, which currently stands at £29,000.


·       The city council to purchase three thermal imaging cameras (to include training) at a budget of £1,200 for use by community groups to allow residents and householders to get an understanding on how they could better insulate their homes. Funding to come from the Lottery Reserve.


·       That a fund is set up to allow each councillor the opportunity to nominate two locations in their ward for extra dual purpose litter bins. This would provide 78 extra bins across Gloucester. Capital cost would be £48,000 with ongoing cost of £25,000 per year for bin emptying. The funding for the capital cost and first year revenue cost to come from the Regulation 59(i) Strategic Infrastructure Fund of £380,000 that has been raised by the Community Infrastructure Levy from the Glevum Green development.


·       That the General Fund be reduced by £6,000 and this £6,000 be moved to the Defibrillator Reserve. To allow for further purchases of defibrillators to be located at publicly accessible sites in Gloucester which do not currently have one in the locality.


81.12   Councillor Hilton thanked Councillor Norman and Cook for their speeches. He thanked officers for preparing the budget, despite the difficulties created by the cyber incident. He stated that it was a ‘budget of stagnation’. He said that he was happy to support outside bidding for grants. He stated that the real issue was the reduction of staff over the past several years. He said that 10 years ago, the City Council had around 450 staff, which had now reduced to around 180. He said that staff were under immense pressure and had too much to do. He stated that the City Council was a ‘vanishing council’. He stated that the Development Team’s size meant that they did not conduct site visits. He said that the Planning Enforcement Team were aware of breaches but were not sufficiently large enough to deal with them. He said that the Council currently did not have a tree officer which was an issue. He stated that there had been large delays in relation to the Housing Stock Survey. He stated that the new waste contractors, Ubico had offered an enhanced service to the Council, which had been turned down by the administration. He said that the ongoing expenditure was so tight that services were suffering as a result. He stated that they should push the Government to push Council retention of business rates. He said that if the Council retained 75% of business rates in Gloucester, this would bring in £8.25 million worth of funding into the Council, as opposed to £5 million from the current business rate collection. He stated that he wanted to see Richard Graham MP and Laurence Robertson MP lobbied to improve the business retention rates for the City Council.


81.13   Councillor Hilton stated that the Liberal Democrat Group had six amendments. In respect of the first amendment, he stated that it would ensure that similar events could be avoided in the future. Regarding the second amendment, he stated that he and the Liberal Democrat group wished to see the Council apply for the fund as he did not believe the £378,000 in the Cyber Reserve Fund would cover the cost of repairing the systems and getting everything operational again. He stated that the third amendment was a modest adjustment which would help the most vulnerable. He stated that the fourth amendment would allow residents and householders to get an understanding on how they could better insulate their homes. He stated that in regard to the fifth amendment, all Councillors knew areas in their ward that were problematic regarding littering and that Gloucester desperately needed more bins. He stated that the amendments proposed were sensible, not costly and did not affect the most important aspect of the Council’s work for the foreseeable future, which was recovering from the cyber incident.


81.14   Councillor Wilson stated that in relation to the first amendment, he understood the reluctance of the Council to undertake the investigation and was sure they were receiving good advice from partners. However, he said that it was important for the sake of transparency that an independent investigation took place when the Council had reached the recovery phase of the cyber incident. He stated that members were elected by the public and were duty bound to be honest as to how money was spent. He said that he understood that some information could not be made public but external auditors could investigate whether the Council had been efficient with the recovery and whether they were well protected in the future to prevent future cyber incidents. He stated that the review may cost less than £25,000 and that Hackney’s independent review only cost £10,000 but that it was vital to have an independent review when they were in the recovery stage. He said that regarding the amendment for thermal imaging cameras, other authorities had begun to provide these, such as South Somerset. He stated that it was something the Council should seriously consider, particularly with rising energy prices.


81.15   Councillor J. Brown stated that she was disappointed that the administration had suggested that they would not accept the amendments for the defibrillators. She stated that residents would have a much better chance of surviving a cardiac arrest if there was one nearby. She stated that extensive research had already been conducted by the Council which identified suitable locations for defibrillators. She stated that defibrillators should be available for 24 hours a day, not just when Cafés were open. She stated that £6,000 was pennies in relation to the entire budget.


81.16   Councillor Norman stated that she was speaking on behalf of the administration in relation to the first and second Liberal Democrat Group amendment. She said that the authority did not believe that ringfencing money for an independent review was not necessary as they needed to maintain flexibility to support recovery in other ways. She stated that as soon as they moved into the recovery phase of the cyber incident, that findings would be shared with members. She stated that the Council could not accept the second amendment as it was not a budget amendment. She said, however, that the Council would review all options to assist with the recovery.


81.17   Councillor Hudson stated that he was responding on behalf of the administration for the third and sixth Liberal Democrat amendment. He stated that the proposed Shopmobility increases were less than 2% and that the Liberal Democrat amendment would take away finances from the Council’s reserves. He added that the increased monies to Shopmobility would help to ensure that mobility scooters were properly looked after. He stated that regarding defibrillators, he believed that they could be installed without Council funding and that the Council supported the concept of the installation of them. He stated that a paper was due to go before Cabinet in March, which highlighted the use of them. He stated that there had been an increase in defibrillators from 1 to 31 in situ in the past two years. He said that for any scheme to have longevity, it would require private funding. He added that there were also sporting bodies who would support the installation of defibrillators.


81.18   Councillor Castle expressed her disappointment that the administration would not accept the Liberal Democrat amendment for extra dual purpose litter bins and that her ward of Longlevens desperately needed more bins.


81.19   Councillor Conder stated that her ward of Kingsholm also needed more bins.


81.20   Councillor Radley commented that it was unfortunate that the administration would not accept the amendment regarding Shopmobility. She stated that it said a lot that the Conservative Group were putting extra costs on individuals less likely to be able to pay.


81.21   Councillor Cook stated that he wished to respond on behalf of the administration regarding the fourth Liberal Democrat amendment (purchase of three thermal imaging cameras). He stated that in principle, thermal imaging cameras were an excellent idea. He said that he asked the Climate Change Manager to undertake an investigation in relation to thermal imaging cameras and their effectiveness and was awaiting a response. He said that if Members wished to have thermal imaging cameras, it would be more suitable if they purchased them out of their member allowances. He said that regarding the fifth Liberal Democrat amendment (a fund for Councillors to nominate two locations for extra dual purpose litter bins) an infrastructure programme was put in place last year for the ‘right place, right bin’ programme. He said that this would create a more efficient placing of bins when that project was complete. He stated that he would encourage members to contact the Environmental Team if there was an issue with overflowing bins in their ward. He said that he did not want the administration to incur any additional costs until the infrastructure programme was complete.


81.22   Each Liberal Democrat group amendment was put to a vote and was lost.


81.23   Councillor Pullen moved and Councillor Chambers-Dubus seconded the following amendments.


1.    To create a homelessness prevention and cost of living assistance fund This to be funded from a reduction in transfer to reserves. The fund to be used:


1.    To enable families and individuals at risk of homelessness to remain in their existing homes or secure new ones.


2.    To offer financial assistance to families and individuals experiencing difficulties from escalating domestic energy bills.


3.    To offer assistance to families and individuals who are struggling to afford food due to increasing food costs


Cost £200,000 Funded from transfer to reserves


2.    To support the recommendations of the Race Equality Commission and Monuments Review:


This will include:


1.    City Council initial funding contribution towards a Race Equality legacy institution. Cost £30,000.


2.    Creation of a new City Council (part time) post to take a lead role, working with countywide partners to develop, deliver and monitor the recommendations in the report. Cost £25,000.


3.    Initial costs of implementing recommendations of the Gloucester City Monuments review. Cost £25,000


Cost £80,000 Funded from transfer to reserves.


Total cost of budget amendments: £280,000 funded from transfer to reserves.


81.24   Councillor Pullen stated that he wished to thank officers for their hard work in preparing the budget in difficult circumstances. He stated that he had been a Councillor for several years and had seen around 8 Budgets, all of which had cuts combined with an increase in Council Tax. He stated that he believed that it was positive that Revenues and Benefits were back to being an in house service and that the Food Dock would produce income. He stated that budget savings from the Senior Management Team had been suggested by the Labour Group a few years ago and was then rejected by the administration. He said that the Labour Group supported the move into Eastgate Market, though they had reservations about the cost of the project. He stated that the cyber incident had been caused by the Council not investing properly in IT infrastructure. He said the cyber incident had stopped the Council’s ability to communicate properly and that it would strangle the finances of the authority in the upcoming year. He stated that there had been a ‘veil of secrecy’ regarding communication about the cyber incident. He stated that there was currently a cost of living crisis, an increase in National Insurance coming, spiralling energy and food prices and that the Council budget did not contain anything that would alleviate this. He stated that other Councils were putting in additional money in from their own budgets to go alongside Central Government funding to help with the current financial climate. He stated that there was nothing in the budget to assist with people dealing with hardship. He said that the opposite was the case and that the Council was cutting £200,000 to the Housing and Homeless budget. He said that this would not help to cut inequality as was the target of the Authority.  He said that turning to the Labour Group amendments, their proposals would still leave £100,000 in the Cyber Incident Reserves.


81.25   Councillor Pullen said that the Labour Group’s first amendment was to create a homelessness prevention and cost of living assistance fund. He said that since the temporary eviction ban had been lifted, thousands of people were at risk of homelessness and a prevention fund could be used to assist with temporary mortgage payments. He said it would help to stop people from going homeless. He said that the fund could also be used to help hard working families, who were struggling with rising energy prices. He said that regarding the Labour Groups second amendment of transferring £80,000 from the Cyber Reserves to the supporting the Race Equality Commission and Monuments Review, they would accept the £10,000 offered by the administration to begin the work. Councillor Pullen thanked officers for putting together the amendments. He said that he believed that they were pragmatic, realistic and would improve the quality of life for Gloucester residents. He added that they could be paid for with an adjustment to the budget.


81.26   Councillor Chambers-Dubus seconded the Labour Group amendments.


81.27   Councillor Chambers-Dubus stated that financial situations could change rapidly and with the knowledge that fuel, and oil prices would go up, there would be a further squeeze on the finances of Gloucester residents and a homeless prevention fund would assist them greatly. She added that ensuring that residents do not end up homeless would save lives and money in the long run. She said that in regard to the second Labour Group amendment, it was incredibly important that the City Council took a lead in supporting the recommendations of the Race Equality Commission and Monuments Review, which would be greatly helped by creating a dedicated part time post to implementing the recommendations at the cost of £25,000. Regarding the Conservative Groups acceptance of £10,000 towards implementing recommendations of the monuments review, that the Labour Group were pleased that the administration was willing to put money towards it.


81.28   Councillor S. Chambers stated that the administration would not accept the first Labour Group amendment. She stated that the housing budget had been cut as there had been a consistent underspend of £200,000, which was down to the hard work of officers. She noted that the Council focused on homelessness prevention every single day and that it was a statutory duty. She stated that Council had a number of funds to assist families with preventing homelessness. She added that the Council Tax rebate, highlighted previously by Councillor Norman would also help families. She noted that the Holiday Activities and Food Scheme had provided significant help with providing food for persons struggling with food poverty.She further stated that she was working closely with the Council’s communications department, so residents were properly informed of how to apply for grants.


81.29   Councillor Wilson stated that he liked the Labour Group amendments but that he and the Liberal Democrat Group could not accept moving finances from the Cyber Reserve Fund and would thus abstain on the amendments. He stated that he was not aware of how much the recovery would cost. He stated that he had nothing but respect for officers dealing with the cyber incident and the cost for rebuilding systems may be large.


81.30   Councillor A. Chambers stated that he believed that it was an excellent budget. He stated that both the County Council and City Council were doing a lot to support residents and to prevent homelessness. He added that the County Council budget had received the support of the Green Party group, such was the popularity of it.


81.31   Councillor Conder asked whether the funds for assisting with hardship could be enumerated on Council Tax statements so that it went to every household and that each resident would be privy to this information.


81.32   Councillor Norman responded that the inserts in Council Tax statements were created long in advance so that was not possible. However, she added that the Communications Team would spread the message so that residents were made aware.


81.33   Councillor Cook stated that he recalled talking to the Overview and Scrutiny about the Race and Equality Commission and that he was implored then to ensure that the City Council took a lead role on implementing their recommendations. He said that he told the Overview and Scrutiny Committee that he would take it to Leadership Gloucestershire, which he had. He said that the City Council would be taking a lead role on the implementation of the Race Equality Commission and Monuments Review recommendations, partially evidenced by the fact that the Managing Director would be helping to steer the project.  He futher stated that he had received considerable support from all partners at Leadership Gloucestershire to implement these recommendations. He said that the amounts proposed by Labour in their second amendment were considerably higher than what was needed for Gloucester to make a useful contribution but that the administration would provide £10,000 as a start and would look to add more if that was needed. He noted that Councillor Pullen had highlighted a ‘veil of secrecy’ regarding the cyber incident. He stated that this was because he had been told by partners not to disclose information about it and that they would share more when it was appropriate, and partners had informed them that this would be acceptable.


81.34   Both Labour Amendments were put to a vote and lost.


81.35   The final budget proposals (including money plan and capital programme) was put to a recorded vote and carried.



















S. Chambers
























































































81.36   RESOLVED that


(1)       The proposals for the 2022/23 budget included in the report be approved.


(2)       It be noted that consultation had been undertaken on budget proposals.

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