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Agenda item


To monitor the performance of the level of spending against the Council’s Capital and Revenue budgets for the first nine months to 31 December 2020.


Mr Steve Thompson, Director of Resources advised that there had been many changes since the Month 9 financial performance monitoring report had been published and that the Month 10 report to the Executive was currently being finalised and provided a very different picture. He advised that in December 2020, the Council had received £120 million of Covid grants from the Government, which had increased considerably to £160 million by the end of January 2021, due to the further national lockdown.


It was reported that the largest Covid related costs to the Council had been experienced by Adult Social Services and that in Month 10, a more realistic picture of spending had been visible with an underspend of £1.9 million recorded in the directorate due to additional Government funding received. In comparison, Children’s Services had recorded an overspend of £1.7 million. In relation to non-Covid related costs the largest overspend was within the Growth and Prosperity Team as a number of income producing schemes had been delayed and carried forward to 2021/2022 with the overspend being met from reserves in the current financial year.


In respect of the Council’s wholly owned companies, Mr Thompson advised that it had previously been expected that the deficit range for the companies would be between £12 million and £18 million, however, these figures had been revised down twice to between £4.6 and £4.8 million due to more certainty in the ongoing Government financial support to be provided to the companies.


Mr Thompson reported that in relation to Covid the total net costs to the Council had been calculated as £2.9 million and that income collection would be key in maintaining this figure. It was noted that Council Tax collection to the end of December 2020 had been over 70%, which was similar to the equivalent figure 12 months prior. In relation to business rate collection, it was noted that this was more difficult to assess with business rate relief funding received directly from Government to cover a large proportion of business rates to be collected in the town. Not including business rates received from other public sector organisations, the total business rates left to be collected was approximately £10/11 million and in Month 9, 69.2% of this total had been collected.


The Chair of the Scrutiny Leadership Board thanked the Director of Resources and his team for their work over the previous 12 months and credited all with the strong position the Council was in despite the pandemic.


The Board requested further information regarding the overspend in the Growth and Prosperity Team and queried any lessons that could be learned. Mr Thompson reported that many of the large schemes being worked on by the Team had been delayed until the 2021/2022 financial year and that the overspend had been identified as a non-Covid related cost as the Council could not claim Government financial support for the schemes. It was expected that the income from the schemes would be received in the following financial year.


In response to a further question, Mr Thompson advised that focus had been placed on recovery and ensuring that there was suitable capacity in services. He noted that channel shift had emerged almost by default which had created capacity and allowed services to refocus.


Members queried how quickly it was expected that the Council’s wholly owned companies could recover and how fully. In response, Mr Thompson reported that the pandemic had had very little impact on some of the Council’s companies such as Blackpool Waste Services Limited and Blackpool Coastal Housing, however, the impact on Blackpool Entertainment Company Limited, Blackpool Operating Company Limited (BOCL) and Blackpool Transport Services Limited (BTS) had been more significant. In respect of BTS, Mr Thompson advised that bus services had been maintained throughout the pandemic with a much lower patronage and that a number of grants had been received from the Department of Transport in order to support the company. In relation to BOCL, Mr Thompson advised that there were plans to reopen the Sandcastle Waterpark from April 2021. It was expected that recovery would depend on a number of factors including success of the vaccine, the number of people choosing to holiday in the UK and the easing of lockdown restrictions.


Concern was raised regarding the collection of Council Tax via Direct Debit and a potential issue that had been identified. Mr Thompson advised that use of Direct Debits was encouraged and that he would investigate the issue raised further and report back following the meeting.

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