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Agenda item


To report the level of spending and exposure against the Council’s Revenue budgets and reserves and balances for the first nine months to 31 December 2021 for scrutiny.


Mr Steve Thompson, Director of Resources presented the financial performance monitoring as at month 9 2021/2022 to the Scrutiny Leadership Board. He highlighted that month 9 was a key milestone in the financial year with the data being used to inform the following year’s budget and provide a year end forecast. The reporting focussed on individual services with the highest overspend being noted in Children’s Services.


It was reported that the Council had maintained working balances of approximately £6 million despite the volatility caused by the pandemic and that focussed remained on building earmarked reserves to protect the Council from potential future liabilities.


The net Covid costs to the Council in 2021/2022 had been recorded as £3.7 million once the additional grants received had been taken into account. This contributed to a total overspend of £5.6 million in the current financial year. Initially savings of £20.3 million had been identified for 2021/2022, the vast majority of which had been achieved, however, additional pressures had emerged during the year resulting in the overspend.


Mr Thompson referred to levels of Council Tax and Business Rate collection, noting the business rate grants on offer from the Government during the pandemic. He also highlighted the ongoing capital investment at Foxhall Village before receiving questions.


Members noted the Council’s Medium Term Financial Sustainability (MTFS) Strategy and queried the progress being made in comparison to the expectations set out within the Strategy. In response, Mr Thompson advised that it was difficult to compare in-year financial reporting with a six- year strategy. The Council had been successful in adapting and delivering services through the pandemic whilst still regarding the principles set out within the MTFS Strategy which had been agreed prior to the pandemic.


In response to a further question, Mr Thompson advised that local government was currently a high risk sector and that the six-year MTFS provided the financial direction of the Council and demonstrated how the Council would remain solvent and sustainable.


The Board considered the main areas of overspend within the month 9 reporting and requested more information regarding the overspends on educational transport and the Conference Centre. In reply, Mr Thompson advised that the pressure on school transport had increased in recent years, however, its provision had recently been moved to a different department within the Council and the budget would be ‘right sized’ in order to ensure it accurately reflected the expected spend. In relation to the Conference Centre he advised that there had been delays in opening, however, due to the pandemic it would not have been able to operate as expected if it had opened on time. Mr Thompson noted that the conference industry was operating at 50% of pre-pandemic levels and therefore aggressive marketing of the Centre was required in order to attract new clients.


The Chair highlighted that Blackpool Council had received some of the highest cuts in funding per head of population and raised concerns that this was the case when Blackpool was known to be an area of significant deprivation. She queried what the Council was doing to bring this issue to the attention of the Government. In response, Mr Thompson advised that the Council was in ongoing dialogue with the new Department for Levelling Up and that advice had been received that the local government funding formula would be reviewed.


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