Issue - meetings

2020/21 Provisional Outturn

Meeting: 14/09/2021 - Audit and Governance Committee (Item 155)

155 2020/21 Provisional Outturn pdf icon PDF 119 KB

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The Head of Strategic Finance and Property briefly introduced the report. He said that the external audit was still awaited. The overspend of approximately £116,000 could be considered as a positive outcome in light of the significant difficulties of the previous year.


The Chairman said that the net cost of services had increased and asked if was related to the impact of COVID-19.


The Head of Strategic Finance and Property highlighted his earlier points about reduced rental income and the terms of the income support scheme claim again. Some costs related to the cost of refuse staff being replaced by agency workers when they were required to self-isolate.


Councillor Townsend asked whether assigned but unspent community grants would remain allocated to the relevant groups.


The Head of Strategic Finance and Property said that it would. The Council had previously required work to start before the funds were allocated. However, this was not widely accepted practise and going forward funds would be allocated and monitoring done to ensure they were used as agreed.


Councillor Pope asked how prospective changes to the New Homes Bonus (NHB) would affect the Council.


The Head of Strategic Finance and Property said that the government wanted to remove the ‘dead weight’ factor whereby it was paying bonuses on new homes that would likely have been built in any case. Once this happened, it was unlikely the Council would receive any NHB. Caution had been taken and this was the assumption that had been made in the financial forecast. Financial pressure would continue; there had been only a 0.6% increase in the Council’s resources despite the increase in council tax.


The Chairman asked about positive windfalls on property funds that the Council had invested in and the contribution to the section 31 national non-domestic rates (NNDR) reserve.


The Head of Strategic Finance and Property said that the diversified property fund had outperformed expectations and the Bank of England base rate, so the decision had been made to keep it. The NNDR contribution related to the government’s irrecoverable losses grant scheme on business rates. The rules had been changed around this so the numbers were slightly lower than expected, but this could be mitigated elsewhere.


The Chairman asked about the capital underspend of approximately £30m. He also asked for a general update on reserves.


The Head of Strategic Finance and Property said that this was due to the Council’s previous practice of carrying forward bulk underspends, once the new practice of showing profiled expenditure across years was implemented, much smaller variance would be seen. Planning costs for Harlow and Gilston had been funded from reserves in the past and this was not sustainable going forward. Applications would soon begin to be heard, which created further budget and staff pressures in the Planning Service.


It was moved by Councillor Ward-Booth and seconded by Councillor Fernando that the recommendations, as detailed, be approved. After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.


RESOLVED –  ...  view the full minutes text for item 155