Agenda item

Consolidated Budget report 2014/15 and Medium Term Financial Plan


The Executive Member for Finance submitted a report recommending the consolidated budget for 2014/15 and the 2017/18 Medium Term Financial Plan.  The Director of Finance and Support Services apologised that it had not been possible to publish the report earlier as the key information had not arrived from central government until very close to Christmas. 


Members were reminded that this information was central to the Council’s budget setting process for 2014/15 and for future years.  Members were also advised that all of the implications of the previous three reports on the Agenda were included in this report.


Members were further advised of a number of significant changes for local government finance in 2014/15, namely the cessation of Council Tax Benefit which had been replaced with a locally determined and managed Council Tax support scheme.  The localisation of Business Rates had transferred the risks and rewards for increases and decreases in Business Rate yield to the Authority.  


Members were also provided with a summary of the arrangements associated with the 2013 pension fund triennial valuation.  The Director of Finance and Support Services concluded that details of the treasury management strategy would be considered by the Audit Committee on 22 January 2014.


In response to query from Councillor M Pope regarding the new homes bonus, Members were advised that the known figures were considered secure until at least the next comprehensive spending review, although Brandon Lewis MP had advised that a review of new homes bonus would be undertaken in April.  The Director of Finance and Support Services stressed that East Herts Council was not as reliant on the new homes bonus as some other Local Authorities.


Councillor N Symonds commented on what East Herts Council was doing in terms of bringing empty homes back in to use.  Members were advised that there was an ongoing piece of work involving Officers in housing and revenues and benefits.  Members were reminded that the Authority had a housing strategy for East Herts that covered empty homes.


In response to comments from Councillor J Wing regarding whether more resources needed to put into the pension fund, the Director of Finance and Support Services commented that the pension fund had performed somewhat better than originally expected.


Members were advised that Officers had sought advice in terms of what would be a sensible amount to put into the fund at the present time.  Officers had been advised that, although the current position might change, as performance had been better than expected, the Authority might not have to invest in the fund in the near future.


In response to comments from Members relating to Reserves, the Director of Finance and Support Services advised that it was for the Authority to judge when it was prudent to allocate its Reserves and it was for Members to make suggestions to Officers.


The Executive Member for Finance commented that consultant advice had been sought as part of an appraisal into property investment.  He stated that Members should always be mindful of the appropriate levels of resources held in reserve.


The joint meeting of Scrutiny Committees resolved to inform the Executive that the budget should be approved as detailed in the report now submitted.


RESOLVED – that the Executive be informed that the joint meeting of Scrutiny Committees considered that the Consolidated Budget should be approved, as detailed in the report now submitted.

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