Agenda, decisions and minutes

Cabinet
Tuesday 7th September 2021 5.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Council Offices, The Campus, Welwyn Garden City, Herts, AL8 6AE

Contact: Alison Marston 

Media

Items
No. Item

32.

APOLOGY

Additional documents:

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Councillor N.Pace (Executive Member, Governance and Public Health).

33.

MINUTES

To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 10 August 2021 (previously circulated).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 10 August 2021 was approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

34.

ACTIONS STATUS REPORT pdf icon PDF 87 KB

Report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) on the status of actions agreed at the last Cabinet meeting.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The status of actions agreed at the Cabinet meeting on 10 August 2021 and for decisions taken by Cabinet Members exercising their individual delegated powers between 2 August and 27 August 2021 in the report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) was noted.

35.

ITEM REQUIRING KEY DECISION

To consider the following item for decision in the current Forward Plan:-

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The following item for decision in the current Forward Plan was considered:-

35a

Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) Update (Forward Plan Reference FP1070) pdf icon PDF 363 KB

Report of the Chief Executive on the review of the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) as the opening stage of the 2022/23 Budget Setting process.

Additional documents:

Decision:

Cabinet noted the contents of the report and approved the principles to be adopted for the 2022/23 budget setting process as highlighted in section 3.3.6, in particular the 2022/23 budget setting process should focus on closing the indicative budget gap beyond next year.

Minutes:

Report of the Chief Executive on the review of the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) as the opening stage of the 2022/23 Budget Setting process.

 

(1)       The Decision Taken

 

RESOLVED:

(unanimous)

 

Cabinet noted the contents of the report and approved the principles to be adopted for the 2022/23 budget setting process as highlighted in section 3.3.6, in particular the 2022/23 budget setting process should focus on closing the indicative budget gap beyond next year.

 

(2)        Reasons for the Decision

 

Cabinet passed on their condolences to Grant Fairhall who sadly passed away to Covid-19 and was a member of the Council’s Finance team.

 

The current Medium Term Financial Strategy was approved by Full Council in February 2021.  Since that time, the 2020/21 financial year had been completed, leaving General Fund reserves at a relatively healthy £6.7M.  Government support has absorbed the worst of the Covid pandemic impacts, and the Council’s reserves were a testament to past prudent financial management.

 

The first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year has now completed.  The adverse impact of Covid is continuing into the new financial year, and it is unlikely that the Council will be able to rely upon government support to the same extent.  Accordingly, a drawdown of General Fund reserves for 2021/22 of £878,000 is now forecast, against an originally budgeted £220,000, as discussed at Cabinet on 10 August, 2021.

 

The updated General Fund MTFS, summarised in appendix A, will take us through 2022/23 to 2024/25.  The assumptions used in the updated MTFS were set out in the attached report.

 

Key points to note were:

 

   Firstly, the savings requirement for future years does not include the additional forecasted 2021/22 shortfall identified at Quarter 1.  As discussed at the time of the 2021/22 budget setting, this would be absorbed by drawing down from reserves, rather than by attempting to find savings.  Thus the cumulative savings required essentially start in 2022/23.

 

   As noted in the report, the improvement in the 2022/23 single year gap were mainly down to the fact that, following further analysis, the Council would be able to absorb the adverse impact on business rates for that year by use of previously established earmarked reserves.

 

   Again as noted in the report, the worsening of the 2023/24 single year gap was mainly due to more conservative assumptions around borrowing and financing costs.  If interest rates remain very low, this additional gap may not materialise, but it is sensible to be prudent.

 

As noted in the report, closing the future years’ gaps would be a crucial objective in the budget process.  Predicted General Fund reserve levels were highlighted at the foot of Appendix A, and the situation beyond 2022/23, would alert us to a cause for concern.

 

For now, no material changes have been seen as necessary to the Housing Revenue Account, (HRA), and component of the MTFS.  Any HRA changes would be considered as part of the budget setting process.

36.

EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC

The Cabinet is asked to resolve:

 

That under Section 100(A)(2) and (4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be now excluded from the meeting for Items 10 and 11 on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of confidential or exempt information as defined in Section 100(A)(3) and Paragraph 3 (private financial or business information) of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the said Act (as amended).

 

In resolving to exclude the public in respect of the exempt information, it is considered that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That under Section 100(A)(2) and (4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be now excluded from the meeting for Agenda item 11 (Minute 37 refer) on the grounds that they involved the likely disclosure of confidential or exempt information as defined in Section 100A(3) and paragraph 3 (private financial or business information) of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the said Act (as amended). 

 

In resolving to exclude the public in respect of the exempt information, it was considered that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information.

37.

ITEM OF AN EXEMPT NATURE REQUIRING KEY DECISION

To consider the following item of an exempt nature:-

 

Minutes:

The following item of an exempt nature for decision were considered:-

37a

Write Offs over £50,000 (Forward Plan Reference FP1073)

Exempt report of the Chief Executive on the write-offs of over £50,000.

Decision:

(1)   Cabinet agreed a non-domestic rates write off.

 

(2)   Cabinet agreed a commercial rent write off.

Minutes:

Exempt report of the Chief Executive on the write-offs of over £50,000.

 

(1)       The Decision Taken

 

RESOLVED:

(unanimous)

 

(1)   Cabinet agreed a non-domestic rates write off.

 

(2)   Cabinet agreed a commercial rent write off.

 

(2)       Reasons for the Decision

 

There were two companies involved. The report set out the efforts made to recover the debts.

 

Business rate write-offs were required in respect of Thorns Group, and Peacocks.  The Council’s share of this would be 40%.

 

The Council also has to write off commercial rent in respect of Peacocks as a Council tenant. The Council had to bear the full extent of this loss.

 

The write-offs were, in each case, covered by our previously established bad debt reserves, and it was felt that these reserves remain adequate.  No further change to the General Fund was required.