Agenda item

Finance & Commercial directorate 2023/24 budget proposals


The Director of Finance introduced details of the report, outlining the finance and commercial directorate budget proposals for 2023/24.  The Directorate had a 2022/23 budget (as at September 2022) of a net £8.787m, comprised of a gross controlled expenditure budget of £24.891m and a gross income budget of £16.104m. Savings targets for the directorate were £1.051m and it was currently projected that this would be achieved. It was noted that the forecast outturn for 22/23 as at September 2022 was an underspend of £0.143m.

Members were reminded that it would take at least five years to resolve all financial issues within the Council but this was also dependant on a number of other factors, including achieving asset sales at the estimated price, dealing with the local government financial settlement, cost pressures due to interest rates and energy costs and transitioning from current interim staffed service to permanent staff (with minimum disruption) and attracting skilled personnel on a permanent basis.

Details of the £3.143m savings proposed by the directorate to contribute towards the Council’s overall target for 23/24 were as set out in the report, namely:

  • Staffing reduction - Fraud department - reduction by 0.2 FTE of one post
  • Increased tax base and collection rate £0.917m - Increase council tax base rate by 2% and collection rate by 0.1% in 2023/24
  • Reduction in Audit Fee and Other Initiatives £0.400m - Expected reduction in audit fees due to catch up in accounts and resolution of past audit issues; use of duplicate payments system and the recovery of costs from other external bodies
  • Single Person Discount £0.350m - Proactive Single Person Discount monitoring through implementation of an effective and robust process to prevent / reduce fraudulent claims and to ensure inaccurate claims or unreported changes are identified at the earliest possible
  • Pension Contributions discount £0.350m - Proposal of early payment of pension contributions which attracts a discount of 2.6% per annum
  • Vacancy Factor £0.299m - Application of a vacancy factor against staffing budget across the directorate
  • Efficient working practices in Revenues and Benefits £0.440m - Improved processes and controls in order that overtime is no longer needed to be charged and vacant posts can be removed from the hierarchy structure.
  • Budgeted Overhead Cleanse £0.375m - By means of unutilised budget arising from efficiencies over the course of time.


It was noted that the proposals outlined did not require any public consultation as they related to internal processes within the Council. 


Noting that there was a relatively new finance team in place, the Chair asked how risks during this critical period were being managed, given that there were a number of interim staff in key roles who could leave at short notice. Members were informed that the recruitment process to appoint a permanent Executive Director of Finance and two deputies was underway and it was anticipated that the post-holders would be in post early 2023 and that this would assist with the transition period prior to interim staff leaving by the end on March 2023.  It was acknowledged that although there would be a degree of impact when current interim staff left the authority, the Council was in a much better position than it was two years prior and the impact would be manageable. 


A Member asked if the proposed 0.1% increase in the collection target rates for 23/24 - to an overall figure of 98.3% - was realistic and achievable and if so, whether this could be further increased. The Committee was informed that the target rate was achievable and that whilst it was probable that this could be exceeded, it would not be set any higher in case it was not met.


The majority of savings were dependant on improved infrastructure systems and it was queried whether the Council had the capacity to achieve these. The Director of Finance explained that the Finance Action Plan clearly set out the timeframe for implementation and that processes had already been improved, citing the delivery of the energy grants a month prior to the deadline.


Resolved - That details of the Finance and Commercial directorate 2023/24 budget proposals be noted. 


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