The Cabinet considered a joint report of the Corporate Director of Resources and the Director of Transformation and Partnerships which provided comprehensive financial information to enable Cabinet to agree the 2019/20 balanced revenue budget, an outline Medium Term Financial Plan MTFP(9) 2019/20 to 2022/23 and a fully funded capital programme (for copy see file of minutes).
In presenting the report the Corporate Director of Resources advised that the figures based in it were on the provisional settlement, and that as the details of the final settlement had been released the day before was able to confirm that there were no changes. The Corporate Director thanked staff, and members for their assistance in bringing this report together.
Cabinet members commented on the savings that had already been made and that if these savings were agreed then it would mean that the council would make over £234m in savings by 2019/20, and that by 2020 over 3,000 posts would have been lost. This had been as a result of austerity measures and funding cuts to the council. It was pointed out that the council was very fortunate that it was able to meet the shortfall from within the budget support reserve, and would continue to protect front line services as far as possible.
Members referenced the unfairness in the distribution of the funding continued for Durham in comparison to other authorities, and this impacted on Durham’s spending power. It was pointed out that the authority has less core spending that the English average, and if it were the same as the average it would have an additional £44m in funding. It was noted that the core spending figures quoted by government assumed that the increase in council tax would be to the 3% limit however Cabinet was recommending an increase of 2.99%. It also assumed that the Adult Social Care precept was to the maximum limit and Cabinet was recommending a 2% increase in line with this.
Despite continually lobbying the government it was felt that they were not listening as the previous day they had agreed cuts of £16b in local government funding. The position for funding for Durham beyond next year was not yet known, there was uncertainty over public health funding, and that the outcome of the fair funding review would be known later in the year. The council would do all it could to continue lobbying on these issues. There was significant uncertainty over future funding which made planning very difficult.
The feedback from overview and scrutiny was welcomed as was that from the public and AAPs. Cabinet members thanked the Corporate Director of Resources and his officers, and the Deputy Leader of the Council for their calm financial stewardship.
It was unanimously agreed to recommend to full council approval of the recommendations set out in the report.