Councillor Ralphs introduced the proposed Budget for 2022/23 to members, together with the Medium Term Financial Plan 2022/23 to 2025/26, the Capital Strategy, Fees & Charges and the Procurement Forward Plan 2022/23.
Member queries were raised as follows (responses in brackets):-
· Could a breakdown of ‘Earmarked Reserves’ be provided? (Yes, will do);
· ‘Headroom’ figure was excellent. Could there be small incursion(s) where ambitions required? (Risks associated with Covid recovery, inflation, the economy and Government led national review of local authority funding must be borne in mind);
· Local procurement – limited ambition shown? (The Council’s procurement team worked hard to encourage local suppliers to tender for work. Bidding was open for all);
· When were the Car Park Meters to be replaced? (Within 12 months);
· LED lighting on Car Parks – better if movement-sensitive? (Caution required regarding pedestrian safety);
· Climate Change was referred to throughout the documents. It would be good to see the effect on Carbon Footprint and the direction;
· Was the work on redundant mills to include Albion Mill, Biddulph? (Yes. This strategy would eventually bring in extra revenue);
· Poor bus service in rural areas meant there was a need to keep parking charges in Cheadle unchanged to encourage visitors to the town. (This was under consideration by Cabinet. SCC were introducing a new bus service from end of February 2022);
· Fair Funding Review and New Homes Bonus changes – when expected? (Information awaited from Government. These matters were under consultation but no national timetable had been published yet);
· No Capital Expenditure on Industrial Units until 2025/26. This was a worry.
· £10m loan to Ascent. What was SMDC getting out of it? (The primary gain was the continued financial support for the provision of Social Housing in the district, secondary gain – income from interest charged on the loan);
· Disabled Facilities Grants reserve now £4.2m. Were we still not spending our allocation within year? (The Better Care Fund introduced the means testing system. The Facilities Management Joint Venture would give SMDC greater control, subject to contracts);
· Communal electric vehicle charging points needed re the number of properties unable to install their own. (This was being looked at. Suitable land was sought. Caution needed as fast-chargers required 3-phase electricity which was very expensive).
RESOLVED - Notwithstanding the ongoing consideration by Cabinet regarding parking charges in Cheadle and subsequent potential changes to the proposed Budget, members were able to support the recommendations to Council:-
· Approval of the General Fund Budget for 2022/23 as detailed in Appendix A (section 9);
· Approval of the revised Medium-Term Financial Plan (2022/23 to 2025/26) as detailed in Appendix A, including the revised Capital Programme (attached at Annex A);
· Approval of the Capital Strategy 2022/23 as set out in Appendix B;
· Approval of the proposed Fees and Charges for 2022/23 as detailed in Appendix C;
· Approval of the proposed Procurement Forward Plan for 2022/23, providing the authority to procure based on procurement activity detailed in Appendix D;
· Approval of a Band D Council Tax of £163.14 for 2022/23 (an increase of 2.99% from 2021/22);
· Approval of a Band D Council Tax of £52.92 for Leek and £10.64 for Biddulph for 2022/23 (no increase from 2021/22) in respect of Special District Expenses;
· Note the Chief Finance Officer’s view that the level of reserves were adequate for the Council based on this budget and the circumstances in place at the time of preparing it (Appendix A Annex E).