Financial Monitoring Quarterly Reports for 2019/20- Quarter 2
With the committees consent the Chair moved this item on the agenda.
It was highlighted that the data in the report was from September. Updates to this are unavailable due to the Assistant Director Financial Services & Revenues unable to attend the meeting due to ongoing Budget commitments.
The current deficit has reduced from £195,000 to £159,000. The Councils current funding settlement amount from national government should be known soon. There are other factors contributing to the Councils final sum that would need consideration. The budget will be published in January but may be subject to change before the budget council meeting February.
Councillors commented that the reduction in deficit had been through the use of funds from the transitional reserves and asked if they would run out. The officers advised that when councillors voted on the budget in February they agreed to transition reserves. They suspect that they would need to be used again next year but when they would eventually run out.
Councillors commented that a lot of the savings were one off salary savings. They enquired about departmental efficiency savings for the long term. Officers responded that the salary saving were a combination of not needing to recruit or not being able to. Efficiencies savings were being continued to try to be found. Previous efficiencies had been used in budgets to prevent redundancies but the council now needs to consider this option in order to save money.
There was a significant overspend in the homelessness of £355,263. This was due to the significant demand for bed and breakfast temporary accommodation and a lack of affordable social housing properties for people to move into. Councillors asked when this would reach a saturation point. Officers agreed that it was unsustainable.
To help with this situation the council has brought a batch of properties intended for temporary accommodation use. The council intends to buy a second batch. This will allow us to save on costs and also control the standard of accommodation people are receiving. There is still a need to strengthen structures that help homeless people external to the council. At a later date an expert will be brought in review what we are currently doing to make sure we are doing everything viable.
The Assistant Director Housing & Built Environment is exploring a number of options including the Councillors suggestion of setting up a Housing Revenue Account to help acquire homes.
The Councillors spoke about how we have spent £65,000 on Cliff railways which generates revenue for the council. They questioned why £11,000 had been spent on Happy Harold (open topped tram bus), as it doesn’t make any revenue. Should the funding be stopped and Happy Harold retired to a museum.
Officers responded that the repairs to the Cliff railways were more complicated than anticipated and became more expensive. The decision to fund Happy Harold is a political one.
Councillor Rogers declared an interest as she is currently helping to coordinate Happy Harold events. The £11,000 was needed as running repairs on Happy Harold hadn’t been done. There is currently a full programme of events. They do not charge the public during these but they have received £3000-£4000 in donations. Currently this money goes back into an account run by the trolley committee, maybe in the future this money should be returned to the Council instead. Happy Harold will be making a trip on Christmas Eve to the deprived wards north of the borough where children will be able to see Santa.
Councillors asked if there was a business plan for Happy Harold. They were concerned that the Council was subsidising a hobby group. Councillors would like it run more like a commercial enterprise.
Councillor Rogers responded that a business plan was being created next year in the off season. Happy Harold is now being run more professionally. Risk assessments have been done and changes such as uniform have improved the image from hobbyists to professionals.
Councillors believed that it may be worth looking at smaller budget items such as Happy Harold to see that we are getting the best out of these assets.
Councillors believed that whilst it could be small amounts of money, cumulatively they could still contribute given the Councils financial situation.
Councillors also raised the possibility of looking at events in town that the council contributes too such as Hastings Week and venues such as St Mary in the Castle.
Officers reminded Councillors that Officers had been through the budget line by line. There is a need to find £1.5 million cuts but this does need to be done in priority order. Councillors have a copy of the budget book and are welcome to look through and identify possible areas of savings. Councillors responded that not all elements that they are concerned with are identifiable in the book.
Councillors asked further questions about the repairs to the Cliff railways. They asked if they could get further information about this.
· Councillors would like a list identifying smaller budget heads such as Happy Harold
· Councillors would like a list that identifies smaller contributions to events and venues such as St Mary in the Castle, Hastings Week, Hastings Contemporary and other festivals and events
· Councillors would like information about the cliff railway repairs including;
o How long the repairs are estimated to last
o Was a full survey done of the condition of the site
To accept the contents of the report, and the actions within the conclusion and management action section
Reasons for Recommendations
To assist the council in understanding the financial position and particularly areas of over and under spend. This assists in identifying areas for review in the revised 2019/20 budget and the production of the 2020/21 budget
- 2019 12 17 - Querterly Monitoring - Q2 - O&S report, item 32. PDF 149 KB
- Q2 - Appendix 1, item 32. PDF 98 KB
- Q2 - Appendix 2, item 32. PDF 10 KB