Angus Council to consider budget proposals
Angus councillors will be asked to consider a range of measures proposed by the council on Thursday.
These include budget proposals which seek to keep costs to residents low while encouraging businesses and improving infrastructure, as well as to support those in need and ensure excellence in educational provision.
At their meeting, the full council will hear that the pandemic has also resulted in significant reductions in income for the council as well as substantial additional costs. They will also consider, amongst other council business, the additional on-off funds provided by the Scottish Government and the updated council, financial and workforce plans which provide the strategy to support Angus citizens through the recovery phases while building towards a changing but optimistic future.
In addition, papers will show the unanticipated financial realities that the coronavirus has had on ANGUSalive, as well as the Angus Health & Social Care Partnership (AHSCP) which have their economic well-being aligned with Angus Council.
However, councillors will also hear of the ambitious plans for investment in the Tay Cities Deal and the new Monifieth High School amongst other initiatives which will provide jobs and support for the people of Angus.
Councillor David Fairweather, council leader, said: “As we approach the anniversary of the first lockdown, I would like to pay tribute to officers and the many citizens who, through our third sector partners such as Voluntary Action Angus, have supported the most vulnerable in our communities during this past year.
“Thanks to prudent management by the administration and officers, Angus Council entered this pandemic in a stronger position than did many others. This has helped us to preserve services for our citizens. As a council we must continually aspire to create an Angus which protects those in need while providing opportunities for economic growth.
“This budget represents a vital balance between dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic, supporting citizens and planning for a positive future for Angus.”
The council is legally required to set a balanced budget and council priorities are to use the money available to support front-line services. There has been additional Scottish Government funding of £1.9 million plus £1.727m of grant in return for a Council Tax freeze for 2021-22.
These increases are however insufficient to meet the expected costs of increased demand for services as well as pay and general inflation next year and that means the council faces a funding gap of £11.3m.
Savings targeted to be achieved through the council’s Change Programme have been severely affected by the pandemic response (report 208/20). Several savings planned for 2021/22 have been pushed back in whole or part to future years. However, a small number of new projects which do not affect services provided directly to the public have also been added to the Change programme for 21/22. Savings from our Change Programme are expected to be £5.2m for the 2021/22 financial year.
The proposed budget also contains a total of £2.6m of budget issues and investments which will be recommended for inclusion in the Council’s 2021/22 revenue budget. £1.7m of these budget proposals would be ongoing (permanent) additions to the budget while £0.9m would be funded on a one-off basis (from Reserves).
These include: additional teachers to support an increase in the Secondary School rolls (£255,000); four additional full time social workers (£99,000); expanding the capacity in the children with disabilities team; £126,000 to support implementation of the Tay Cities Deal and increased support for finance and procurement working with AHSCP and ANGUSAlive.
The proposed budget also includes capital investment proposals of which the replacement for Monifieth High School is the most important and at an estimated cost of £50m is a significant investment for the council to make for many years to come.
The Angus Council property portfolio currently has a 94% average occupancy rate and currently provides space for more than 1100 jobs across Angus. £200,000 has been proposed to upgrade and maintain commercial units as demand for desirable commercial property is high. Start-up new businesses in Angus for 2020-2021 are currently sitting at 209 which is eighth highest in Scotland.
It also includes a recommendation to extend the suspension of car parking charges agreed at Angus Council on 12 September 2020, until 31 March 2021.
Councillor Macmillan Douglas, depute leader and finance convener, added: “The theme of this budget is to look forward and help the people of Angus to recover from Covid 19 and build for the future. To do this we are keeping our council tax as the second lowest in Scotland; keeping our Council house rents low; keeping parking free in Angus until we recover sufficiently from the pandemic.
“We are continuing to encourage the provision of high speed broadband in rural and urban areas. We are continuing to encourage the best education for our young people and are strengthening our social care team.’
AHSCP, jointly funded by Angus Council and NHS Tayside, has incurred significant additional costs as a result of the pandemic which may in due course impact on its contribution to the Change programme. However, The draft budget currently assumes that the Council will provide a sum of £51.5m to the AHSCP for 2021/22, this being the same cash sum as 2020/21 plus the expected Angus allocation of £72.6m ring-fenced national funding for specific issues and budget pressures (circa £1.8m).
This therefore means the council will require AHSCP to fund budget issues by making compensating savings. This is a challenging budget settlement but one which have been largely agreed by the Angus IJB.
The pandemic has hit ANGUSalive, the arm’s length external organisation (ALEO) responsible for delivering the sports, leisure and culture sector disproportionately hard, in common with all the other ALEOs across the UK. However, it is recognised that these are key elements in societies recovery and play a huge part in the health and well-being of the people of Angus
While the council provides a £3.901m (report 81/20) management fee, this only represents around 45% of overall operating costs, with the remaining 55% coming from income generated, predominately (88%) from the Sport and Leisure area of the business, which has been largely closed since March as a result of lockdown.
As reported to the Angus Council meeting of 11 February 2021( report 36/21) a financial support package is available should it be required. However, there is significant risk that this may not be all that is required and that the ANGUSAlive budget allocation from the council agreed on 4 March 2021 will require to be reviewed in response to changing circumstances.
Margo Williamson, Angus Council chief executive, said: “I am incredibly proud of the way that Angus Council staff have responded to the huge challenges presented by this pandemic. It shows that our resilience plans were robust, our dedicated staff are highly skilled and our advanced programme of home working, agile and digital services allowed us to maintain services and operate effectively all though this very challenging year.
“We are asking members to agree the recommendations in a number of reports being placed before them at Council on Thursday. We need to provide clarity for citizens around the solutions on offer to ensure the wellbeing of our citizens and resilience of our local businesses.”