Deputy Leader of the Council (Finance & Resources): Councillor Imogen Walker
Strategic Director Corporate Resources, Jackie Belton
Contact: Director of Finance and Property: Christina Thompson CThompson3@lambeth.gov.uk Tel: 0207 926 5302
The Leader of the Council, Cllr Lib Peck, noted the supplementary paper published after the main agenda pack which included the recommendations of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for the Budget 2018/19.
The Deputy Leader of the Council (Finance and Resources), Cllr Imogen Walker, introduced the report and noted that Council spending continued to be restricted due to severe funding cuts from central government. Despite this the Council continued to work to promote equality, inclusive growth and create strong, sustainable neighbourhoods. A funding gap of £40.9m over the period of 2018/19 to 2020/21 had been mitigated through various measures, including an identified £28m of brought forward savings. Essential services would also be maintained through increases in council tax and the Adult Social Care precept, as well as further new savings. There were however no proposed savings in Children’s Services whilst the improvement process was underway and care leavers would be exempt from council tax. The report also identified Council’s capital investment proposals.
The Vice Chair Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Resources), Cllr Andy Wilson, addressed Cabinet in relation to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) recommendations as outlined in the supplementary paper. In particular, Cllr Wilson noted:
· In relation to the current Housing Benefits Overpayment debt; lobbying of central government should continue in favour of transferring this debt back to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) once Universal Credit had been rolled out.
· That more focus was needed on the pipeline of demand in relation to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who required Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans. The Council and Schools Forum needed to have more in-depth conversations about the funding system.
· There were plans in place to replenish the Council’s reserves, but these needed to be strengthened further; however the Council’s capacity for flexibility was increasingly limited.
· That growing income streams needed to be at the centre of the Council’s financial strategy. OSC would seek to be involved in the Commercialisation Strategy due to come forward in 2018/19.
In response, the Director of Finance and Property, Christina Thompson, said that the issue of housing benefit overpayment debt had been discussed at length at the meeting of OSC a clearer picture would emerge once people were transferred across to Universal Credit. Officers would continue to work with colleagues at London Councils and the Local Government Association (LGA) to lobby for the transferal of the debt back to the DWP.
Cabinet members then raised the following comments and questions:
· The Council would fully support the LGA‘s cross-party campaign against the under-resourcing of Children’s Services.
· Councils across the country faced funding gaps as a result of cuts from Government. This Budget was designed to minimise the impact on the most vulnerable members of society but it could only go so far. Northamptonshire County Council had been unable to meet its financial requirements and had issued a Section 114 notice. This should act as a wakeup call to Government.
· All policy ambitions were built on the platform of ... view the full minutes text for item 3