Report Authorised by: Fiona McDermott: Strategic Director for Finance and Investment
Contact for enquiries: Amaris Wong, Group Manager, Strategic Finance, 020 7926 7742 email@example.com
The report was introduced by Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance, Councillor Andy Wilson who highlighted that:
• The last year had presented great challenges for Lambeth, whilst continuing to deal with the effects of the pandemic. Learning to live with Covid-19 whilst an increasing cost of living crisis had been hard for Lambeth residents
• Since last reporting on the Medium Term Financial Strategy, the Government had released some short-term relief to local authorities. This had been welcomed but left the issue of long-term sustainable funding unanswered
• Increased demand in essential services and a rise in inflation was difficult to manage, and the recent funding did not account for these additional challenges
• The Council had consulted on expanding the criteria of the Council Tax Support Scheme to help those finding the increase in Council Tax unaffordable. This support would permanently support those most in need and reduce their bills, most to nil
• The Council would continue to take every opportunity to support vulnerable people in its communities, but be honest in its ability to do so in the increased demand of services and increased inflation.
Cabinet was addressed by Councillor Scott Ainslie of the Green Group, who highlighted a number of questions surrounding:
• Council Tax support, the number of people receiving 100% support and the criteria to receive it
• Reserves and the possibilities of using this money to fund play centres and nurseries as heard from Maintain Nursery staff at the recent meeting of Full Council
• Evictions and what was being done to protect vulnerable residents at risk
In response to some of the questions and comments raised, Officers and the Cabinet Member advised the following:
• The improvement in the Council Tax Support Scheme was implemented last year, which benefited 6,900 additional residents already. This number identified those already in receipt of the scheme and who would continue to benefit from it. In relation to the newly announced £150 payment for all council tax payers in Bands A-D, for those on Council Tax Support where there were no incoming payments from the recipients, the Council would have to fund the administrational costs of obtaining bank details in order to pay them
• Reserves were not a solution for a long-term problem and it was important to keep to 10% of the Council’s net cash limit in order to weather unexpected fluctuations whilst identifying long-term solutions
• The evictions queries had been answered at the recent meeting of Full Council. The numbers of people taken through the process was less than 5 and it was important to recognise the large numbers of individuals working hard to ensure their Council Tax was paid. It was important to collect Council Tax in the cases that it could be paid, and take enforcement against anyone capable but refusing to pay.
Cabinet made the following observations:
• Lambeth’s Maintain Nursery Schools deputation made at Full Council in January mentioned by Councillor Ainslie did not comprise of a number of different learning provisions as he had stated. Maintain Nursery Schools were schools as opposed to nurseries, which required them to be staffed by qualified teachers and overseen by a headteacher. This meant that they cost considerably more to staff than a regular nursery
• One Cabinet Member was in the process of writing to the Secretary of State requesting the correct amount of funding
• Cabinet commended colleagues in Finance and Investment for having maintained a balanced budget in a volatile and uncertain time, as well as for not having used its reserves in the past. There was not an endless pot of money and it would be optimal to work on increasing these funds for any uncertainties to come
Following consideration, it was resolved that Cabinet:
1. Recommended Council to note or adopt the recommendations listed in the report.