A week of Budget Scrutiny and recommendations

Last week, the various Scrutiny Committees of Cornwall Council had the chance to challenge and make additional recommendation on the Cabinets draft proposals for the 2013/14 Budget. In these draft proposals the recommendation is for a 1.97% increase in Council Tax.

I attended and took part ( I can only vote in the Children’s OSC) in all of the meeting as it gives you a greater understanding on all aspects of the Budget before the full council meeting where the entire membership votes on the budget. Furthermore, it was good to see the various committees really questioning the Budget, Officers and Cabinet Member behind the draft. Believe me, it is not an easy position to be in, as the choices and recommendations made will affect people. The draft Budget can be found HERE.

This is a summary of the recommendations from the various Scrutiny Committees:

Health and Adults OSC:

  • The Committee’s disappointment be noted in respect of the removal of the £4m uplift in the 2014/15 budget.
  • Cabinet should lobby central government for fairer funding formulations relating to the grants received by Cornwall

Children’s, Education and Families OSC:

  • The Committee’s strong concerns in respect of the cost of transport to this service and the way it is delivered and managed be noted.
  • The Committee’s concerns be noted in respect of the proposed saving relating to school based redundancy costs being funded from the dedicated schools grant, as it is considered that this could disproportionately affect some schools.
  • The Committee’s strong objection to the potential additional emergency saving of the removal of the Post 16 Transport Subsidy be noted.

Communities OSC:

  • Not to make the proposed changes to the Community Chest Budget and to fund this from budgets used to fund the Royal Cornwall Show and other events including Cornwall in Bloom and the Du Maurier Festival (Fowey Music and Dance Festival), the final details to be worked up by the Assistant Chief Executive.
  • To reduce the bureaucracy of the Community Chest Grant Process.
  • To support the licensing of all Houses in Multiple Occupation giving extra protection for vulnerable residents and creating an extra income stream.
  • To keep the staffing level of Environmental Health Officers under review.
  • That Members should be involved in any proposals for community libraries.
  • A review of the performance of all Leisure facilities be undertaken by the new Council.

Environment & Economy OSC:

  • Mandatory Planning Training for all Members of the Council, with this training also offered to Town and Parish Councils.
  • The costs associated with the planning enforcement of listed buildings and conservation areas.
  • Costs being recovered from planning applicants who choose to withdraw applications in their final stages.
  • If and when the supported bus network is prioritised, it be ensured that those areas with already restricted services, particularly rural areas, be given high priority.
  • Beach maintenance and cleansing be prioritised to give greatest importance to those where blue flags may be lost, resulting in an associated loss in income.
  • Any shortfalls in income from the parking service should not be met by the highways maintenance budget and investigations should be undertaken into other possible budgets.

Corporate Resources OSC:

  • The Leader considers as a matter of urgency when the Final Report of the Business Rates Informal Working Group may be added to the Cabinet’s agenda and that current recipients of Discretionary Rate Relief be written to at the earliest possible opportunity.

These recommendations from the Scrutiny Committees will now go back to Cabinet, who then will either take on the additional points and include them into the draft Budget, or ignore them. It will then be up to the Full Council to ratify the d(r)aft, make further changes only if they are approved by finance, or vote against it. If the council does vote against it by a majority, then the 151 Officer (Head of Finance) has the power to set the Budget without the council having a say.

 

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