Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP)

The Council has a long established process of operating a medium term approach to its financial planning and in line with this it reviews the plan at least on an annual basis when it firms up the following year, by approving a detailed budget and Council Tax level for the year. In doing this, the Council also takes due consideration of future year demands on its resources and establishes its firm proposals for the coming year with due regard to prudent financial management in the medium term. The Council has a successful track record of managing its resources in this way.

During the period 2010/11 to the forthcoming year 2015/16 the Council’s comparable government funding will have reduced in cash terms by £23.3m which in real terms (after taking inflation into account) equates to £33.8m, a 42% reduction.  In response, by the end of 2014/15 the Council had reduced expenditure by over £25m leading to workforce reductions of 564, with plans to save a further £10.3m.

It is predicted that comparable Government funding in real terms will reduce by a further £16.5m by 2020 in addition to the £33.8m already lost since 2010, an overall real terms decrease of £50.3m, a significant 57%.

These reductions are unprecedented.  The Council’s main sources of income going forward are Council Tax and Business Rates and the ability to increase these sources of income to protect services and offset the loss of government grant is limited by the Government. Unless a referendum is held the Council cannot raise Council Tax by more than 2% each year and the rateable value of properties is set by the Government.  Therefore the only way we can collect more revenue from these sources is to increase the numbers of properties built and attract more businesses to the Borough.

The priorities of the Council are set out in the Community Strategy – One Darlington Perfectly Placed (ODPP), developed in partnership with public services, business and the voluntary and community sector. It is proposed that the focus needs to be on putting in place the conditions that will enable the ODPP ambitions to be achieved in a climate of significantly reduced public spending. The three conditions are:

1. Building Strong Communities – enabling people to live fulfilling lives with less involvement from public services.

2. Spending Wisely – maximising value for all public expenditure.

3. Growing the economy – generate income streams, employment and opportunities.

In addition to the proposed spending reductions, annual council tax increases of 1.99% have been included in the MTFP as this is the limit by which council tax can be increased without a referendum.

Taking account of the above the Council’s General Fund balance at 1st April 2015 is projected to be £21.307M.

The Council has set a revenue budget of £81.119M for 2015-16 which is summarised at group level below:-

Group

£m

People

31.885

Children's Services

16.716

Economic Growth

12.351

Neighbourhood Services & Resources

22.406

Financing Costs

3.230

Council Wide Pressures/(savings)

(0.0753)

Contingencies

0.835

Contribution to/(from) revenue balances

(5.551)

Proposed Savings 

(3.448)

Total net revenue budget

81.119

The Budget is funded by:

 

£m

Council Tax

39.291

Revenue Support Grant

17.938

Top up Grant

3.979

Business Rate Scheme

18.031

New Homes Bonus

1.880

Total

81.119

A detailed report prepared by the Chief Officers Executive (COE) was presented to Cabinet on 2 December 2014 for consultation. The views of Efficiency & Resources Scrutiny Committee were fed back to Cabinet on 17 February 2015. The results of the consultation and other updates were considered at the meeting and amendments were made to the budget that was recommended to Council on 26 February 2015.

Capital programme

As with the revenue budget in recent years the Council has developed a medium term financial plan for Capital. Local authorities’ new freedoms in capital investment and borrowing came into force on 1st April 2004 and under this system councils are able to borrow subject to affordable and prudent limits. This has ensured that there is even closer linkage between capital and revenue financial planning.

The MTFP includes planned capital investment of £118M from 2015-19.

The capital investment requirements of Transport and Education services are largely funded by government programmes, which typically have a system of bids and/or assessments whereas the Housing Programme is funded from the Housing Revenue Account.  The plans of these services are reviewed and updated on an annual basis and they contribute to the longer term view on financial planning for capital investment. The capital report also includes indicative allocations of future funding for the main areas of the capital programme, the majority of these being funded by capital grants and contributions from the Housing Revenue Account.

As a result of the implementation of the government’s self-financing initiative introduced from April 2012 and savings delivered in the Capital Works fund it has been possible to create a HRA Investment Fund. It is proposed that this will be primarily used to deliver the regeneration of Red Hall and a new build programme. A total of £19.5M is available for the development of new council housing, of which £10.8M is remaining for up to an additional 90 new homes in addition to the 78 new homes already in the pipeline.

Feasibility is underway to develop a number of proposals with a view to submitting a bid for grant funding from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

The Council can and has supplemented Government Capital Funding from its own resources such as capital receipts and prudential borrowing, although, in such challenging financial times the ability to fund from the Council’s resources is severely limited. 

Borrowing to fund capital expenditure and the investment of money that the Council holds to meet future costs is managed in accordance with a Treasury Management Strategy, which is approved annually by the Council. The Strategy for 2015-18 was approved at the Council meeting on 26 February 2015 after being considered at a special Audit Committee on 6 February, 2015. The management of the Council’s borrowing and investments is an integral part of the MTFP for both revenue and capital.

Council Tax

In setting the budget the Council has regard to public expectations and demands for services and the impact on Council Tax. Government support in the form of Formula Grant is determined by national formulae and does not vary with local spending decisions. In this way, nearly half of the Councils non-schools net budget funding is fixed which means that the Council’s expenditure decisions impact very significantly on Council Tax.

This is the amount paid to the Borough Council for band D properties excluding the average Parish Precept. This represents an increase of 1.99% in Council Tax levels from 2014/15.

In addition to the Council’s own requirements, Council Tax bills include the Police Authority precept (£162.73 for Band D), Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority  precept (£93.96 for Band D) and in parish areas the Parish Council’s precept (ranging from £0.00 to £35.89 for Band D).

The latest version of the Medium Term Financial Plan was approved by Cabinet on 17 February 2015 and by Council on 26 February 2015