Council received and considered the report from the Finance Director.
His Worship, The Mayor, Councillor Jeal reported that paragraph 31.15.6 of the Council's Constitution stated that a recorded vote shall be taken on the setting of the budget.
The Leader of the Council presented for approval the general fund budget for 2021/22. The report included the detail of the budget for 2021/22 together with the capital programme and forecast reserves statement for the same period. The budget reflected the one-year local government finance settlement for 2021/21 which was announced in December 2020 and confirmed earlier this month and included the funding that was announced in the settlement.
The Leader of the Council reported that the settlement included announcements of one-off funding for next year including a further £746,000 to support the ongoing impact of Covid19. The report only covered the 2021/22 budget and made recommendations for the setting of the council tax for the Boroughs element which was in line with the national assumptions of council tax increases which amounted to a £5 increase for a band D property per annum, and £3.33 for a band A. When taken into account with the level of parish precepts for the Borough, Great Yarmouth would continue to be the lowest for Norfolk and one of the lowest nationally.
The Leader of the Council reported that the Council continued to hold a number of earmarked reserves which together with the general reserve provided some financial stability. Whilst the transfers from reserves should only be seen as a one-off source of funding, the use of reserves in this way could provide one-off upfront funding for projects and schemes that could deliver future savings and efficiencies.
The Leader of the Council reported that the budget, as presented for recommendation, had been set within the context of current pandemic which had had and would continue to have an impact on the Council’s financial position for the short to medium term. Despite these significant challenges, the budget continued to support delivery of vital services to the residents and businesses within the Borough including:
• waste and recycling,
• grounds maintenance,
• housing including support for homelessness
• essential support to households through local council tax support.
The Leader of the Council reported that maintaining the essential day-to-day services, the Council had played a critical role in the multi-agency response to coronavirus and I am hugely proud of the way the Council and its staff have worked flexibly with our partners over the past year and taken on extra duties in order to keep our residents safe, especially the most vulnerable, and to support our local businesses during a challenging time.
Our priority work to assist the community had included:
• Running a community helpline
• Resident welfare checks
• Helping food banks, including delivery of food parcels
• Medicine delivery
• Administering Government hardship funding
• Delivering and supporting communications campaigns to aid public safety & well-being and to signpost people to help if needed
• Assisting homeless people into suitable temporary accommodation.
Our coronavirus marshals continue their good work in the community, seven days a week, including helping with the vaccination programme roll-out, the trial of symptom-free testing, contact tracing, as well as providing high-visibility advice and reassurance.
To support businesses and the local economy through the pandemic and into recovery:
• The Council had already handed out more than £42m in Government support grants to businesses, including targeted extra support for our important tourism and hospitality sectors, alongside running a dedicated business helpline.
• Officers have continued to provide the latest Covid guidance and support for businesses, including signposting to funding opportunities, and advice on reopening and operating safely.
• During the summer, the Council ran a promotional campaign with the 2 local Business Improvement Districts to support footfall in our key shopping and tourism locations, while encouraging responsible visitor behaviours.
• In December, we switched on our new lighting to decorate those key areas and encouraged people to come and see the new magical illuminations for themselves, to back their local traders, shop locally and shop safe.
• Looking ahead, the Council had secured a 50-metre tall observation wheel for Great Yarmouth seafront, in order to provide an additional Covid-safe draw, as part of supporting the important visitor economy this summer.
The Leader of the Council reported that all of this work had all been delivered at the same time as continuing to pave the way for significant capital investment that would help to facilitate and support continued economic growth within the Borough which was key to our longer-term recovery and regeneration of the area. With our ambitious plans focused around Great Yarmouth town centre and seafront, the Council had continued to invest in some of the Borough’s significant assets to support and regenerate the area. These and other key projects have been possible due to the Council making investments in its assets and also successfully drawing down external funding, either from national funding, or locally from the Local Enterprise partnership and from business rates.
The Leader of the Council reported that in the Town Centre:
• We have secured an offer of £13.7m investment from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund towards our vision to transform and revive Great Yarmouth town centre as a vibrant economic, cultural and community hub. As part of this, work will soon start on the first phase of our new £4.6m Market Place redevelopment.
• Work has now begun on the new £120m Third River Crossing, led by Norfolk County Council, which supports our ambitions for investment and regeneration in the town centre and wider borough, connecting the port area and Enterprise Zone directly to the A47 while cutting congestion in and around the town centre.
The Leader of the Council reported that on the seafront:
• Following the successful Waterways restoration, the Council broke ground in January on the new Marina Centre, scheduled for opening in summer 2022. The Council’s £26m investment would be a major boost to the economy and community for decades to come, acting as a catalyst for potential further investment and seafront regeneration, whilst supporting health and well-being for the whole borough.
• We were about to submit the next stage of our bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for our project to save, restore and reimagine the Winter Gardens at the heart of Great Yarmouth’s regeneration and daily life, as a year-round visitor attraction that makes the most of the unique building.
• We have also applied for nearly £25m of Government investment, known as a ‘Town Deal’, to help deliver an exciting £60m vision supporting economic regeneration, recovery, jobs and growth across the borough’s main urban areas.
Key projects for which Town Deal funding was sought included:
• A new Learning Centre and University campus, co-located with a new town centre library, offering more ways and opportunities for people of all ages to take their learning and job prospects to the next stage.
• A new operations and maintenance centre of excellence with business incubator units at South Denes, unlocking and enabling further inward investment by the energy sector.
• Restoration and sustainable repurposing of a number of historic buildings, including restoration of the Winter Gardens as a year-round seafront attraction and restoration and adaptation of the Ice House as a National Centre for Arts and Circus.
• Enhancements to the rail station gateway and North Quay to improve the accessibility and attractiveness of this key point of entry for commuters and visitors, as well as improved pedestrian and cycle links between the town centre and seafront, along with enhanced digital connectivity.
The Leader of the Council reported that with a focus on attracting further investment, driving economic regeneration and recovery, the ambition was to take Our Place to the next stage: to re-invent public places, to tap into and grow a thriving arts and cultural scene, to support new homes, nurture new jobs, businesses and new opportunities to learn and grow, to make our people, businesses and visitors proud.
The Leader of the Council reported that the budget, as presented this evening, reflected the continued investment and proactive work that the Council was undertaking to support the economy and public priorities. This would be achievable due to the Council’s priority to operate as effectively and efficiently as possible and identify opportunities to generate additional income and retain growth within the Borough. Whilst there were still financial challenges ahead, and at this time we do not know what the outcome of the funding reviews would be from 2022/23 onwards, the key themes of our business strategy including:
• delivering and facilitating growth be it new homes or business, and
• ensuring that we operate in an effective and efficient manner
would all remain a priority in the medium term.
The Leader of the Council reported that to ensure that we were able to plan for 2022/23 in a timely manner, work on the future financial planning for the Authority would commence early in the new financial year and would be updated once outcomes of the spending review and fair funding review were announced. In the meantime, I am confident that the budget as presented was achievable and supported the delivery of the Corporate Plan and I therefore recommend the budget for 2021/22 as detailed on the agenda on page 143.
Councillor Wainwright reported the concerns of his group regarding the proposed budget and highlighted the level of need of many residents resulting from Covid19 and subsequent loss of employment which they felt had not been adequately addressed in the proposed budget.
Members then voiced their support or concerns regarding the proposed budget.
PROPOSER: Councillor Smith
SECONDER: Councillor Plant
That Council approve:-
(a) the General Fund Revenue Budget as detailed at Appendix A;
(b) the Council Tax for 2021/22 for the Borough Council tax be £171.48 (for an average Band D); that the demand on the Collection Fund for 2021/22 be (a) £4,865,925 for the Borough Council purposes; and (b) £519,506 for Parish Precepts;
(c) the statement of and movement on the reserves as detailed at Appendix D and within section 6 of the report;
(d) the Policy Framework for Reserves as detailed at Appendix E;
(e) the updated Capital Programme and Financing for 2020/21 to 2021/22 as detailed at Appendix F; and
(f) the new Capital Bid proposals at Appendix G and Minimum Revenue Provision Statement at Appendix H.