Agenda item

Part B: MTFP Cabinet Response: Our Medium Term Strategy and budget choices for 2020/21

To consider a report of the Leader of the Council, Cabinet Member for Resources, Commissioning & Governance and Cabinet Member for Citizen Focus & Engagement


The Summer Review of the Medium Term Financial Plan highlights the continued uncertainty, complexity and volatility facing local government funding - presenting significant challenges for local citizens and their local public services. The Cabinet is currently in the second year of its Medium Term Strategy and work has been underway to further understand the budget choices available to the Council. The Cabinet is progressing the implementation of the first phase of its medium term strategy – taking forward the proposals developed over the course of 2019/20 and agreed at Cabinet in February this year. As such this report includes:


(A) Proposals already agreed in 2019/20 that are being phased or have been further developed;


(B) Draft proposals forming this years (2020/21) programme for change;


The Cabinet is keen to seek views from Scrutiny on these plans.  There will be further opportunity to discuss the proposals and reflect on consultation feedback where relevant, at the Committee’s meeting in November, ahead of Cabinet decision making on 17 December. In order to enable broad engagement on Cabinet’s plans, Scrutiny Committees are receiving the full report and suite of appendices relevant to their remit.


The Scrutiny Committee is invited to comment on the report and the proposals presented within the report relevant to the remit of this committee. This report is accompanied by a guiding note (appendix 1) to advise which proposals are relevant to their committee.


Officer contact: Holly Rae, 0161 474 3014,


The Cabinet Member for Resources, Commissioning & Governance (Councillor Tom McGee) submitted a report (copies of which had been circulated) inviting the Scrutiny Committee to consider the Cabinet’s initial response to the challenges of continued uncertainty, complexity and volatility in local government funding as set out in the Borough Treasurer’s Summer Review of the Medium Term Financial Plan. The Cabinet was currently in the second year of its Medium Term Strategy and work had commenced to further understand the budget choices available to the Council. The Cabinet was progressing the implementation of the first phase of its medium term strategy agreed at Cabinet in February 2019 and had developed draft proposals   for change for 2020/21. The views of scrutiny committees were being sought on those plans.


The Cabinet Member for Citizen Focus & Engagement (Councillor Kate Butler) was also in attendance at the meeting to respond to questions relating to proposals within her portfolio.


The following comments were made/ issues raised:-


·         Clarification was sought on the process for determining the Greater Manchester levies and the involvement of councillors. In response it was confirmed that there were well established practices for scrutinising the proposed levies, with groupings of council leaders and treasurers taking the lead on each levy, which in the case of Stockport was for waste disposal. It was also clarified that there was currently a number of uncertainties in relation to proposed levies connected to a number of ongoing Greater Manchester initiatives. Specifically in relation to the Waste Disposal Levy, it was hoped that there would be additional savings from the new waste disposal contract that would be realised through the levy.

·         Clarification was sought on the surplus for Looked After Children placements and whether this reflected a reduction in the number of children in local authority care. In response it was stated that there had been a spike in numbers of children in care, but this had now plateaued, but the saving was also reflective of other initiatives such as the provision by the Council of additional care home capacity and efforts to increase fostering. It was cautioned that this surplus may need to be utilised in the event of an increased number of children needing care.

·         Comment was sought on whether it was anticipated that the Council’s development of an All Age Living Strategy and associated investment would help offset the costs on adult social care. In response it was acknowledged that Stockport’s population was ageing, balanced by increased birth rates in other areas of the borough, but the importance of investing in infrastructure that supported people appropriate throughout their lifetime was to be encouraged.

·         Comment was sought on reasoning for increasing the Council Tax collection forecast. In response it was commented that improved performance in collection rates had given confidence to raise the forecast that would then allow for greater income to offset the need for further reduction. Tribute was paid to officers for their hard work in this area.

·         Clarification was sought on the impact in the event that the Business Rate Retention pilot were to cease. In response it was stated that the GMCA had received notice that the pilot would continue into 2020/21. The Council had always treated the benefits accrued from the pilot as non-recurrent and used for investment purposes. It was also highly likely that changes to the business rates regime and local government financing would also be introduced in the future.

·         Further comment was sought on potential increased employer pension contributions. In response it was commented that there was a further review of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund and further increases in contributions may be necessary, although there may be opportunities to forward fund contributions to reduce those costs.

·         In relation to the libraries proposals, concern was expressed that there was no consultation planned with children and young people, school and particularly those in more deprived communities, despite the Equality Impact Assessment identified these groups as being particularly impacted by changes to opening hours. In response it was commented that consultations were widely available in libraries and on the Council website, allowing users of these facilities to take part. It was commented that when consultations were planned these needed to be proportionate, with a balance between the resources used and the likely levels of engagement. Nevertheless, the importance of libraries to young people who may have limited quiet space at home was acknowledged. Further comment was made that ‘proportionate’ could also be seen as doing enough, rather than what was best.

·         Clarification was sought on the likely impact of the proposals on the Assistance Scheme, and particular concern about the reduction in staffing levels and the impact on support. In response, the differences between the two possible models were outlined, particularly in relation to the intensity of staffing and the level of support provided to those seeking assistance. It was commented that current approaches to support gave less emphasis to wider support and signposting.

·         Councillors discussed the merits of the Assistance Scheme options set out in the report, in particular option 2 and it having been modelled on a similar scheme in Derby, that sought to provide broader support to those applying, rather than a focus on grant awards. It was also commented that a high proportion of those seeking assistance were, or about to become, Stockport Homes tenants and so the Council had discussed with them how to maximise opportunities for using furnished tenancies and housing benefit to assist people. Comment was also made that the model had been designed to reduce duplication with similar processes undertaken by Stockport Homes. Agreement had also been reached with Stockport Credit Union to provide a Council underwritten loan facility, as this had been a suggestion to emerge from consultation with clients previously. The additional benefit of improving credit ratings for clients receiving such a loan was also highlighted. Emphasis was given to the vulnerability of the individuals seeking assistance from this scheme.


RESOLVED – (1) That the report be noted.


(2) That in relation to Proposal 4 ‘Support Funds’ the preference of the Cabinet be informed that the Scrutiny Committee’s preference was for Model 2 ‘ Support Focussed Model’.


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