Joint report of the Chamberlain, the Director of the Built Environment and the Director of Open Spaces.
The Committee considered a joint report of the Chamberlain, the Director of the Built Environment and the Director of Open Spaces presenting, for approval, the revenue and capital budgets for the Planning and Transportation Committee and final high-level summary Business Plans for the Departments of the Built Environment and Open Spaces for 2020/21.
A Member questioned the apparent 50% increase from £16m to £24m relating to Income from ‘Customer, Client Receipts’ under Central Risk. The Chamberlain reported that this related to a Fundamental Review budget adjustment for “Traffic Restriction Enforcement through improved camera technology, including Beech Street Zero Emission Zone” and that a substantial increase was anticipated for 2021. Members noted this point but highlighted that it was undesirable to see budget increases as a result of fixed penalties and was something that Officers should always seek to minimise.
In response to further questions, the Director of the Built Environment clarified that staffing costs had increased as more staff were required to deliver the Transport Strategy. The Department were also working hard to make the best possible use of the resources they already have and realign these with emerging priorities.
A Member stated that he felt that it was problematic for grand Committees to only see this budget information annually. He added that it would be helpful for Members to be provided with further information as to how certain figures had been reached and what ‘trade-offs’ might lie behind these for example. The Chair highlighted that some of these figures had, indeed, emerged from the Fundamental Review but agreed that more narrative would be useful.
Another Member stated that the forthcoming Governance Review would also afford Members the opportunity to comment on the general opacity of Committee budget reports and how these might look to provide Members with greater confidence going forward.
A Member expressed general concern at what Members were being asked to approve today. Particularly under recommendation iii) which then authorised the Chamberlain, in consultation with the Directors of the Built Environment and Open Spaces, to revise the budgets to allow for any further implications arising from Corporate Projects, other reviews and changes to the Cyclical Works Programme. She commented that this seemed to offer quite a wide authority and questioned whether some sort of cap/threshold ought to be added to this so that any adjustments beyond a certain level had to revert back to Committee for approval. The Chamberlain stated that he would be happy to introduce such a cap if that was supported by the Committee. He reassured Members that any changes made were, however, accounted for and detailed in future updates to the Committee and stated that he would be happy to update Members on the budget more frequently if the Committee wished.
A Member referred to the October 2019 meeting of this Committee when Members had received a report on the income received from both Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106. This detailed that £31m had been collected to date with just £500,000 spent in approximately 8 years. He questioned why he was not able to see these figures reflected in the budget. The Chamberlain reported that this money was reflected on the balance sheet and not the revenue account.
In response to further questions around expected income, the Chamberlain reported that income was expected to increase from £33m to £41m which was attributable to an expected increase in enforcement income.
RESOLVED – That Members:
i) Approve the proposed revenue budget for 2020/21 for submission to Finance Committee;
ii) Approve the proposed capital and supplementary revenue projects for budgets for 2020/21 for submission to Finance Committee;
iii) Authorise the Chamberlain, in consultation with the Directors of the Built Environment and Open Spaces, to revise these budgets to allow for any further implications arising from Corporate Projects, other reviews and changes to the Cyclical Works Programme;
iv) Agree that minor amendments for 2019/20 and 2020/21 budgets arising during budget setting be delegated to the Chamberlain;
v) Note the factors taken into consideration in compiling the Business Plans of the Departments of the Built Environment and Open Spaces, including efficiency measures;
vi) Approve, subject to the incorporation of any changes sought by this Committee, the final high-level summary Business Plans for 2020/21.