Agenda item

Shaping the Council and Budget Update


The Assistant Chief Executive introduced the report which provided an update on the budget pressures in 2015/16 and 2016/17, and summarised the outcomes from the Budget Review Panel discussions to date.


The Committee were advised of a proposed change to the date included in recommendation 1, so that an additional report would be referred back to the committee in January 2016 instead of December 2016, to which all Members indicated their agreement.


Councillor Liddiard appreciated the comments made by the Budget Review Panel but felt that Area Based Working in Tilbury was not working effectively. He expressed concerns over capability issues as he felt that it was unreasonable for street sweepers to learn new machinery, and added that staff observed that they were less effective when working in a team rather than working on their own.


Councillor Stewart explained that some residents had reported that waste from blue recycling bins and brown garden waste bins were being disposed of in the same refuse collection trucks, and that this sent confusing messages to residents who were advised to keep this waste separate. She added that more needed to be done to communicate to residents how to recycle properly and the matter investigated as to whether both types of waste were combined together.


Officers explained that this matter would be investigated outside of the meeting.


The Chair stated that it would be irresponsible of the committee not to review in more detail an £8 million deficit of the Essex Pension Board to which the Assistant Chief Executive clarified that the financial liability that related to Serco’s pension position within the Essex Pension Fund was still uncertain, but a potential projected deficit was £3.4 million and that the General Fund Balance totalled £8 million.


The Committee were advised that a decision pending from the Essex Pension Fund was expected mid-September and that Group Leaders, Deputy Group Leaders and the Shadow Portfolio Holder would be notified once received.


The Chair observed that the Budget Review Panel process was a good wish-list but felt that was no definitive plan, and added that he would like to see a terms of reference, objectives, details of the timeliness of the meetings, what was considered to be a success and what support was needed for the Budget Review Panel in order for Members to determine whether it was a mechanism worth investing in. He further stated that the process so far had been a step in the right direction but requested a new recommendation be added that a complete terms of reference and scope for the Budget Review Panel process be drafted and referred to the next meeting of Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee for consideration and comment.


Councillor Snell explained that the Budget Review Panel had been an information gathering exercise up until this stage but agreed that going forward a definitive plan would need to be in place.


Councillor Ray indicated his scepticism regarding the Budget Review Panel and felt that the opposition groups were assisting the ruling party, which could in turn keep them in power.


The Chair explained his initial scepticism but stated that the panel were examining the budget for two years’ time and all three group leaders had been invested in the process.


Councillor Liddiard through the Budget Review Panel process had been smart, to establish a common sense view of the budget savings faced and not to create divisions on party lines. He added that he would like to see a vision for community hubs to set out where improvements and savings could be made.


The Assistant Chief Executive explained that the Budget Review Panel process had served its purpose but that agreement would need to be reached on the next steps. He reported that the broader public ownership of hubs would be strengthened and that it was important the Council ensured buildings were in a fit state and in an appropriate form that the community could run.


The Assistant Chief Executive informed Members that a vision of Community Hubs had been developed in consultation with the community and that this would be shared with the Committee.


Councillor Stewart requested a list of statutory and discretionary services so that Members could be more informed of impact of the budget savings, in response the Assistant Chief Executive advised that this information had been documented on a slide pack used during the Budget Review Panel process and that this could be shared with Committee Members to provide further detail.


Members voted unanimously in favour of the recommendations, including the additional recommendation proposed by the Chair.




1.         That Corporate Overview & Scrutiny Committee understands the current financial position and potential pressures in both 2015/16 and 2016/17 and agrees to an additional report in January 2016 to update on the options to address the pressures following Cabinet consideration in the Autumn.


2.         That the Committee support the governance arrangements for the Serco transition, including the role of the Member Governance Group as set out in paragraph 3.12 and notes that a further update report will be brought to Cabinet in October.


3.         That the Committee provide any feedback on the Budget Review Panel discussions to date to inform the ‘wrap-up’ session on 21 September 2015.


4.         That a Terms of Reference and Scope for the Budget Review Panel process be drafted and referred to the next meeting of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee for comment.

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