Agenda item

Lindsay Ferris asked the Deputy Executive Member for Finance the following question:




Page 44 of the Agenda clearly shows how the Council is eating into its reserves.


As of 31/03/2017 the Council's reserves stood at £10,036m. At this meeting this figure (as of 31/03/2018) now stands at £7,525m, a drop of £2.511m over the last 12 months. This represents a fall of over 25% in the General Fund Balance (also known as reserves). This £2.511m also represents an overspend of circa 3% in Council Tax.


Clearly the ruling administration is losing control of costs, can the Executive Member explain how he intends to rectify this issue?



I don’t think it will come as a surprise to you that I do not accept that the ruling Administration is losing control of its costs.


The first point I would like to make is that the like for like comparison to the £10m reserves you quote at 31/3/17, is £9.1m at 31/3/18 and not £7.5m. This is a reduction of less than 10%, not the 25% as you claim.


Throughout the year we have reported the significant budget pressures faced as a result of the increases in Adults’ and Children’s costs.  To give you some headlines for that, basically to stand behind it, our demand for child protection plans up to April 2017 50 children; up to April 2018 139 children – 178% increase.  Children in care April 2017 73, March 2018 106 – 45% increase. 


The same is replicated across adult services also.   Core adult mental health assessment quarter 3 2017-18 199 assessments for all of 2016- 202 and a 40% increase on top of that over the last three years generally in people accessing adult social care services.  These are all statutory services so that we have to accept the demand basically that is coming in. 


We have a long standing record of strong financial management, at this Council, which includes the close monitoring of our expenditure and putting measures in place to control escalating costs, and ensuring that we have a safe level of reserves. I am confident we will continue to do this, despite the severely escalating care needs of the community; which as I am sure you are aware is an issue which is national and not simply related to Wokingham Borough.


Supplementary Question

I would like you to turn to page 44 because on page 44 it says General Fund Balance at 31/3/17 £10.036m (in Appendix C) and a bit further down it says General Fund Balance 31/3/18 after carry forwards £7.525m.  I therefore challenge your figures which you have just said to me and I would like you to explain why my comments are incorrect because I cannot see any difference -  £10.036m and £7.525m is £2.511m.  So I significantly challenge your figures and I think it shows that the Council cannot add up.


My question now is that we have lost a quarter of our balances by those figures in one year.  Do you feel, and I accept the aspects of the figures and increased responsibilities and I understand the constraints but we have to bear that, I would actually say then do you consider both the February 17 and the February 18 budgets to have been safe?


Supplementary Answer

The answer to your question is the difference between the figure you are using and the figure I quoted is the 17/18 carry forward request total which is listed in the bottom line but one on there but if you wish to discuss that further I am very happy to continue that discussion outside this meeting. 


In the final answer to your question yes from all the information I have seen and all the information I am aware of I do believe that the budget is safe.