Agenda item

Chief Finance Officer Update

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At the Chairman’s invitation, the Chief Finance Officer presented his update and highlighted that there were no changes to accounting policy or treasury management. The Council had received £37.374M as an initial allocation to deliver Government Grants (BEIS Grants) to local businesses through a centrally determined scheme, and this was the most notable update. The 2018/19 accounts were still being audited and would continue in October. The 2019/20 draft accounts could be ready from July, but the audit of the 2019/20 accounts would depend on when the 2018/19 accounts had been signed off.


A report had been provided to Cabinet detailing the indicative finance costs of Covid-19 and another report would be provided in July detailing the risk to this year’s budget and the contributing factors. The Chief Finance Officer explained that Council Tax payments ha d impacted the Council as there had been a 5% reduction in fees. The Council also faced 3 months loss of income from car park fees as lockdown had closed car parks, but the Council were still liable for managing and maintaining the car parks and utility costs. There was also the pressure of homelessness and providing accommodation for those in need. The government had provided £21,000 towards this but the Council had used £200,000 of reserves and it was hoped that further funding would be received to claim back the costs of temporary accommodation.


Members were concerned that the reserved budget was not going to meet the requirements of lockdown. They felt concern that other local authorities had served 114 notices and asked for reassurance that this would not be the case for Northampton Borough Council. Members were concerned that an influx of evictions would occur in the autumn as landlords were instructed not to evict any tenants during lockdown. In response, it was said that the housing situation would be monitored as these issues had been vocalised. In response to a question if the KPMG statement of accounts would affect Unitary, the Chief Finance Officer confirmed it would not affect Unitary as such but would be a legacy issue of the Northampton Borough Council. An explanation of the impact that Council Tax had on residents during the pandemic was requested and the Chief Finance Officer proposed that more information would be available shortly and a further update would be provided at July’s meeting.


The Chief Finance Officer responded that the Council had done well to contain costs and were exploring options and initiatives available to recover reserves spent during the pandemic. He expressed that the Council would not be issuing a 114 notice in the near future, as there was plenty of avenues the Council could explore to avoid this outcome. A report would be brought to Cabinet outlining this and options available to the Council to make in-year savings or obtain funds from reserves earmarked for projects.


The Chair questioned the Chief Finance Officer on how the Council was communicating with the government. The Chief Finance Officer responded by confirming there was two streams of communication, one stream was through district and borough treasurers and the other was countywide through the commissioners and shadow authority as a poor financial position would make it difficult to launch into Unitary. The Chair followed up his question with a supplementary on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on local business. The Chief Finance Officer shared that Kevin Langley, the Economic Growth and Regeneration Manager, was currently looking into the impact on the local economy. As Councillor Eldred reported at the last Cabinet meeting, 260,000 grants and £34m in business rate relief had been awarded to businesses to support them during this uncertain period. A discretionary fund of £1.7m had been created for those businesses who did not meet the criteria, for example if they were a business that existed within a building that had to close as a result of the pandemic. The Council was proactive in demonstrating support for business and a resource was available to signpost businesses for further guidance. Fortunately, in Northampton, the economy is varied so is not reliant on one form of business and this would enable the economy to bounce back faster as initiatives were being looked into to help support the return of businesses after the Covid-19 crisis.


The Chair read out the recommendations and asked Members to note the report.




2.1.1    The progress towards completing the Statement of Accounts for 2018-19 and 2019-20 is noted.


2.1.2    The risks to the 2020-21 budget is noted


2.1.3      It is noted that that there have been no changes to Accounting Policies.


It is noted that there have been no reportable incidents in respect of Treasury Management, or requirements to change Treasury Management Polices.


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