The report and appendix are attached.
Andrew Felton (Assistant Director, Finance) introduced the Statement of Accounts, stating that, in ordinary circumstances, a significant underspend within a financial year would be viewed negatively, however, in the era of coronavirus it had proved to be advantageous. The underspend had helped to maintain healthy reserves, improved cashflow and positioned the Authority well to respond to the challenges posed by the impact of the pandemic and the departure of the UK from the European Union.
In response to Councillor Holland, Virginia Rennie (Strategy and Commissioning Manager, Strategic Finance) advised that, in recognition of the impact of coronavirus, central government had extended the statutory deadlines for the publication of accounts; WCC was on track to meet the revised deadlines comfortably.
Attention was given to the draft ‘narrative’ Statement of Accounts document which was orientated to be accessible to members of the public with images and statistics.
The Chair suggested that the Statement be revised so that it was clear from the introduction that the reader was being addressed by Rob Powell (Strategic Director, Resources) rather than authorship of the document being stated on the final page only.
In response to Councillor Horner, Virginia Rennie advised that the ‘Revenue Spend by Service’ figures did not include central overhead costs (such as Human Resources, for example). Andrew Felton stated that figures showing central overhead costs apportioned to service areas were available.
The Chair drew attention to page 10 of the Statement which advised that 246,910 calls had been answered by Customer Services. He suggested that some extrapolation of the proportion of complaints resolved within a measurable timescale would provide a more insightful infographic.
In response to Councillor Horner, Rob Powell stated that the 80.7% employment rate cited on page 10 of the Statement (‘Our Performance in 2019/20’) could require additional context. He advised that input would be sought from Economic Development to clarify within the text how this figure had been determined.
The Chair highlighted the lower rates of educational achievement in Nuneaton referred to on page 14 of the Statement. He asked if there was scope to develop the commentary relating to the Nuneaton Education Strategy. Rob Powell advised that this represented an ambitious strategy for the organisation and that attention would be given to the prospect of exploring the issue in more detail in the final, published version.
Councillor Horner highlighted the sections of the Statement which addressed underspending against budgets in specific service areas. He suggested that an explanation of the rationale for reduced spending in these areas would benefit the readers’ understanding.
Rob Powell advised that budgets were determined on the basis of projected demand. Regarding the significant underspend recorded for Environment Services, he explained that funds had been allocated in anticipation of a harsher winter; milder conditions had resulted in a saving. He supported the ethos to avoid unnecessary spending and highlighted the attention which had been given to ‘right-sizing’. Services were not encouraged to spend to budgets.
The Chair commented that in certain areas, such as care ... view the full minutes text for item 4