The Lead finance Officer presented the above report, a copy of which had previously been circulated. He advised that the purpose of the report was for Members to consider and approve Council’s Quarter 3 financial outturn and position at 31 December 2018.
Councillor Fleming welcomed the report and the many positive aspects contained therein. He requested that these reports be brought to full Council. He queried when the non-domestic review of appeals would come to conclusion.
The Lead Finance Officer pointed out that it was four years since the process had started. He said it had been anticipated that this would have already concluded and Council was working with Land and Property Services in an effort to have any outstanding cases resolved.
In response to a further query from Councillor Fleming, the Lead Finance Officer said that whilst he could not specify the exact number of cases outstanding he could indicate that a sum of 1.7 million had been set aside in respect thereof.
Councillor Tierney welcomed the report and commended those involved. He said this report was a positive news story and provided the opportunity to set aside a further £150,000 to advance community projects which would impact directly on residents of the area. He expressed concern that Council was not operating within the timeframe in respect of Rosemount Resource Centre which would have an ultimate impact on its Capital Works Programme.
The Chief Executive explained that this was a third party building and Officers were acutely aware of the issues pertaining to this. However, this situation had only recently come to the fore. He advised that Council would outline its position and he did believe that Council was operating within the required timescales. He stated that Council did not normally become involved with third party buildings.
In response to a query from Councillor McLaughlin regarding the current position in relation to the City Deal, the Chief Executive explained that the core elements in the Deal were the innovation projects. He stated that the City Deal would be structured on these and the nature of the innovation projects. He continued that all of the innovation projects had been progressed with innovation partners and digital projects partners. He said the projects had now been submitted to Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the government department in London and were currently being evaluated. He stated that an update had been received in respect of the business case and Officers were pleased with the comments received which were constructive. Overall the projects which had been submitted were robust and ambitious.
The Chief Executive pointed out that parallel work had also taken place on a number of environmental projects and those business cases had been prepared and government departments advised thereof. All of these projects had been endorsed by government. However, these would not be finalised until the innovation projects had been approved. He pointed out that the third strand of work involved working with representatives from Northern Ireland Office to determine the funding model. He stated that Council’s position was that the funding model that was used elsewhere must, however, reflect the City’s unique position and were in advanced discussion in this regard.
The Chief Executive pointed out that the fourth strand was the updating of the economic model.
The Chief Executive stated that the position in regards to a City Deal was at a pivotal point with all work required, which had proved considerable, having been carried out. He pointed out that the majority of the work had been carried out by senior Officers together with other partners and the additional Strategic Investment Board (SIB) resources who assisted in preparing the business and strategic outline cases. Specialist expertise was engaged when required. He explained that the next few weeks were critical in terms of the government’s response to the proposals submitted by Council and it was important that government indicated to the City region if they were interested in progressing this by way of a further announcement.
In response to a further query from Councillor McLaughlin, the Chief Executive pointed out that a government announcement could be forthcoming at any time. He continued that Officers were satisfied that the vast majority of information required had been made available and, if requested, additional information would also be made available.
The Chief Executive advised that such announcements were normally made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and were usually in line with the publication of the Autumn or Spring Statement. However this was not necessarily always the case.
Subsequently, the Committee
Recommended (a) that Members approve the Quarter 3 month financial position and note the surplus of £754k generated for the first 9 months on the 2018/19 financial year, of which £300k is allocated to reserves to maintain Council’s current District Fund balance, £300k is allocated to repairs and renewals resulting in a remaining sum of £150k (pending confirmation of year-end outturn) which could potentially be utilised to address other strategic and community projects; and
(b) Members approve a sum of £200k to be set aside from 2019/2020 capital savings to continue engagement of SIB resources for a further year until 31 March 2020 and ensure continued advancement of the community centre projects and Council’s strategic leisure and regeneration proposals as part of City Deal.