Agenda item


            The Director of Finance and Resources submitted for the Committee’s consideration a report providing an update on the Medium Term Financial Plan and seeking approval to adopt the Council’s first Commercial Plan.


            He explained that the Medium Term Financial Plan needed to be based on a fair and honest appraisal of the Council’s financial position and of its capacity to release resources internally and generate additional external income. The Financial Plan needed also to reflect the funding environment within which the Council operated and reference was made to the Covid-19 pandemic and earlier Primark fire as being examples of how the financial demands placed on the Council could, without warning, increase in severity.


            The Director reported that, following the completion of the rate setting process for 2021/22, the Council had a good understanding of the current financial position, although this could be impacted by any Covid-19 funding decisions made by the Department for Communities. He drew the Members’ attention to revenue estimate movements for the period from 2016/17 to 2021/22 and pointed out that the Council’s financial strategy over that period could be summarised by, amongst other things, keeping the annual rates increase below 2%, maximising external funding and using growth in the rate base to support recurrent funding of new priorities such as regeneration and the Belfast Region City Deal.


            He highlighted the fact that Members were ambitious for both the City and its residents and referred to new emerging priorities such as climate mitigation and adaptation, economic recovery and inclusive growth. Officers would, over the coming months, be working to develop detailed plans around those priorities, including the revenue and capital implications for the Council. Further reports would be submitted to the Committee outlining ways in which the Council could generate additional income, support the growth in the rate base, maximise external funding opportunities and deliver additional efficiencies.


            The Director went on to draw the Committee’s attention to the Commercial Plan, which would play a key role in maximising the use of existing resources and income generation moving forward. The Plan, which had been revised to reflect the feedback received from each of the Political Parties, would seek primarily to contribute to the Council’s investment plans and efficiency programme and to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to support that work, the following six strategic aims had been identified:


                             i          to maximise opportunities to deliver more for our citizens, including those which are most vulnerable;


                            ii          to make better use of our assets for our citizens by achieving positive outcomes and superior value;


                           iii          to ensure the delivery of our services in the most cost-effective way;


                          iv          to contribute towards meeting the significant financial challenges faced by the Council by ensuring that we achieve value-for-money;


                            v          to adopt a commercial culture, whilst retaining strong public, community and social values; and


                          vi          to work with partners who share our vision and ambitions and continue to put the best interests of Belfast’s residents at the heart of everything we do. 


            The Director explained that the Council would, over the next three years, focus upon two work streams to assist it in delivering its strategic aims, namely, enhancing culture and competency and making better use of assets and delivering sustainable and value-for-money services and concluded by recommending that the Committee approve the Commercial Plan.


            After discussion, the Committee noted the update on the Medium Term Financial Plan and agreed, with one Member voting against, to approve the Commercial Plan.