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'Risks' outlined in council's capital spending draft strategy

The council’s draft capital spending strategy was outlined this week, with some of the biggest risks highlighted for councillors.

The council’s revenue budget and contractual issues with external service providers are among the biggest concerns, members of the audit and governance committee heard on Monday night.

At the meeting, members were presented with the council’s proposed strategy for capital spending for the next five years.

Capital spending encompasses any investment made by the council that costs £20,000 or more. It includes major projects like building new schools, libraries or leisure centres and invest-to-save schemes where the council invests in a scheme on the understanding it will pay for itself over a reasonable period of time.

Equipment replacement, where the council needs to replace things like IT assets, also comes under capital investment.

The proposed strategy set out the main priorities for investment as adults, health and commissioning and children’s services. Projects include new accommodation for vulnerable people, investment in highways, bridges and footpaths, and increasing educational capacity for children with special needs.

At the meeting, Cllr Julian Sharpe (Con, Ascot and Sunninghill) said he was ‘concerned about the risk’ included in the strategy, and asked what the biggest areas for concern were.

In response, Andrew Vallance, Royal Borough head of finance, said: “The revenue budget is the area of most concern at the minute, in its ability to finance capital spending. That’s the highest risk.

“Government finance in terms of grants have never been so volatile because of the COVID situation.

“Contract management and risk is a continuing area of concern in any council really, and always needs to be reinforced in terms of managing large contracts for external services.”

Chairing the meeting, Cllr Christine Bateson (Con, Sunngingdale and Cheap-side) asked how the council planned to save money through the strategy.

Mr Vallance said: “That would be invest-to-save schemes, that’s the specific area of capital expenditure where we invest to bring in an income or saving.”

Councillors agreed to note the report at the end of the meeting.

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