Council Still Working On Credible Budget Deficit Plan

The Council still hasn’t agreed a credible plan to meet a proposed shortfall in its funding.

It’s six months since the Director of Finance, Peter Lawrence-Roberts, warned councillors of “severe consequences” if the deficit wasn’t addressed quickly.

The Council is predicted to overspend by £608,000 this year, and by similar amounts in subsequent years, which will need to be taken from their reserves.

At the current rate, these will be used up by March 2016.

But members of yesterday’s Policy and Resources meeting were told that budget managers of each Council department had only met with Chief Officers and Finance staff last month to identify potential cuts.

And they’re looking at the reductions that will have the least impact on services, such as cutting waste or cancelling plans for projects that have been deferred year after year.

Each committee will now have to agree those savings during the autumn and report back to P&R in November.

But councillors also agreed to look at longer-term cuts to budgets.

They’ll need to make substantial reductions starting from next April to avoid dipping in to reserves. And that’s likely to involve more painful decisions, including cuts to services and staff.

Chair of Council Amanda Martin said that members had “a duty to the community” to set the budgets appropriately.

But Cllr David Pearson expressed concern about the process, and how individual committees would get assigned their budgets.

Cllr Gaz O’Neill said he would assume that each committee “would simply ask for what they needed, rather than look at what everyone else is asking for.”

There’ll be a special meeting of P&R in October to start thrashing out the size of next year’s budgets.

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