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Budget forecast shows extreme pressure on services

 
Created on 23/09/2018 @ 09:34
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By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

A councillor has blamed the Welsh Government for reducing funding to Powys County Council which is putting “extreme pressure” on services.

Cllr James Evans, cabinet member for Corporate Governance made the comments at a cabinet meeting in Llandrindod Wells which discussed the £7.7million blackhole in the authority’s budget.

During this financial year PCC is expected to find savings of over £12.2million and to date, only £4.5million have been found.

This means that the Council could be forced to dip into its general reserves to plug the gap.

Cllr Evans, said: “I just think that the report shows the sign of the times really, it shows the Council is under extreme pressure.

“Reduced funding from the Welsh Government has not helped and now more than ever we need to be lobbying the Welsh Government and plead our case for more vital funding for Education, Child and Adult Services.

“Without that, I’m not sure what sort of council we will be running in five years time.”

Following the comments, Cllr Mathew Dorrance, Labour group leader on PCC tweeted that Cllr Evans should: “Ask Westminster Tories to stop cutting Welsh budget – that’s the root of austerity.”

At the meeting Finance cabinet member, Cllr Aled Davies, said: “We had to achieve 12.2million savings in the year and of that £4.5 has been delivered, with £7.7million left. You can see the challenges we face.

“It’s so important that we get this back on track as at the end of the year it will take a huge chunk out of the general reserves.”

Cllr Davies highlighted services that were struggling to balance their books including the £5million overspend in Children’s Services and asked the Director of Social Services, Alison Bulman for assurances.

Ms Bulman, answered: “I can confirm that the service is doing everything possible to reduce pressure on the budget, but also most importantly on robust plans to deal with the budget in future years.”

Cllr Davies added that there were concerns about the schools delegated budget which looks likely to need £1.5million from reserves for both primary and secondary sectors.

Finance Services Director, Jane Thomas, said: “In terms of where we are at this point of the financial year we have seen similar reports only to see it significantly improve.

“We need to challenge budget holders looking at where there is potential underspend and where there are high levels of income.

“It’s critical that everything within our control is looked at and managed effectively.”

Cllr Myfanwy Alexander, the cabinet member for education, said that she believed the new “Fairer Funding Formula” for schools would help the situation.

Cllr Alexander, said: “We believe that the work we are doing will provide us with a robust set of criteria by which we can judge all school budgets in the future.”

“It’s not a question of sitting and watching deficit budgets accrue, we are taking action.”

The revenue reserves held at the beginning of the year totalled £40.3million with £9.7million held in the General Reserve and Specific and ring-fenced reserves of £27.4million.

The cabinet agreed that a review of all budget lines will be done. The budget can be frozen and realigned for the rest of the financial year.

Last year it was announced that PCC would receive a cut of 0.4 per cent to its budget or around £700,000 for 2018/19.

Photo: Cllr James Evans


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