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23  April

£3 million council surplus expected

26/02/2024 @ 02:06

A surplus of over £3 million is being predicted on this year's Powys County Council budget.

The position at the end of December 2023 was brighter than the one which was reported back in September.

The council is now showing a £3.338 million surplus – before money is taken away to be squirrelled away in council reserve budgets.

Following these transfers, the surplus is predicted to be £3.019 million.

This is against the council’s base budget of £326.621 million for 2023/2024.

During the course of the financial year, the budget has fluctuated with a £3.73 million surplus predicted at the end of June – which fell to £2.85 million at the end of September.

The report explained that the surplus had risen slightly between quarters because of nationally agreed pay awards for staff have been “accounted for” and are reflected in “this quarter’s position.”

At a meeting of the Finance Panel on Monday morning, February 26, finance portfolio holder Labour’s Cllr David Thomas said: “It’s better than was anticipated originally.

“There’s a lot of challenges still remaining but I think we’re in a pretty strong situation to deliver a balanced budget at year end.

“We should not get carried away and think that everything’s rosy now that we have this significant underspend.

“We should be thinking of where we are allocating that.”

One issue highlighted in the report is that at the end of the third quarter, council departments had achieved £12.4 million of a cuts and savings target of £16.5 million for the year.

A further £900,000 from the 2022/2023 savings target has been rolled over to this year making the total savings/cuts target £17.4 million for 2023/2024.

The report indicated that assurance had been given that £3.7million more cuts/saving would be made by the end of the year, but £1.2million was already being written off as “unachievable.”

Liberal Democrat Cllr Gareth Ratcliffe believed the council needs managers that can deliver these savings/cuts: “Otherwise we’re just going on and on and rewarding failure.”

He wanted assurance that the council “has the systems in place” to deal with “slip ups” in a timely manner.

Lay committee member and chairwoman of the council’s Governance and Audit committee, Lynne Harrison wanted to understand the relationship between the undelivered savings from last year and this year.

Ms Hamilton “Is there a group of usual suspects where there are going to be delivery problems who reach quarter four with a significant portion of their savings to deliver.”

“What work or approach is done to challenge areas where they leave savings late.”

Corporate services director and s151 officer Jane Thomas said: “The majority are recurrent, but some are one year savings.”

“In terms of savings CLT (Corporate Leadership Team) review these quarterly reports ahead of them going anywhere else.

“Directors are challenged around their services performance.

“That challenge is constant both in terms of delivering the budget and delivering the savings.”

Cllr Thomas added: “You can be assured that they are challenges from cabinet – but in the initial process when the budget being set up, we have to take the word of heads of service that they are deliverable.”

The report will go on to be discussed at a cabinet meeting and a joint meeting of all the scrutiny committees.





By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporting Service