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City of York Council in £3.7 million budget battle
YORK’S council chiefs are facing a £3.7 million battle to balance their books – with some of their targets for saving money being missed.
City of York Council’s first financial forecast of 2013/14 has warned of a multimillion-pound overspend unless action is taken, although the authority has insisted it will hit its budget as it tries to save £20 million over two years.
City leaders will next week be told that, despite almost £1 million of spending cuts in its children’s services, education and skills directorate and fewer children being placed in the authority’s care, the department had “financial pressures” of £1.14 million at the end of June, the latest point for which figures are available. Finance bosses said £700,000 of “unachieved budget savings” were partly to blame.
Savings in waste services have also been delayed, with commercial waste income £104,000 below target despite being budgeted to increase by £100,000 this year because competitors are cheaper than the council. Income from parking fees had a £283,000 shortfall, but a report to the council’s cabinet by officers said expenditure on concessionary fare passes was cut.
Conservative leader Coun Ian Gillies claimed the ruling Labour group was paying the price for spending on controversial and unpopular schemes and increased borrowing.
Labour said financial pressures early in the year were common and, under its control, the council’s budget had been consistently met or beaten. At the end of the first quarter of 2012/13, the council was forecast to spill over its budget by £5.9 million, with projected overspends of £4.28 million at the same point in 2011/12 and £4.04 million in 2010/11.
“It is a catalogue of failure, with the excuse given that it has happened before,” said Coun Gillies.
“However, the millions of pounds of interest on borrowing by this administration to fund pet projects such as 20mph areas did not previously exist, creating further pressures on the future financial position. Labour is spreading itself too thin on projects nobody wants.”
Coun Dafydd Williams, cabinet member for finance, performance and customer services, said Coun Gillies’ comments were “weak and politically driven”, saying: “I suggest he looks at the fact we have brought the council in on or under budget for the past two years while saving £30 million.
“This record speaks for itself. There have been, and always will be, pressures on departmental budgets in the first quarter of every year, but I can say with confidence that the council will come in on budget again this year.”
The Smarter York clean-up scheme is forecast to overspend by £167,000, due to redundancies and cost-cutting delays, while a “lower than required level” of parking fines has created an £83,000 shortfall. The council plans to use £250,000 of the expected surplus funds from its ringfenced £6.6 million public health grant to help tackle potential overspending in adult social care services, where savings plans for 2014/15 may be studied to see if they can be introduced earlier.
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