Scrutiny committee concerned by lack of plans to resolve budget overspend

20 Sep 2023
British currency

The Council’s Budget Overview and Scrutiny Committee has formally expressed its concerns about the lack of plans to balance the budget considering an unprecedented forecast overspend of £12 million. The Committee were worried that the longer actions are delayed, the deeper the cuts the Conservative administration will seek to make in the future.

Councillor Christine McHugh said “The first meeting the Portfolio Holder didn’t show up, last time he didn’t have any substantive plans and tonight we have still yet to see anything substantive to how they’re going to deal with the overspend and instead we are getting misinformation.”

During the meeting the Portfolio Holder caused confusion over a couple of key figures in the finance reports. The Conservative Portfolio Holder claimed the overspend was similar to last year’s situation. Chair of the Committee, Councillor Michael Headley, said that this wasn’t the case and pointed out that last year’s figure was around half of this year’s. Last year’s report also outlined plans to deal with the overspend unlike this year’s report. The Portfolio Holder later admitted he had made a mistake.

Councillor Headley said “An extra £30 million was added in to this year's budget to deal with pressures and inflation and protect services. Yet the Conservatives are revealing this completely unprecedented overspend figure at this stage in the year, which is incredibly worrying. The Conservatives are now trying to avoid facing up to their own inability to manage the finances of the council by using false information.

The Committee was also concerned by the removal of key policies within the financial strategy report; specifically, deleting the savings from moving to a more automated digital approach and stopping using revenue streams to fund big capital projects that could otherwise need more council borrowing. The Portfolio Holder hinted that more borrowing could be needed in the future despite interest rates being extremely high.