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No overspend on county council budget next year, finance chief warns

PUBLISHED: 05:30 27 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:38 27 February 2019

Suffolk County Council is due to finish this financial year £5.9m over budget. Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk County Council is due to finish this financial year £5.9m over budget. Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk County Council's finance chief has vowed not to overspend on its budget next year as the authority heads towards another seven-figure hit from reserves.

Richard Smith, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for finance, said additional funding next year meant the council should remian within its budget. Picture: SCC/SIMON LEE PHOTOGRAPHYRichard Smith, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for finance, said additional funding next year meant the council should remian within its budget. Picture: SCC/SIMON LEE PHOTOGRAPHY

Finance documents for Suffolk County Council published in September revealed the authority was on course for an overspend of £8.6million on its budget by the end of March.

Latest papers presented to the council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday, February 25, revealed that overspend was now likely to be £5.9m, following on from the £5.2m over budget the council finished on for the 2017/18 year.

But councillor Richard Smith, Conservative cabinet member for assets and finance, said the budget-busting spend would not continue.

“We are moving in the right direction, the budget overspend is coming down because we know any overspend has to be funded out of reserves,” he said.

Labour group leader Sarah Adams has already questioned why the council was running overbudget. Picture: GREGG BROWNLabour group leader Sarah Adams has already questioned why the council was running overbudget. Picture: GREGG BROWN

“The main pressure remains in children’s services and we recognised this 12 days ago when we were able to allocate £12m more to children’s services next year.”

He added: “The pressures are there, they continue to be there.

“We continue to lobby government for more funding and I expect that next year with the extra funding we allocated to this we will not have budget overspends.”

Mr Smith confirmed that the year-end overspend would be covered from reserves.

The council’s reserve level stands at just over £53m as of this month, meaning that if current levels of overspend continues each year reserves would be entirely eradicated within nine years.

Earlier this month, the council approved its 2019/20 budget which featured more than £10m in cuts, including axing grants for Citizens Advice over two years, ceasing accreditation for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, cutting back on street lighting spend and no longer printing roadside bus timetables.

However, the budget does come with a total increase of around £15m, which is being put into children’s and adult social care where the most vulnerable in the community are supported.

Councillor Sarah Adams, Labour group leader, previously hit out at the Tory administration for increasing council taxes, slashing public services and failing to balance the books, adding “you wouldn’t run a business like this so why are Tories running our public services in this way?”

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