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Services face deeper cuts than planned

By Elgan Hearn | Mid Wales | Politics | Published:

Council services in Powys could be facing even deeper cuts next year than the predicted £13 million, as savings are stalling this financial year.

Powys County Council

Already this year, over £13.5 million out of an estimated total budget savings needed of nearly £21.7 million had been found by the end of October.

But from that sum, just over £5.3 million is considered unachievable in the current financial year.

At their last meeting on November 5, the cabinet set the senior leadership team the task of coming up with a “plan to bridge the gap as a matter of urgency”.

At the finance panel meeting on Monday, Labour group leader, Councillor Mathew Dorrance asked how that was “coming along?”

“What are you considering and what alternatives are currently in your thinking?” said Councillor Dorrance.

Head of finance Jane Thomas,answered: “I haven’t got that level of detail for you today.

“That work is underway the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) have a number of areas that they are exploring and those will be shared at a meeting with the cabinet on December 3.

“That will be the first update that cabinet has on that work.”

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Ms Thomas added: “If things are no longer deliverable we can’t use it in a budget plan as they will put too much pressure on next year.

“The process is how we bridge that gap?”

Discussion

Councillor Dorrance added: “Will you be considering things as a one-off saving this year to balance the books or pursuing things that will create a saving year on year?

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“That fundamentally changes the budget. If that happens there needs to be a full discussion not just SLT and cabinet.”

Ms Thomas believed the answer would be a “bit of both” and might take temporary measures to balance this year’s budget, but the unachievable savings issue would have to be solved permanently.

Major changes to savings proposals coming from heads of service, she believed, should be part of next year’s budget proposals which would be discussed at a full council meeting in February 2020.

Councillor Dorrance said: “All the pain this year and deeper cuts for next year as you’ve failed to balance the books this year?

Ms Thomas, answered: “Maybe to balance this year’s budget.”

Finance portfolio holder Councillor Aled Davies said: “Clearly we have to balance the budget in year and longer term.

“There are savings that portfolio holders could take in year so long as the impact assessments and everything else is done correctly there’s no reasons why they can’t do that.”

Councillor Dorrance asked Councillor Davies for an example of that?

Councillor Davies said: “There’s nothing off the top of my head.”

Ms Thomas pointed out that a £2 million backstop had been put into this year’s budget in case of extra pressures on social services budgets.

As this money had not yet been given to a service Ms Thomas speculated that it could be used to “close down our budget gap”.

Elgan Hearn

By Elgan Hearn
@ElganPowysLDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Powys.

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