Report reveals overspend of £4.4 million on Suffolk County Council's 2018/19 budget despite cutbacks
A Suffolk council, which has had to make belt-tightening cutbacks, ended the last financial year having overspent by £4.4 million.
Data published for Suffolk County Council’s cabinet revealed the year end figure for 2018/19 was £4.4m overbudget – down from the £8.6m overspend on its £503.7m annual budget it was on course for at the start of the year.
The council confirmed that money would be coming out of its £53m reserves fund.
Conservative councillor Richard Smith, cabinet member for finance and assets, said: “Without question, 2018/19 was a challenging financial year, which required us to deliver nearly £24m of savings to balance our budget.
“Therefore, ending the year within 1 per cent of our overall proposed original budget is a great achievement and testament to the efforts of all staff who continue to transform the services we deliver.
“Whilst it is impossible to predict potential overspend, part of having a sound financial approach is the ability to ensure we are in a position to meet such unexpected costs and adjust budgets accordingly to mitigate the impact on service delivery.
“Whilst this is something we would all wish to avoid, we are rightly focused on supporting our most vulnerable residents and it is often in these services where additional, unexpected financial support is required.”
The council has already announced a £10m series of cutbacks being made for this year, including ceasing Duke of Edinburgh award accreditation, reducing street lighting spend, cutting roadside bus timetables and reducing winter gritting.
But Labour’s opposition group has said it proved the Conservative administration had “lost control”.
Group leader Sarah Adams said: “Not long ago, the Conservative administration claimed to ‘eat, drink and sleep fiscal responsibility’, but this statement increasingly feels like a bad joke.
“Far from banging down the doors in Whitehall demanding more money, they’ve nodded cut after cut through.
“They knew demand for services was rising, but they sat idly by. Instead of looking to generate more income, they have managed the decline of our county’s public services with relish.
“Who will now pay for Conservative incompetence? It won’t be them; it’ll be our residents who have already suffered from years of austerity. We need change.”
More by this authorJason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter