Council balances budget after cuts of £20 million

First published in Local

NEARLY £20 million has been slashed from spending at Worcestershire County Council over the last year, it has emerged.

A new report on the council's finances has been published, revealing that in the 2013/14 financial year, which ended in March, £19.5 million was cut from the budgets.

The authority ended the year with an 'underspend' of £100,000, meaning its finances are in a relatively healthy state

The report also shows every single penny of the extra £3.5 million earmarked towards children's social care was eaten up amid huge pressure on the service.

After the council hit its targets for the last financial year, it now estimates that slightly more than £70 million will need to be saved between now and April 2018, although it is subject to change

The report says the council is under ongoing pressure from "increased demand" for services, mainly in care for the elderly.

It says savings of "at least £25 million" will be required every year until at least 2018, admitting that the impact will be felt by staff and the public "to a greater extent than in previous years".

Over the last year the council has paid back £5 million of loans and the total net debt still outstanding is £240 million, which is in line with national recommendations.

It still has £13 million in its reserve kitty - a pot of cash stashed away as backup for emergencies or projects which require quick funding.

The report, which has been accepted by the Conservative cabinet, also reveals how the Government has awarded Worcestershire £1.2 million towards better school kitchen and dining facilities.

Councillor Simon Geraghty, deputy leader and the cabinet member for economy, skills and infrastructure, said: "This is a fantastic result, to be in balance on our budget with a variance of just £100,000 is a very good position to be in."

Councillor Adrian Hardman, county council leader, said: "This is a snapshot in time but the success the 2013/14 budget means we've been able to transfer £1.3 million into our reserves.

"From a budget of £341 million the out-turn [how the council performed against the forecasts] is broadly neutral."

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