Last week, Bury Council’s Cabinet announced the shock news that the Labour-run Council is heading for a £6.4 million overspend in the current financial year.
This summary actually hides an even more worrying picture, with overspend in many areas totalling over £10.5 million – although expected savings or other income elsewhere will bring this down to £6.4 million.
The Council has drawn up an ‘Action Plan’ to partially address the issue (recruitment freeze, no new spending), but this only amounts to around £1.5 million.
The remainder of the overspend would need to be covered by spending the vast majority of the Council’s reserves (roughly £5 million), leaving the council with under £1 million left at the end of the year.
Unbelievably, the Council Leader has suggested that there may also need to be an emergency budget in the next few weeks.
The point raised at the Cabinet meeting was whether the Council was ‘too optimistic’ when it set the budget back in February 2016, as much of the overspend relates to anticipated service changes taking too long to happen or not delivering the savings that were expected. It also appears that expected income is not as high as expected (for example income from parking, leisure centres, rents etc.
We appreciate that some areas such as adult care, or children in care, are sometimes difficult to control, but again, costs are expected to be over budget.
The impact of this projected overspend could well be very significant for Ramsbottom taxpayers.
What it means for the Council is that for next year (2017-18) the starting position is that an extra £6.4 million of cuts will need to be found to balance the budget if the situation is not brought under control.
If the projected overspend appears to be an accurate forecast, it is yet more evidence of catastrophic mismanagement of Bury Council’s finances by the Labour Party.
We are very worried about the impact this will have on services for residents in Ramsbottom and will do all that we can to scrutinise this Council over the next few months.