Budget improvement a welcome report

PEMBROKESHIRE’S finances are looking “much healthier than anticipated” a senior councillor said this week.

As the corporate overview and scrutiny committee discussed a budget  report on Thursday, June 6, Cllr Bob Kilmister said internal controls had been “extremely good after a poor first quarter.”

The cabinet member for finance added a moratorium on spending across departments had been working and 84 per cent of projected savings had been made – that’s £9.7million of £11.6million, councillors heard.

The estimated net expenditure at the end of 2018/19 was £216.1million.

“Late” grant funding from Welsh Government of £3.152million was received in the last quarter of the financial year and was part of the £7.8million of increased income, said Cllr Kilmister.

How the Welsh Government allocates funding to local authorities was again criticised by Cllr Kilmister, who has said previously it does not allow for sufficient planning and budgeting.

He added that £4.3million was added to the transformation reserve and he considered a programme for administration budget for “specific targeted interventions” necessary.

A review of capital projects had seen costs reduce by £29.7million and any plans not started would be subject to a business case review if they are to go ahead.

Cllr Michael John questioned the amount of money in council reserves when council tax had increased.

“I would say some members of the public would struggle to see why you are putting £5milion into reserves when we are saying there’s no money to go around,” he said.

Cllr Mike Stoddart queried the movement of money in and out  of reserves to balance the budget, calling it “mathematically accurate rather than great work.”

Director of finance Jonathan Haswell said that £4.3million in reserves was related to last year but was received this year, including a “considerable repayment of VAT” added Cllr Kilmister.

There was also a call for more urgency in the council house building process from Cllr Stoddart and Cllr Michael Williams asked if the second home council tax surcharge could be increased to 100 per cent in the future.

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