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GWYNEDD council finished 2020/21 in a much better financial situation than first feared, number crunchers have revealed.

A report presented to the cabinet in January warned that the authority’s departments were expected to overspend their collective budgets by almost £5m by the end of the last financial year.

Partially blamed on departments failing to meet previously set savings targets, Covid-19 was also said to have had a “significant impact,” forecasting an overspend of £4.7m from the allocated £221m budget for 2020/21.

But in an update to the cabinet this week, the portfolio holder for finance confirmed that only one department finished the year in the red.

Adults service had been forecast to overspend by £3.3m – despite more funding being made available this year – with £1.8m said to be a result of failing to achieve “increasingly difficult” savings schemes.

Children’s services, meanwhile, has been projected to overspend by £2.5m, exacerbated by growing demand and eight new costly out-of-county placements.

But addressing Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Cllr Ioan Thomas said: “The effect of Covid-19 has been significant, with over £20m having been claimed from the hardship fund and furlough.”

Confirming that this was made up of £11.4m of additional costs, £7.3m in loss of income and £1.5m in furlough, he added, “Thanks to the receipt of several other grant associated with Covid-19 late into the financial year it means that the financial situation for 2020/21 has been vastly transformed.

“At the end of the year five departments were overspending before the allocation of Welsh Government grants, leaving just one department overspending which is Children and Families.

“There is significant pressure on this department but a reduction in the overspend to £1.3m following the deletion of savings that cannot be realised and the allocation of grants.”

Income harvested from other departments, he added, would be used to make up the shortfall in the Children and Families service.

The head of finance, Dafydd L Edwards, said that similar patterns had been noted in other Welsh authorities.

“I don’t blame the Welsh Government (for the late payment) as they have received money back originally earmarked for things such as the Enfys hospitals which weren’t used and there’s scope for us to park this money over the financial year which is not a luxury available for central government.”

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