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Pembrokeshire councillors warned of £1.5m overspend and difficult budgets to come

WITH an overspend of £1.5million already projected, Pembrokeshire County Council has introduced a moratorium on non-essential spending but that does not mean necessary vacancies will not be filled.

Warnings of impending financial constraints and the difficulties to be had setting next year’s budget – with any increase in funding from UK government via Cardiff considered unlikely – were made to cabinet today (Monday, October 3).

The project outturn at period four of the 2022-23 financial year is £11.5million over the net expenditure budget of £266million, cabinet heard.

There is a predicted funding gap of £26million for 2023-24, “with the potential for it to increase further,” a report to cabinet states.

Cabinet member for finance Cllr Alec Cormack said it was not known if there would be further funding to cover inflation and the budget must be set “on the assumption that no additional money will be forthcoming.”

He reiterated that all approved capital projects will be reviewed and if costs have increased beyond their approved budgets, they will have to be brought back to cabinet for reconsideration with South Quay and a new Welsh medium school in Pembroke referenced in the report.

The draft budget for 2023-24 and the corporate strategy for 2022-27 will both be brought to full council in December, with a budget strategy proposed to “move the council towards a sustainable financial position over the medium and longer term.”

This includes flatline budgets for service areas and bids for growth for any further funding, increasing discretionary fees by inflation, a moratorium on all non-essential expenditure, prioritisation of services and increases in council tax.

Cllr Paul Miller asked for assurance that essential vacancies would be filled and was told there was “not a blanket ban on recruitment.”

Chief executive Will Bramble adds in the report:

“Against the context of a rapidly changing fiscal position and significant uncertainty, and noting the comments of the Directors, the ability to come in on budget this year will have a direct and major impact on Service delivery, primarily be deleting, delaying and deferring any non-essential activity and by maintaining high vacancies across the workforce. Further analysis is ongoing in order to determine the feasibility of achieving this without recourse to reserves.”

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