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Suffolk County Council vows not to overspend as it heads towards another hit from reserves

By Jason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter

Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich (7488459)
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich (7488459)

A county council finance chief has vowed not to overspend next year as it heads towards another seven-figure hit from reserves.

Accounts for Suffolk County Council published in September revealed the authority was on course for a £8.6m overspend on its budget.

Papers presented to the county's cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the overspend was now likely to be £5.9m, following on from the £5.2m deficit the council finished on for the 2017/18 year.

But Cllr Richard Smith, Conservative cabinet member for finance and assets, said the budget-busting spend would not continue.

“We are moving in the right direction, the budget overspend is coming down because we know any overspend has to be funded out of reserves,” he said.

“The main pressure remains in children’s services and we recognised this 12 days ago when we were able to allocate £12m more to children’s services next year.”

He added: “The pressures are there, they continue to be there. We continue to lobby government for more funding and I expect that next year with the extra funding we allocated to this we will not have budget overspends.”

Cllr Richard Smith, Conservative cabinet member for finance and assets
Cllr Richard Smith, Conservative cabinet member for finance and assets

Mr Smith confirmed that the year-end overspend would be covered from reserves.

The council’s reserve level stands at just over £53m as of this month, meaning that if current levels of overspend continues each year reserves would be entirely eradicated within nine years.

Earlier this month, the council approved its 2019/20 budget which featured more than £10m in cuts, including axing grants for Citizens Advice over two years, ceasing accreditation for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, cutting back on street lighting spend and no longer printing roadside bus timetables.

However, the budget does come with a total increase of around £15m, which is being put into children’s and adult social care where the most vulnerable in the community are supported.

Councillor Sarah Adams, Labour group leader, previously hit out at the Tory administration for increasing council taxes, slashing public services and failing to balance the books, adding “you wouldn’t run a business like this so why are Tories running our public services in this way?”


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