Posted: Wed 5th Jul 2023

Council’s caravan site ‘quite striking’ loss shouldn’t overshadow wider budget says councillor /
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Jul 5th, 2023

THE overspent budget positions of council departments should not be overshadowed by the £1.2 million surplus the 2022/2023 Blaenau Gwent budget ended in, a councillor has said. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Corporate Overview and Performance Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday, July 5, councillors looked at how the budget for last year finished up. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The council’s budget ended with with a surplus of £180,000 which will rise to £1.2 million after money from various council budgets and reserves are moved around. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The budget position improved significantly from what the council was predicting back at the end of quarter three in December – at that point it was forecast that the council would end up £1.57 million over its £169.19 million budget. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Independent Cllr John Hill said: “People are saying that the council has made £1.2 million more than they thought, but they’ve cut this and that and our green waste wasn’t picked up for six weeks at one time. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“It’s important that good variance doesn’t overshadow some of the bad ones we’ve got – some are quite striking like the Cwm Crachen thing.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The report explained that Cwm Crachen, which is the council’s caravan site for travellers near Nantyglo, made a £100,000 loss in 2022/2023.
According to the report this was due to a water leak that went undetected for a year and an increase in maintenance costs because of a repair backlog caused by Covid-19. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

This had seen an “unprecedented tenancies turnover,” at the site. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Cllr Hill stressed: “The feeling is, we made £1.2 million, we had extra money given to us in the form of grants and things.
“We have to tell people out there what we’ve done with it and not just stick it into the reserves.”
Independent Cllr Julie Holt asked whether the surplus money would be used on roads or street lighting in the county borough to “make things better for our community.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Resources chief officer Rhian Hayden explained that the money would “ordinarily” flow to the council’s general reserve and would be “reinvested into services” if councillors agreed to do that.
Ms Hayden said: “It’s a fair point, which is why I was keen to highlight those adverse variances in the report – it is an unexpected positive picture.
“Throughout the year you will know I was expecting the outturn to be a lot worse than it has been and it’s really because of good budget management across the council but also unexpected income has come in.
“If we hadn’t had that I would have been reporting a different position to you.
“I am expecting many of these cost pressures that we faced to continue, so we’ll have to be very careful what we spend in 2023/2024.
“We are still forecasting significant pressures for future years.”
Committee chairwoman and leader of the opposition Independent group, Cllr Joanne Wilkins said: “The headline is always that money that we didn’t have before and the importance to us today is the bigger picture and that (money) rolls on to the next year.
“There are pressures but what are we doing about it.”
Councillors noted the budget outturn position and that they “appropriately” challenged the report – which will go on to be discussed by the Cabinet later this month., ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The council’s losses or “adverse variances” in 2022/2023 include: ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Council Tax Collection – £225,500.
Children’s Social Services – £1.122 million.
Waste Services – £566,000.
Winter (road) Maintenance – £155,000. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

By BBC LDRS ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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