Delay in Reporting Council Spending Overspend Raises Concerns for Councillors
A DELAY in reporting up-to-date information on council spending is a “concern” for councillors who want to keep an eye on a £6 million overspend.
Monmouthshire council has said increased demand and rising costs are to blame for it going over its current budget – it has only managed to balance its books by making an additional £2 million in savings, on top of the £10 million that were already planned, and using its reserves.
Details on how officers have responded to the overspend are included in the council’s budget monitoring report, the most recent of which has covered spending to the end of month five, which is August. That was only presented to the council’s performance and overview committee at its November 22 meeting.
Chairman Alistair Neill said: “For scrutiny to do its job we need to focus on as current information as possible. Three-month-old information is a concern.”
Cllr Neill said he was also concerned that the committee has had had to cancel a meeting planned for November 29, which would have considered the month six (September) report and other financial information, and will only get the chance to discuss the reports in January.
The Conservative said: “We will be in the final stretch before the new (financial) year and I want to register a concern.”
The council’s deputy chief executive Peter Davies acknowledged the report was being presented to the committee after it had been discussed by the cabinet and blamed the amount of work required for the delays.
He said officers had to do “extensive budget recovery work and update forecasts” and said: “We worked with the cabinet to gain their comfort the measures taken are right and appropriate.”
He also said “Christmas is slightly unhelpful” in pushing the month six report back to January but he said the most up to date information would be included, as it had in the month five report.
Gobion Fawr member Cllr Neill said he was unhappy councillors and residents weren’t seeing information at the same time as the Labour-led cabinet.
He said: “Members of the cabinet are being updated on a regular basis but the wider council and residents are not being in anything less than three months. That is a real concern, this is all our council and we all have an interest to look at timely information.”
The predicted overspend was reported in July and the use of reserves, and additional savings, reduced the difference between the council’s costs, and its agreed budget, to a deficit of £124,000.
Mr Davies told the committee the use of reserves this year has meant he is now advising the council it won’t be able to make extensive use of reserves in its upcoming 2024/25 budget. The cabinet was told last week the budget would be set “without recourse to reserves”.
Mr Davies said: “That makes the challenge more difficult but financially is the right thing to do, we need to bring the council back on a sustainable footing.”
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