What Northumberland County Council plan to do with £2m underspend in their last budget

Northumberland County Council’s spending came in at £2million under budget for the 2019-20 financial year.

Wednesday, 10th June 2020, 1:04 pm
Updated Friday, 12th June 2020, 11:50 am
Northumberland County Council's HQ in Morpeth.

This includes the delivery of £11.3million of recurrent annual savings, against an original target of £12.8million, while the level of reserves at March 31 was £248.75million.

A report on the 2019-20 provisional out-turn to the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, June 9, explained that some of the underspend will be allocated to meet claims under the Land Compensation Act, funding for the next stages of the examination of the Local Plan, and a pot to tackle problematic empty properties.

While the overall position is a £2million underspend, there were variances among different departments of the authority, with the largest overspend coming in children’s services – almost £4million.

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Coun Nick Oliver, the cabinet member for corporate services, said: “Like all local authorities, we are experiencing increasing difficulties in delivering children’s services.”

Coun Wayne Daley, the cabinet member for children’s services, later explained that much of this was to do with out-of-county residential placements for children with specialist needs and that the council is working to reduce this spending by providing more places within Northumberland.

But in another area of national pressures, Coun Oliver noted that ‘it’s worth recognising that the council spends £200million on adult social care and it was pretty much bang on budget’ (a £100,000 overspend).

The largest underspend – £4.9million – came under the heading of other corporate expenditure and income, which includes £900,000 of additional business rates income and £1.5million of the council’s contingency budget being unspent at the year end.

Coun Daley, the authority’s deputy leader, said: “Despite the whole world being taken over by Covid-19, we haven’t taken our eye off the ball on key services.”

Council leader Peter Jackson added: “We have been keeping our eye on the day job and keeping essential services going across the county.”

Coun John Riddle said: “Really the county council is a huge business so to come in with what we have at a time like this is exceptional.”

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