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Powys Conservatives criticise budget amendments ‘hokey cokey’

POWYS Conservatives have slammed the draft budget amendments by the Liberal Democrat/Labour/Green Party coalition as “hokey cokey.”

At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Finance Panel on Monday, February 13, members looked at a number of amendments to the budget which takes money from a number of areas to set up £500,000 fund to help schools deal with the rising cost of energy.

The proposal is part of a couple of “amendments” to the draft budget and are the result of discussions between the cabinet and the Independents for Powys group.

The panel looked at all of the proposals but honed in on the £287,000 that had originally been set aside to deal with the utilities costs for Freedom Leisure and keep several leisure facilities in Powys open over winter.

Ms Thomas said: “Due to the quarter three position the out turn position for the current financial year has improved and that Freedom Leisure pressure can be met from the existing base budget rather than from reserves.”

“That meant that the budget we had set aside to replenish reserves next year isn’t needed and therefore that money has been diverted as part of that £500,000 fund.”

Jane Thomas Head Of Finance

She added that the money transfer from reserves known as a virement that had been agreed before Christmas had not been wired over yet, as the council “waited to find out” what the final cost would be.

Finance Panel chairman and Conservative group leader,  Cllr Aled Davies asked for further clarity of where the money would be moved from.

Ms Thomas said that it would be found in the “risk budget” or a departmental “underspend,” but not from the “general reserve.”

Cllr Peter Lewington (Conservative – Newtown West) said: “I do find this very confusing in terms of the different reserves that are being used and how the money is being moved around.

“It strikes me as a hokey cokey budget where there is one figure in one figure out.

Cllr Peter Lewington

“Has everything been thought through now, or is there potentially still other figures that may be moving around,”
Ms Thomas said: “Things do move and flex, and you do get opportunities that rise during the year.

“I can’t guarantee everything will come in exactly on the pound and penny that we set at the beginning in the year, but that’s the nature of budgets.”

Cllr Chris Walsh (Labour -Brecon East) said: “We’ve had so many challenges it appears more positive.”

The panel’s observations and recommendations will presented to the cabinet along with recommendations from other scrutiny committees on Tuesday, February 14.