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Welsh council still £10m overspent on annual budget, half way into the year

Bridgend County Borough Council civic offices (Pic: LDRS)

BRIDGEND Council is predicting more than £10 million worth of overspend in its annual budget for the second half of the 2023-24 financial year, it has been announced.

The amount has increased by £1.2million over the last financial quarter, according to a report discussed at the monthly cabinet meeting held on October 17.

The report said the projected overspend for the authority had risen from £9.7million in June of 2023, to £10.9million by September, largely because of “ongoing pressures within the Social Services and Wellbeing Directorate and on the Home to School Transport budget.”

The projected position as of September 30, 2023 is a net over spend of £10.932 million, made up from a £15.284 million net over spend, and a £4.352 million net under spend.

The report read: “The main financial pressures are in the service areas of Social Services and Wellbeing and Home to School Transport. In 2022-23, the SSWB Directorate experienced pressures of work to meet statutory duties against a backdrop of an exponential increase in demand in children’s social care, and an increase in the number of independent residential placements in Children’s Services, along with pressures in learning disabilities and older persons’ residential placements.”

The report also highlighted that the authority had been forced to re-direct over £1.8 million towards the rising costs of energy bills this year, adding that the savings identified in the 2023-24 budget could fall short by £130,000 as things currently stand.

Officers in attendance said this level of overspend was “unprecedented” for the council, with staff being asked to only spend on essential goods and services. Members said in response that it was vital they brought the budget back under control.

Cabinet member for resources, Hywel Williams said: “Surely this is now one of our key priorities to bring the budget back under control. I know the chief executive has issued a statement that it’s essential spend only and we will be maxing our income where possible.”

Cllr John Spanswick added: “I expect everybody to look at every penny when they are spending, any money on any order, whatever it is, everyone needs to be watching every penny.”

Elsewhere in the meeting council officers spoke about the capital program for 2023-24, outlining how they expect £15.8million worth of capital projects to slip into the 2024-25 financial year and beyond.

The report read: “There are currently no projected under or over spends on any of the schemes at year end. However, a number of schemes have been identified as requiring slippage of budget to future years (2024-25 and beyond).”

Some of the projects expected to slip forward are the Porthcawl Grand Pavilion refurbishment which will begin next year, as well as the wider Porthcawl regeneration scheme.

It was also noted that the proposed Maesteg Washery housing project would not go ahead after a £2.17 million loan was returned to Welsh Government due to the land being deemed as unsuitable.