£6.2m £6.2m boost for Sheffield council coffers from underspend

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PRUDENCE by Sheffield Council officials led to the authority underspending by £6.2 million in the last year despite making £84 million of cuts.

But some of the money will help fill a hole in council spending plans for the current year because the switch to fortnightly bin collections will save less than planned.

The underspend was actually much higher but was offset by spending carried forward from the 2010/11 year.

Five out of the council’s six departments finished the 2011/12 financial year in the black, with only the Place department, which covers environmental services, highways and planning, overspending by £1.65m.

The Place department was hit by a £1 million shortfall in parking income, £740,000 of extra winter maintenance costs and £691,000 less income from planning fees.

Departments made savings from not filling job vacancies, management savings and procurement changes. Some of the £6.2 million underspend will be used to off-set cuts of around £55 million being made in the 2012/13 year.

A £1m sum is being used to reduce inequalities between rich and poor areas, £200,000 is being added to the Keep Sheffield Working fund for businesses and £200,000 to bring back a small grants fund.

But it has also been revealed that the council’s switch to fortnightly rubbish collections will only save £875,000 this financial year rather than £2.4 million it would normally save annually.

Reduced savings are due to the change happening in phases plus communications and redundancy costs.

Coun Jack Scott, Labour cabinet member for environment, said: “We’ve always been upfront that full savings won’t be made in the first year.”

Coun David Baker, Lib Dem environment spokesman, said: “This appears to be another blow to Labour’s poorly-thought through plans for our rubbish collections.”