Sheffield council’s budget balancing act exceeds target

NEWS: News.
NEWS: News.
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Sheffield Council has revealed a £460,000 underspend from the last financial year – despite making £50 million of cuts.

Details of the authority’s ‘favourable end of year position’ have been revealed in a report to the council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

But the council insists it must still go ahead with another £50 million of cuts in the current financial year.

The underspend was achieved despite an overspend of £2.8 million in community services.

All other council departments recorded underspends – including not filling staff vacancies despite trade union concerns about short-staffing leading to stress.

Questions have been raised by opposition Liberal Democrats who say the underspend ‘dwarfs’ the £66,000 bill for reopening toilets closed in April.

The funding could also go some way towards covering the cost of keeping Don Valley Stadium open. The venue is due to close in September.

Coun Andrew Sangar, Liberal Democrat finance spokesman, said: “Labour seem absurd when they claim that services like community toilets are unaffordable, when they cost just at a fraction of this underspend.

“Instead of tucking this money away into their millions of reserves, these funds should be used to protect the frontline services people care about most.”

Sheffield Council’s ruling Labour members said that restoring funding to axed services would only cover their costs for the next year but they would still end up being closed next year once the extra cash has dried up.

In the finance report, Allan Rainford, Sheffield Council finance officer, said the community services department has been hit by ‘increasing costs relating to adult social care and the learning disability service’.

Overspends were also recorded by Marketing Sheffield, which spent £129,000 more than expected.

The old Street Force highways maintenance service, now taken over by Amey, overspent by £183,000 due to the cost of backdating staff pay and grading changes.

But £935,000 was saved in development services by not filling staff vacancies.

Other departments reported more positive news, including children’s, young people’s and family services, which reduced spending by £288,000 through ‘savings within early years, placements, prevention and early intervention, fostering services, and youth justice’.