Northamptonshire County Council forecasts underspend for financial year against all odds

The county council says it will break even for the 2018/19 financial year
The county council says it will break even for the 2018/19 financial year

Northamptonshire County Council is predicting an underspend of £100,000 for the 2018/19 financial year - just months after banning new expenditure as it was in a ‘financial crisis’.

The latest, and final, monthly report for 2018/19 forecasts that the council will balance its budget against the odds, and report a £0.1million underspend, which is £1million better than the previous month’s forecast.

Papers, to be seen by councillors ahead of next week’s cabinet meeting, state: “This forecast position of an underspend of £0.1m includes £7.7m of savings assessed as delivered from the Stabilisation Plan.

“Following the audit of 2017-18 accounts, the total deficit brought forward from 2017-18 into 2018-19 of £41.5m has been cleared through the application of capital receipts in accordance with the Capital Dispensation approved by the Secretary of State in November 2018.

“Furthermore, savings have been achieved by the Council through measures taken to reduce costs, increase income and tackle inefficiencies in service delivery.”

The Capital Dispensation from the government allowed the council to use funds from its capital pool, which funds infrastructure and asset projects, for services which depend on finance from the council's revenue stream. The £70m figure was a huge helping hand from the government, as it has also allowed the council to add £20million into its reserves, which had been wiped out trying to fight its debt.

The balanced budget has persuaded the government appointed commissioners, Brian Roberts and Tony McArdle, to lift the Section 114 notice which banned new expenditure when it was implemented in August last year.

Leader of Northamptonshire County Council, Councillor Matt Golby, said: “This is a remarkable achievement for all concerned and I would like to thank everyone for their hard work in making this happen.

“Let’s not forget that our financial challenge stood at £64.4m earlier this year so to be reporting such a positive situation for period 11 is a considerable accomplishment.

“However we still need to be cautious as although this is exceptionally positive it does not mean that the council has made a full recovery. Our financial position remains fragile.

“As such, the council will maintain its robust spending controls, including the continuation of the spending control panels, to ensure all spending is scrutinised to demonstrate best value in fulfilling the council’s objectives.”