Blackpool town hall finances show under-spend last year

Town hall finances are under scrutiny
Town hall finances are under scrutiny
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Blackpool Council underspent by £1m in the last financial year despite financial pressure on key departments including children's services.

Spending during 2018/19 added up to £127.4m compared to £128.5m which had been budgeted for.

50.4m of council tax was collected

50.4m of council tax was collected

Savings included £3.6m due to an accounting adjustment on the council's waste disposal arrangements with Lancashire County Council, although the service did break even.

Other money was saved due to a number of staff vacancies not being filled, while services such as planning brought in more income than expected.

But children's services overspent by nearly £5.4m as more children were taken into council care.

By the end of the financial year £50.4m of council tax had been collected with a collection rate of 92 per cent, up from £46.4m the previous year.

Steve Thompson, director of resources at Blackpool Council, said: "Despite the significant demand pressures being faced in children’s social care, the financial performance of all our other services was remarkable in that they managed to exceed their budget savings targets to more than compensate for this whilst maintaining high standards of service delivery.

"I was particularly pleased with our in-year income collection of business rates, council tax and sundry debt."

The figures, which are included in a report to the council's executive, also show the council's working balances - cash set aside for unexpected circumstances - reached just over £7m in March this year compared to a target of £6m.

The council cut its 2018/19 budget by £5.5m, and has reduced spending in the current financial year by a further £9m.

Among the stand out figures are -

Children's services overspent by £5.4m mainly due to an increase in the number of children in care which spiked at 572 in December. Additional costs were also due to children with complex needs needing more costly placements.

Arts and heritage overspent by £81,000 including costs relating to the Grundy Art Gallery, while Illuminations spent £63,000 over its budget.

Public Health spent its full budget of £18.4m.

Adult services overspent by £294,000 mainly due to more support packages being needed, but saved money due to staff vacancies bringing it £76,000 under budget overall.

Income for parking services was £612,000 short of its target blamed on issues including some on-street parking not being useable and a drop in income from staff parking.

Community and environmental services made a saving of £3.6m as a result of a technical accounting adjustment regarding debt payments made to Lancashire County Council to pay for waste disposal arrangements.

Concessionary fares were £162,000 under budget as fewer pensioners qualified for free travel because the retirement age was raised for women.