Council balances books but warns more costs must be cut

Concillor Tim Swift outside Halifax Town Hall.
Concillor Tim Swift outside Halifax Town Hall.

Calderdale Council has balanced its books by making “significant savings” and will now carry almost £10m over to the next financial year, newly-published accounts show.

The 2016/17 final accounts for Calderdale Council outline that the authority’s service directors have either under-spent or come within just one per cent of their budgets for the year.

Council leader Tim Swift said the accounts, which will be discussed by the council’s Cabinet next week, showed the authority was now in a “strong position”, despite a reduction in annual central government funding.

But he warned the authority was under pressure to cut costs further.

Following a decision during the council’s budget in February, some £4.4m of its outstanding balance will now be used to reduce the level of Council Tax for residents in district until 2020.

The remaining £5m outstanding will be used to cover “unforeseen costs”, such as flooding.

Coun Swift said: “Our positive final accounts are testament to the council’s good financial management, regular budget monitoring and cost control.

“This means that we are well prepared for any unexpected costs and flexible enough to fund additional areas if required.

“This is a strong position to be in, especially when central government funding is reducing each year and we have had to recover from unprecedented flooding.”

He said the council had made savings through new contracts, but continued to be under pressure to cut costs even further.

A report, prepared ahead of the Cabinet meeting on Monday, said “general balances” had decreased by £1.2m.

But the council received £0.6m more funding from the Government than anticipated, which was not accounted for in the budget because of “late notification”.

Coun Swift added: “We have made significant savings; for example, through our new waste collection and disposal contracts.

“However, we are still under pressure to make further major cost savings, and this continues to be a priority.”

The report showed that, while the majority of the authority’s service directors worked within their budget, some were forced to dip into reserves to cover costs this year. More than £2m has since been put back into reserve funds from the council’s contingency budgets.