Councillors’ struggle to save the cash

THE austerity budget approved by the council in March is heading for a £1.6 million shortfall, councillors have been warned.

To guard against the risk, the community services department is operating “an essential spend only” policy and not filling vacant posts.

It is heading for a £125,000 deficit, according to head of finance Peter Smith, in his first budget monitoring report of 2011/12.

Calderdale Council has budgeted to spend £182 million this year and save nearly £15 million, rising to £29 million in 2014/15.

So far, just under 200 council jobs have been lost, fees and service charges have risen above the rate of inflation and councillors have taken a 5 per cent pay cut.

“In general directorates forecast overspending by around £2.3 million but they will continue to take action to try to reduce that during the remainder of the year,” said Mr Smith in a report to the cabinet.

“Centrally controlled savings of £451,000 have been identified relating mainly to financial management.”

The increasing number of children who have to be looked after by the council could add as much as £1.5 million to this year’s running costs and an extra £565,00 might be needed for health and social care.

The size of council tax bills was frozen this year and councillors are aiming to keep next year’s rise down to 2.5 per cent or less.