FROM needing to find £1.2million in savings in the next financial year Redditch Borough Council has ended up £82,000 in the black – thanks to months of belt tightening, cuts and a couple of lucky breaks.
The news comes as the Conservative-controlled authority prepares a budget which it hopes will set it on the right course for the year ahead.
Last year its external auditors served the Conservative-controlled authority with a ‘Section 24’ notice – saying it needed to find up to £6million in savings over the next three years or else run out of money.
“The next stage on from a Section 24 is bankruptcy – we were in that serious a situation,” said Councillor David Thain (Con, West) who’s taken over the portfolio that covers finance.
“We were very close to the line but we are pulling out of it and keeping the auditors informed and if things carry on as they appear they will, the hope is they will lift the Section 24 notice by the end of the year.”
The ruling group acknowledges its own role in the S24 notice by failing to listen to the advice of its finance officers to increase last year’s council tax by the full amount.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing,” said Council leader Matt Dormer, who added that now the borough’s finances were under better control.
The authority is saving more than £250,000 with the closure of One Stop Shops, withdrawal from Rubicon Business Centre and a review of the Voluntary Community Service funding.
A further £467,000 has been found through a rigorous examination of costs, a management review and changes to the Dial-A-Ride service.
The authority has been lucky too – it got an unexpected £494,000 in New Homes Bonus from the government and thanks to some judicious pension fund investments in emerging markets by the County Council scooped an additional £480,000.
However council tax will go up by the maximum amount – £5 per year, the equivalent on 10p a week on a Band D property taking it from £239.15 to £244.15.
Despite the progress, the authority will still have to find an extra £1.6million in savings over the next three years.
Coun Dormer (Con, West) said: “With reductions in grants, gone are the days when we can support groups, businesses and projects which are not directly related to our Council’s purposes.
“Instead we need to focus on running our services like a commercial business and where possible being more efficient and even generating income.
“I am delighted with how we have pulled together, officers and members alike, to realise that we have no choice but to work differently if we are to do the best by our residents, as demonstrated by this budget.”