New figures have shown positive steps have been made to address a funding gap which has been forecast at Lancashire County Council.
Members of the Cabinet will be told at a meeting on Thursday that a revenue underspend for the 2018/19 financial year has resulted in a much lower net reduction in reserves than was originally budgeted for.
The final financial outturn position at the end of the 2018/19 showed there had been a net expenditure of £745.375m, which represents an underspend of £19.265m (2.52 per cent).
A report to be presented by Councillor Geoff Driver CBE, leader of the council, shows that at the end of the 2018/19 financial year, £164.254m was available in the transitional reserve, set up to support the revenue budget, which is £24.893m better than previously forecast.
The council has previously indicated it would have sufficient funds remaining in reserves to support its budget until 2022/23, but is working on a number of measures to help it set sustainable budgets in future years without the use of reserves.
The report states there were a number of areas where differences to the expected 2018/19 budget had been recorded. These included:
£27.566m more than expected due to the sale of bonds and lower borrowing costs;
£3.945m underspend by Public Health and Wellbeing due to staff vacancies and a reduced spend across commissioned services;
£4.524m underspend by Waste Services due to a combination of reduced waste and operating costs, and additional income;
£10.234m overspend due to a reduced income from one-off capital receipts;
£2.908 overspend in Education and Children’s Services as a result of agency staffing and child placement costs;
Work is still progressing to identify additional savings aimed at reducing the requirement for reserves in 2020/21 and beyond to achieve financial sustainability.
Cllr Driver said: “Like all councils we face significant financial pressures, which means difficult financial decisions have had to be taken and there is careful monitoring of all spending. Unfortunately more difficult decisions will be needed in the future.
“Our aim is to achieve a balanced budget without a reliance on reserves, to ensure the council is on a stable footing, and these figures show very positive steps have been made to ensuring this happens.
“However we also want to ensure we provide the best services possible for the people of Lancashire, particularly our older residents and children who need our help and support.
“Adult Services and Education and Children’s Services, where £344.965m and £160.406m were spent respectively in the last financial year, are the largest service areas for expenditure covering almost 68% of our net budget.”
For more information on the council’s financial position visit council.lancashire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=122&MId=9430