Schools' funds will be 'next big challenge' for Powys County Council


Owain Farrington

SCHOOL budgets will be the big financial challenge for the new Powys County Council (PCC) cabinet, according to the leaving member for finance.

The current cabinet met for its final meeting of this council term on Tuesday, April 11.

In the last final financial overview and forecast for this PCC term, there is a projected over spend of £3.675 million, where only the savings that have been made are counted.

Cabinet member for finance County Councillor Wynne Jones said: “Reserves are kept for a rainy day. Unfortunately, it’s been raining.”

On the overspend, Cllr Jones added: “That will hopefully fall down in the end of March figures.

“We are fairly confident we’ll be in over spend but we are fairly confident that over spend will be below £3 million, there will be a ‘2’ at the start of the number. This is still unfortunate because it will eat into our reserves.”

On a positive note, Cllr Jones informed the cabinet that in the past 11 months the council had achieved 88 per cent of the savings it set itself, better than it has ever done before.

Unfortunately there are still savings from previous years that have yet to be met.

Cllr Jones said: “In efficiencies I feel really disappointed in some ways.

“Savings carried forward from 15/16 have still not been achieved – some about in-house domiciliary care in the South. Some about day centres which we suggested to close about three years ago.

“It is important that we grow income for councils because this is used for front line services.”

As this was the last time the current cabinet met before the May elections, the councillors discussed what would be the main hurdle for those taking up cabinet positions.

Councillor Tony Thomas, cabinet member for regeneration and planning, said: “This (financial report) appears to present an improving picture.

“I think we have been concerned over social services for many years but we seem to be slightly more silent around schools particularly secondary schools.

“It is a worry the new cabinet will have to tackle this. It is a very difficult situation.”

Cllr Jones added: “The situation is quite serious. It’s the next big financial problem if adult social care is the one we have been dealing with this year.

“One school is careering into £1million in deficit. Within two years the cumulative (schools) budgets will be £4.4 million in deficit.”

Ending the report on a good note, Cllr Jones added that the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, had made £30 million available for adult social care that would alleviate some budget pressure.

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