Horsham District Council’s new Cabinet met for the first time on Thursday (June 4) to discuss the authority’s financial position.
According to the authority’s own estimate figures total spending on capital projects was £5.2m in 2014/15 against a revised budget of £12.8m.
Unused budgets for capital schemes in progress will be carried forward to 2015/16 totalling £7.2m, while the council also underspent on its revenue budget by around £800,000.
Major capital schemes budgeted for 2014/15 included £1.15m towards new build of Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre, £1.128m towards replacing some of the vehicle fleet, and £996,000 was budgeted for redevelopment of Hop Oast’s waste depot.
Only a fraction of this money has been spent as the schemes have been moved into 2015/16 and beyond.
Katharine Eberhart, HDC’s director of corporate resources, said: “Our forecasting was not particularly good and we are looking at why we did not get closer.”
Further take-up of the council’s garden waste collection scheme led to an increase of revenue totalling £48,000. It spends £17m on staffing annually, but was £213,000 under the set budget for 2014/15, which led to spending on agency staff being higher to fill vacant positions.
Appeal costs were £140,000 higher than originally forecast.
Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham), HDC’s cabinet member for finance and assets, raised recently lost appeals over 75 homes between Storrington and Thakeham, and another for 165 homes and a 60-bed care home in Broadbridge Heath.
He said it highlighted that if the council refused a hypothetical development for 2,500 houses and it went to appeal it ‘would be hard to imagine how many hundreds of thousands of pounds it would cost us’, meaning it was important to get the local plan ‘totally correct’.
But Leonard Crosbie (LDem, Trafalgar), leader of the Lib Dem Group at HDC, raised slight concern over mention of appeal costs and an oblique reference to the proposed North Horsham development, and felt they should not be ‘emasculating’ new councillors before they have had a chance to put their first decisions on the table.
Ray Dawe (Con, Chantry), leader at HDC, told councillors they would be awaiting Chancellor George Osborne’s emergency budget in the second week of July to see if it contained any funding implications for local authorities.
Meanwhile Philip Circus (Con, Chanctonbury), cabinet member for housing and public protection, said that if their funding from Government continued to be reduced they would have to either have to look at increasing council tax or cutting front-line services. He added: “We have got a very difficult period ahead of us and some very difficult decisions as a council to make.”
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