Horsham District Council forecasting significant budget underspend

Officers at Horsham District Council have forecast a ‘significant’ £825,000 underspend on its 2021/22 budget.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 2:52 pm
Horsham District Council

During a scrutiny committee meeting, members were told the surplus was largely due to the area’s leisure centres doing ‘a lot better than they anticipated’ since re-opening.

Figures presented to the meeting showed that 158,006 people had returned to the centres since April 12.

This was short of the 225,000 target for the first quarter of the year but, as the report pointed out, restrictions were still in place that limited the numbers who could take part in some activities.

There is still a long way to go until the end of the financial year – not to mention the ever-present concern that another lockdown could be needed.

Jane Eaton, director for corporate resources, said the second quarter report would give a much better idea of the council’s position.

She said: “Visits to the sports centres – although picking up substantially – clearly in the first quarter wasn’t ever going to be as good as it had been in previous times because they weren’t open for the whole of the first quarter.”

She told councillors: “This is a recovery report really.

“I think the second quarter will be much more interesting because then we will start to see much more clearly exactly where we are as we come out of the lockdowns.”

Along with other council’s up and down the country, Horsham saw its finances hammered during the pandemic, with the loss of income from car parking being a major blow.

But the report showed things were picking up.

During the first quarter, car parks generated £746,121 of income, falling just short of the £780,902 target.

This compared to the £70,429 brought in in the first quarter of 2020 – a year one councillor described as a ‘write-off’.

Looking at money owed to the council, members were told debts totalling £4.3m were outstanding as of August 14.

Some £2.1m of this was owed by an unnamed developer who was invoiced at the end of July.

Another developer owed £114,000 of S106 contributions, which were due in 2016 and 2017, while a third owed Community Infrastructure Levy payments of £42,000 from 2019.

Other long-standing debts related to commercial rents, some of which will be written off.