Lincolnshire county councillors discuss £35.3m budget underspend

Lincolnshire county councillors have considered what to do with an underspend of over £35 million in the council’s budget.

New figures have shown that the county council’s underspend stood at £35.341 million at the end of March 2015, which was discussed by councillors at a meeting of the full council in Lincoln on September 18.

A report produced for councillors revealed that just under half of this total underspend relates to underspending in schools in the county, which stands at £17.6m.

This is ring-fenced money which is carried forward to the schools budget for next year and cannot be used to fund other council services.

The remaining £17.7m underspend was from reduced long-term borrowing costs due to rescheduled projects (£9.2m) and a 1.9% underspend on council services across the board (£8.1m).

The only service area with an overspend was children’s social care because of an increase in demand.

At the meeting, councillors voted in favour of recommendations agreed on by the council’s Executive.

A motion, put forward by Councillor Marc Jones and seconded by Leader of the council, Martin Hill, recommended that £12.415m be put aside to protect against potential cuts in local government funding in 2016/17 and beyond.

Similarly, £212,000 was proposed to be put in reserves for health and wellbeing, and local welfare provision.

An amendment tabled by Labour councillors proposing to put £2 million into a social welfare reserve account to meet pressures on spending during the winter period was rejected.

The proposal, brought forward by Councillor Robert Parker, suggested that the remaining underspend should go into balances to meet potential cuts to government grants in future years.

He said: “We should have a pot of money put by to be able to respond to pressures such as extra demand on our social care services.

“Our welfare services for older people with learning disabilities and mental health problems and vulnerable children need to have sufficient funds to cope with unexpected problems during the winter period.”

However, the amendment was dismissed by Councillor Jones, who said that the council would fund emergencies in the county from its existing reserves if required, without the need for a separate reserve.

This view was shared by Councillor Hill, who added: “I see no point in creating a reserve within a reserve.”