£135k underspend in 2018/19 for council
Stafford Borough Council received £1.2m less than expected from a business rates retention scheme – but it ended the last financial year with a £135,000 underspend.
The authority also saw reductions in its budgeted income from cemeteries and Stafford Crematorium of £98,416. But car parking brought in £180,000 more than expected, a report of the final accounts for 2018/19 presented to Thursday’s cabinet meeting showed.
Councillor Jonathan Price, cabinet member for environment, said: “Our bereavement services (income) was lower than expected. It’s good news for our residents but not good news as far as the authority goes – take that how you will.”
Councillor Mike Smith, cabinet member for resources, told the meeting: “The good news is the performance across the five portfolios was £135,000 less than budget. We recorded small overspends on community and leisure and underspends in planning and resources.
“You can see an increase in costs of bed and breakfast for the homeless and we recently took a decision to allocate funds to (lease) further properties for this purpose.
“An increase in car parking fees was good news as it shows more people are into town to take advantage of the new facilities.
“You might wonder how we can have a surplus in council tax – we collected a slightly higher proportion of tax than we predicted.
“Turning to the capital outturn, the largest spend was the £7m on new leisure facilities in Stone – the largest single capital sum this council has ever spent. I wonder how much I have to spend in Stone to be appreciated.
“Unfortunately the business rates retention scheme was lower than expected – this is due to provision for appeals. Hopefully a proportion of those will not succeed.”
The cabinet report said: “Income from the Business Rates Retention Scheme is some £1.2m lower than anticipated. This reduction relates to an increase in the provision for appeals and other costs and includes in particular proposed changes to the Rateable Value of Stafford Town Centre shops.
“An interim review of Stafford Town Centre shops was undertaken by the Valuation Office Agency and, although not concluded until May 2019, the VOA indicated that there would be a reduction in Rateable Value of £2m per annum backdated to 1 April 2017.”
The overspend on the leisure budget related to additional costs of £26,000 to maintain the swimming pool at Stone’s Alleynes Sports Centre and a later than expected opening of the town’s new leisure centre, which left the council £44,000 out of pocket.
An extra £60,000 was spent on funding bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless households in the borough. while there were additional staffing costs in private sector housing of £23,000, the community budget report said.
In June a report to the cabinet revealed that in 2018/19 the total number of nights spent in B&B and temporary leased accommodation “increased significantly” compared to previous years following the introduction of the Homelessness Act in April 2018. At that meeting it was agreed to lease an extra two properties from social landlord Stafford and Rural Homes (SARH) to reduce the cost of temporary accommodation.
Alongside the £7.1m spend on leisure facilities in Stone other major capital projects in Stafford Borough during 2018/19 included provision of grants for disabled adaptations in homes, which cost almost £1.1m. A further £145,670 was spent on buying replacement wheeled bins.