£6 million overspend in Hull

September 23, 2011 1:09 PM

In June, I wrote how Hull City Council was storing up problems for the future. I said then it looked like there was going to be a £6 million overspend that would need to be plugged. Figures out this week have proved I was correct.

The latest forecasts indicate the council could be overspent by £6.68 million at the end of this financial year, however Labour's finance portfolio holder, Cllr Phil Webster, says he is confident the books will be balanced. When I heard this yesterday, I was intrigued how they plan to do it. The previous response, as far as I could see, was to bury their heads in the sand and collectively sing a chorus of "Things can only get better!"

In a report in today's Yorkshire Post, Cllr Webster claims he has not only found the money, but it was there all the time. He said they had set aside £6.5 million from their original budget as a contingency. “If we can hold onto that £6.5m, then we have already closed the gap on the Medium Term Financial Plan. If we have to spend it we have to spend it and look at what’s down the line in forthcoming years", he said.

The problem is no-one seems to have heard of this £6.5 million before. Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Cllr Mike Ross, said this was the first they had heard of it. I'm with him. In all the documents I have read, I have not seen this figure anywhere, nor have I heard Cllr Webster, or the leader, Cllr Brady, talk about it.

Meanwhile, the council is still in talks with the unions about mileage rates paid to members of staff. In a report earlier this year, we revealed that Hull City Council was paying staff 65p per mile, rather than the HMRC standard 40p (which increased to 45p in April) per mile. This is a simple cost cutting measure, and no-one can complain if they are paid the recommended HMRC rate.

It does seem though that when UNISON stated after the elections in May they were in power, they meant it, as they don't seem to want to give up this particular perk.

My best guess is come next April, there will be a massive overspend, and either council tax will increase, or front-line services will be cut. Yet if the council adopts simple measures like reducing mileage costs, and not reducing the cost of primary school meals by 50p, it can find money to help plug the gap.

Will they do it? Personally, I don't think they will.In June, I wrote how Hull City Council was storing up problems for the future. I said then it looked like there was going to be a £6 million overspend that would need to be plugged. Figures out this week have proved I was correct.

The latest forecasts indicate the council could be overspent by £6.68 million at the end of this financial year, however Labour's finance portfolio holder, Cllr Phil Webster, says he is confident the books will be balanced. When I heard this yesterday, I was intrigued how they plan to do it. The previous response, as far as I could see, was to bury their heads in the sand and collectively sing a chorus of "Things can only get better!"

In a report in today's Yorkshire Post, Cllr Webster claims he has not only found the money, but it was there all the time. He said they had set aside £6.5 million from their original budget as a contingency. “If we can hold onto that £6.5m, then we have already closed the gap on the Medium Term Financial Plan. If we have to spend it we have to spend it and look at what’s down the line in forthcoming years", he said.

The problem is no-one seems to have heard of this £6.5 million before. Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Cllr Mike Ross, said this was the first they had heard of it. I'm with him. In all the documents I have read, I have not seen this figure anywhere, nor have I heard Cllr Webster, or the leader, Cllr Brady, talk about it.

Meanwhile, the council is still in talks with the unions about mileage rates paid to members of staff. In a report earlier this year, we revealed that Hull City Council was paying staff 65p per mile, rather than the HMRC standard 40p (which increased to 45p in April) per mile. This is a simple cost cutting measure, and no-one can complain if they are paid the recommended HMRC rate.

It does seem though that when UNISON stated after the elections in May they were in power, they meant it, as they don't seem to want to give up this particular perk.

My best guess is come next April, there will be a massive overspend, and either council tax will increase, or front-line services will be cut. Yet if the council adopts simple measures like reducing mileage costs, and not reducing the cost of primary school meals by 50p, it can find money to help plug the gap.

Will they do it? Personally, I don't think they will.

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