Definitely no need to panic says finance chief despite a further £250,000 budget shortfall

PUBLISHED: 16:57 17 September 2009 | UPDATED: 09:16 02 June 2010

By John Elworthy FENLAND District Council says it will be another £250,000 short in this year s budget on top of the £650,000 previously identified. Investment income is down £80,000, planning fees down £147,000 and income from Wisbech Port down £36,000

By John Elworthy

FENLAND District Council says it will be another £250,000 short in this year's budget on top of the £650,000 previously identified.

Investment income is down £80,000, planning fees down £147,000 and income from Wisbech Port down £36,000.

News of what Rob Bridge, the council's corporate finance director, describes as "an additional income gap" will be reported to Cabinet next Thursday.

He says that "substantial savings are required to achieve a balanced budget" in coming years.

But newly promoted Councillor Alan Melton, portfolio holder for finance, said there was "definitely no need for any panic. I can tell you now that council finances have been managed very well and we are probably in the strongest financial position of any local authority in Eastern England."

Cllr Melton said: "I have no problem in confirming that this year we will have no problem delivering services and keeping our council tax rise low.

"However because of the way Government grants are geared we could be presented with significant problems in years ahead. We are working, therefore, not just on this year but also on the medium term."

Fenland's council tax payers, however, will not escape a serious threat to public services after the county council warned this week it could face a public sector cash crisis, leaving a £113 million black hole in the county budget.

Chief executive Mark Lloyd is looking at ways of slimming the council's budgets and is spearheading an initiative called Making Cambridgeshire Count which is aimed at identifying duplications and savings that can be made in partnership with district councils and other bodies. Ironically the new initiative- funded by a £300,000 Government grant- is headed by Fenland's chief executive Tim Pilsbury.

"We could go for classic salami-slicing (cutting small chunks off most or all budgets) but we don't think that would be right or sensible," he said.

Councillor Jill Tuck, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council said: "We are acutely aware of how the recession is hurting our communities and, as a responsible authority, the council must tighten its belt.


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