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Windfall bears fruit for cash-strapped council
A CASH boost has helped Worcester City Council – with the first three months of this financial year showing a £37,000 ‘profit’.
The cash-strapped authority, which is looking to cut about £3 million from spending by 2017/18, enjoyed a small surplus between April and June.
A new report on the finances shows how a relatively modest economic boost is helping council coffers.
Extra cash from areas such as planning application fees and building control, as well as fewer salaries due to jobs not being filled, have all helped the overall picture.
Between April and June last year, the council plunged £300,000 into deficit, which led to an action plan being put into place to get the books back on track.
The £37,000 surplus for the first quarter of this financial year is set amid a backdrop of £767,000 worth of cuts having to be made by April. About £411,000 of that money has already been saved, meaning bosses are on track for 2013/14. It follows the news council tax and business rate write-offs have plunged 93 per cent, as your Worcester News revealed last week.
Bosses decided to launch a clampdown on non-payers by chasing them up harder and sending out warning letters quicker. Councillor Adrian Gregson, the leader, said: “The efficiency savings we are making are in hand and progressing considerably, and what we’ve got in quarter one is a recognised surplus which we can take forward.
“The specific action taken on business rate collections has also helped considerably.” The report shows how the authority made £631,000 from car parking in the three-month period between April and June.
Building control income is up £13,000 year-on-year, proof that the construction industry is beginning to recover after a long period in the doldrums. The former Conservative administration slashed charges to as low as 40p for half-an-hour and £1 after 7pm to help retailers.
It has been put under review ahead of the forthcoming 2014/15 budget setting process due to take place over the winter.
The authority is currently preparing a new five-year blueprint, known as the medium term financial strategy, due for publication this autumn.
The strategy will spell out what savings it wants to make due to dwindling government funding.