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Council to limit some non-essential works to help combat environment department £1.2m overspend

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Friday, Feb 22nd, 2019.

Wrexham Council’s environment department is to limit non-essential orders and works on the likes of street lighting and highway signage due to an anticipated overspend of over £1 million.

The move comes as part of a deficit recovery plan which will be implemented over the next few months.

A report due before members of the council’s customers, performance and environment committee next week states that the ‘current revenue budgetary position’ is an overspend of £1,200,000.

The overspend occurred between the period of April and November 2018 and is detailed in two specific areas, with the largest being £966k in connection to refuse collection and disposal.

This is attributed to a further reduction in Welsh Government grant in 2018/19 of £256k – resulting in an overall reduction of £477k and due to additional staffing costs of £489k.

Car parking has also seen an overspend of £234k.

Although figures of the total amount collected by car parking are not provided in the report, it is noted that the estimated income is lower than the unspecified budget target.

Also cited as a reason for the overspend is that the “revocation of free parking for disabled blue badge holders (£25k) did not become operational until 21 May 2018 and the introduction of staff/member parking fees (£49k) has been deferred to 2019/20 whilst the proposals are further
reviewed”.

A further loss of £23k is expected due to the free parking days that took place to coincide with a number of town centre events last year to support them and boost trade for the town centre.

The projected net income from enforcement activities also being reduced by £46k whilst the service is under review.

As a result the department is working on a “deficit recovery plan” to implement over the next few months which councillors are being told should save approximately £305k.

This means that ‘non-essential orders and works on all service areas – including street lighting, safety fending, signage arboriculture and rights of way’ – will be limited.

The report continues onto say that the following areas are also being ‘addressed’:

• Cease routine grounds maintenance, with resources redeployed as appropriate to reduce agency demand;
• Reduced frequency of winter garden waste collection, with resources redeployed as appropriate to reduce agency demand;
• Restrict collection days for bulky waste and new/replacement bin deliveries to enable resources to be redeployed as appropriate to reduce agency demand.

Last year we reported how a £1m overspend was partially being blamed on the use of agency staff (report here).

Overall the council lists an overspend across all departments of £1,758,000 since April.

The second largest overspend is £897k in children’s social care, which the report states is due to the “unprecedented increase in looked after children” and on overspend in out of county and leaving care placements of £1,639k.

The report states: “The increased demand has resulted in additional fostering allowances (£206k), staffing (£461k) and legal fees (£83k)

“However the overspend is reduced by additional funding sources (£148k), staff vacancies in business support and Child and Family inclusion (£138k), use of grant reserves (£888k) and from additional in year Welsh Government funding (£318k).”

Other overspends listed include £134k in the education department, which is largely down to a decision by the executive board to close the local iTec service. As we reported the details of that decision are unknown, as it was conducted behind closed doors.

The report states that as a result “there are costs in respect of building dilapidation and redundancy costs over and above the balance available in the reserve of £100k”.

It adds: “Furthermore, there is a deficit in the Early Years Education grant of £42k.

“These overspends are offset by efficiency savings in Education Enrichment and Intervention of £8k.”

Other areas are in an underspend position, including the Finance department, where it appears job cuts have possibly been brought forward.

The report will be considered by members of the customers, performance and resources scrutiny committee on Wednesday.

(Top pic, street light with a bulb out. The meeting next week will illuminate the detail on what works precisely will be limited.)



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