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Final overspend for county council 2018/19 revealed

PUBLISHED: 09:03 17 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:04 17 June 2019

Suffolk cabinet member Richard Smith said care for the county's most vulnerable had to be the priority in tyhe council's budget. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Suffolk cabinet member Richard Smith said care for the county's most vulnerable had to be the priority in tyhe council's budget. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

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A Suffolk council which has had to make belt-tightening cutbacks ended the last financial year having overspent by £4.4million.

Labour councillor Sarah Adams said the Conservatives had 'lost control' of finances at the county council.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNLabour councillor Sarah Adams said the Conservatives had 'lost control' of finances at the county council. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Data published for Suffolk County Council's cabinet revealed the year end figure for 2018/19 was £4.4m overbudget - down from the £8.6m overspend on its £503.7m annual budget it was on course for at the start of the year.

The council confirmed that money would be coming out of its £53m reserves fund.

Conservative councillor Richard Smith, cabinet member for finance and assets, said: "Without question 2018/19 was a challenging financial year which required us to deliver nearly £24m of savings to balance our budget.

"Therefore, ending the year within 1% of our overall proposed original budget is a great achievement and testament to the diligence and efforts of all staff who continue to innovate and transform the services we deliver to ensure residents receive high quality outcomes every day.

"Whilst it is impossible to predict potential overspend, part of having a sound financial approach is the ability to ensure we are in a position to meet such unexpected costs and adjust budgets accordingly to mitigate the impact on service delivery.

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"Whilst this is something we would all wish to avoid, we are rightly focused on supporting our most vulnerable residents and it is often in these services where additional, unexpected financial support is required as we continue to see demand and the level of complexity increase."

The council has already announced a £10m series of cutbacks being made for this year, including ceasing Duke of Edinburgh award accreditation, reducing street lighting spend, cutting roadside bus timetables and reducing winter gritting.

But Labour's opposition group has said it proved the Conservative administration had "lost control".

Group leader Sarah Adams said: "Not long ago, the Conservative administration claimed to 'eat, drink and sleep fiscal responsibility' but this statement increasingly feels like a bad joke.

"The Tories seem to have the Sadim Touch. The Upper Orwell Crossings, the four-village bypass, buses, education, adult care, our roads and now the council's finances - everything the Tories have been near has gone to ruins.

"Far from banging down the doors in Whitehall demanding more money, they've nodded cut after cut through. They knew demand for services was rising, but they sat idly by. Instead of looking to generate more income, they have managed the decline of our county's public services with relish.

"Who will now pay for Conservative incompetence? It won't be them; it'll be our residents who have already suffered from years of austerity. We need change."

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