Council gets quarter of grant wish

PUBLISHED: 14:01 22 March 2007 | UPDATED: 10:15 31 May 2010

CONSERVATIVES in Uttlesford criticised the district council this week for its overestimate of the amount of funding it would receive in a Government grant. The council had originally envisaged that it would receive £780,000 from the Government s Local Aut

CONSERVATIVES in Uttlesford criticised the district council this week for its overestimate of the amount of funding it would receive in a Government grant.

The council had originally envisaged that it would receive £780,000 from the Government's Local Authority Business Growth Incentive Scheme, but ended up receiving less than a third of this amount.

The estimate was later reduced to £600,000 - still far more than the £217,370 it was actually granted.

Phil O'Dell, the council's director of resources, said that the estimates had been based on "a complex formula where we compete with other councils for a share of Government money designed to reward increases in rateable values of businesses in the area".

He said: "The key is to take action to correct the implications of the budget assumption being wrong.

"The strategic management board is putting together an action plan to identify further efficiencies to balance the budget."

Cllr Stephen Jones, operations committee chairman, recognised that the council had got it wrong but said residents of the district were unlikely to be affected.

He said: "Budgets are based on facts, the latest available information and, to some degree, assumptions.

"Unfortunately our assumption on this particular Government funding was wrong, but we aim to put it right.

"There is unlikely to be any significant adverse effect on services and there is no need to take panic measures.

"UDC will still have sufficient reserves once we've sorted this issue out. The vast majority of the budget is still sound."

Mr O'Dell said that possible steps that could be taken to redress the council's finances include modernising the council's IT structure, looking at ways of saving money when making purchases and, if practicable, reducing staffing costs.

Conservative Group Leader, Cllr Jim Ketteridge, said the LibDem run council's overestimation of the grant they would receive, and their mismanagement of council finances, had created a crisis.

He said: "From where will this shortfall be funded? The consequences of our vanishing reserves has hit home for the LibDems even sooner than expected.

"The LibDems, like Mother Hubbard, have gone to the cupboard too many times, and now it is bare.

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