Set straight

PUBLISHED: 13:41 14 February 2008 | UPDATED: 21:22 31 May 2010

THE letter from Stephen Williams in last week s Saffron Walden Reporter It s a fiasco! contains several inaccuracies so I am taking this opportunity to set the record straight. The projected shortfall of £1.8 million relates to the 2008/09 financial yea

THE letter from Stephen Williams in last week's Saffron Walden Reporter "It's a fiasco!" contains several inaccuracies so I am taking this opportunity to set the record straight.

The projected shortfall of £1.8 million relates to the 2008/09 financial year, not the current financial year as Mr Williams suggests.

The 2006/07 accounts are still to be signed off. The delays are due to technical issues rather than any uncertainty over the council's financial position.

In September 2007 it was announced the council faced a predicted shortfall in 2007/08 of £1.1m. Significant work was undertaken to validate this figure and major savings and cost reduction exercises were undertaken.

The net effect of this was a revised predicted shortfall in 2007/08 of £938,000 as reported to full council on December, 11, 2007. Work continues to reduce this potential shortfall further.

Redundancies are part of the measures being undertaken to address the £1.8m projected deficit for 2008/09. The council has no option but to reduce its staffing costs by £1m and other cost reduction exercises.

While a figure of £100,000 has been recorded as expenditure, this includes the cost of running the area panels, hosting meetings at UDC and professional development training, which is a requirement in many professions. It isn't the case that £100,000 has been spent on officers or members attending conferences or staying in hotels.

On the customer service centre, whilst there are set-up costs around a new venture, no extra staff were recruited and it does not cost the authority any more to run it. A new integrated phone system has also meant a saving of £390,000.

We recognise the council is in a challenging position and much action is being taken to ensure its future financial stability. All spending requests are closely scrutinised and charges are being raised sympathetically.

All local authorities face difficult budgetary decisions over the coming years as less money is available from central government.

Uttlesford's problems have come sooner than for many other councils but what we are facing now will have to be tackled by others in the future.

Alasdair Bovaird

Chief executive of Uttlesford District Council

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