£831,725 savings need to keep the rates down

BALLYMONEY Borough Council need to secure savings of £831,725 to achieve a rate increase of no more than 5%!

The worrying revelations were disclosed during a recent Rates Estimate 2010/11 meeting and were described by the Chief Executive as a 'massive task' which 'cannot be underestimated'.

Addressing councillors last month the Mayor referred members to version 2 of the rate estimate book 2010/11 which gave a summary of the proposed budget increases of 1,077,647, representing 22.68%. And in response, the Director of Central and Leisure Services outlined the summary of the proposed budget increases,

In the report she stated: "Some of these increases are outside Council's control and include the loss of vacant property rates, reduction in bank interest, landfill site closure provision as well as salaries and wages increase. Other increases relate to contingency to build reserves, RPA resource, service budget increases and capital projects."

She explained that the final figures for general grant and estimated penny product had not yet been finalized. However she was aware that the total resources element of the general grant had been cut by 1m for 2010/11.

She continued: "A sum of 100,000 has been included to build up the general reserve, in respect of which the DoE is soon to issue guidance that the required level of reserve should be 5% of total net expenditure.

"Salaries and wages budgets include a pay award of 1% and employers pension contribution of 1%. A general inflationary increase has not been included."

She advised that the Local Government Auditor had written to require provision for landfill site closure to be made. She also outlined that the capital projects included were the Robert Dunlop Memorial Garden, Grave Shoring System and IT Equipment, a total of 287,000, with loan charges of 28,025 in the incoming year.

The report also highlighted that the Director had indicated that to achieve a rate increase of no more than 5% would require savings of 831,725 to be made.

In response the Chief Executive emphasised: "To identify some 800,000 is a massive task which cannot be underestimated."

Referring to the proposed in-year (2009/10) savings paper, the view was put forward by some members that reductions should not be made from budgets where grants could be levered.

However the Chief Executive indicated that management was working on the basis of 3% savings across all 2009/10 budgets, where possible, with savings being identified by managers.

In the ensuing discussion an issue which engaged member's attention was the loss of income from vacant properties, the failure of LPS to adequately address the matter and consideration by management on how council might assist based on a cost benefit analysis.

Concluding, the Mayor and other members commended the officers for the work done to date on the draft rate estimate for 2010/11.

Another meeting was held last Monday to further consider the issue.