At the full Council meeting on 23rd July a report was presented from the Auditor - the Annual Improvement Report - which gave a false and out of date view of the Council's financial capabilities.
The report stated that:
"The Council continues to focus on stability and sustainability in terms of its finances through an effective financial management framework. It has maintained robust in-year and medium-term financial management arrangements which have supported delivery of a balanced revenue budget for 2013-14 while retaining a prudent level of general reserve balances. In the context of the need for continued strong financial management, the Section 151 Officer is of the view that the council should continue to hold a minimum of £10 million general fund balances. Given the current climate of financial austerity and constraint, this minimum level is considered essential to
ensure that the Council maintains financial stability and flexibility going forward."
Now this may have been the plan when the report was written but there have been substantial changes since. Not least of these has been the outcome of the judicial review in relation to nursery education cuts, which found that the Council acted unlawfully in making the decision to cut back from full time to 15 hours a week for three year olds.
The judge's ruling meant that more than £4million of planned savings this coming year will not come to fruition, and that is going to eat into the reserves.
On top of this there are a substantial number of planned cuts that are months behind their implementation date and so cannot possibly achieve the full year savings expected.
Changes to the Meals on Wheels service were budgeted to be implemented from April1st but they have not been fully implemented yet - the full year savings were around £0.3m. The RCT Council website does not even refer to the change but still states that meals on wheels will be delivered seven days a week.
Street lighting changes have not yet been fully implemented - again the projected savings were £0.3m a year.
The report on leisure centres was deferred and no decision has yet been made. The proposed option saved £1.2m a year.
The Muni remains open despite being earmarked for closure from April 1st. The full year saving envisaged there was £0.4m a year.
Some of these changes eg the course of the Muni we strongly objected to, but the fact remains that the Council's budget for the coming year is based on all these changes taking place. As they haven't then there is no way they can achieve their proposed savings which begs the question - how do they plan to recoup that extra money next year?