Preston Council hits saving targets

Preston City Council
Preston City Council
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Council bosses in Preston have staved off dipping into reserve funds due to an “improved budget position”, according to a finance report.

Reaching savings targets early and a boost from an upsurge in planning fees have contributed, cabinet members have been told this week.

Tasked with finding savings of £3m a year by 2019/20, the council has imposed a 1.99 council tax rise and the running of two leisure centres has been out-sourced.

But, according to a review of the last financial year to be presented to the cabinet, the town hall will benefit from an over-estimation of how much it had expected to spend.

The report reads: “The council’s overall financial position has slightly improved due to the under-spend position.

“The 2016/17 budget originally estimated that reserves would be required to fund the gap between what the council spends and what income the council receives to fund services.

“The under-spend means the council is able to contribute to reserves.

“Further work will be undertaken during 2017 to identify any potential recurring under-spends.”

Instructions remain in place, the report adds, for staff to “minimise expenditure commitments wherever possible.

Earlier this year, along with the tax rise, council bosses unveiled plans for parish councils to contribute at least £50,000 a year towards the maintenance of play areas and open spaces.

A council spokesperson said: “Several reasons have contributed to the improved budget position.

“This includes additional income from planning fees, due to a number of large planning applications submitted during February and March, plus early achievement of efficiency savings.”

The council’s four-year plan to combat the impacts of significant central government cuts - Achieving Preston’s Priorities (APP) - was launched last year.

The cabinet report adds: “The majority of savings set for 2016/17, agreed in February 2016, have been implemented with some being achieved earlier than scheduled.”