CBC fears over future borrowing

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Finance officers are depiciting a healthy picture of Central Bedfordshire Council’s finances, despite a £29m deficit for 2017/18.

Figures show expenditure for the last financial year reached just over £621m, while income totalled around £592m.

With the help of £53m capital receipts funding, the local authority was able “to fund its capital programme through capital receipts and capital grants”, the council’s audit committee heard.

“Our borrowing requirement for the year hasn’t increased at all,” head of corporate finance Sarah Michael told councillors.

“The council has a commitment to generating growth,” she said. “The useable reserves general fund balance increased by £78,000.

“But the big story was the capital receipts reserve increased by £24m.”

A rise in its deficit of £14m was “only a small increase” in terms of the council’s liabilities, according to financial controller Stephanie Pocock.

“The need for borrowing was significantly reduced, down £46m this year on last year,” she said.

“And the business rate deficit was down to £1.4m.”

There was a reduction in staff earning more than £50,000 a year, she added, while the cost of redundancies fell from £673,000 to £642,000.

But she warned there would be an increase in borrowing in future years, as capital receipts will not be as good as this year.

There was also a three per cent increase in the deficit on the local authority’s pensions liabilities, which are due to be reassessed by the end of the current financial year.

Director of resources Charles Warboys described the council as being “in a strong financial position”.

But he warned against complacency because of “uncertainties over future funding levels”.

The local authority will lose its revenue support grant from the government, which will be “phased out completely next year”, he explained.

“Our (revenue) collection performance becomes really important. It will be challenging. We’re not going to have another year like this.

The accounts will before the audit committee on July 30 and then be signed off.