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Council monitors budget carefully as latest information forecasts slight under spend

Wiltshire Council has provided its second formal financial update reports for the 2023/24 financial year, and is continuing to manage its budgets responsibly amid the continuing unpredictability of the national economy and the ongoing pressures faced by all councils.

Published 15 November 2023

Wiltshire Council has provided its second formal financial update reports for the 2023/24 financial year, and is continuing to manage its budgets responsibly amid the continuing unpredictability of the national economy and the ongoing pressures faced by all councils.

The council has published its second quarter revenue and capital monitoring positions, which informs on its financial forecasts for the year. The second quarter's monitoring is based on information known up to 30 September 2023.

Cllr Nick Botterill, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: "We continue to monitor our own financial situation prudently, robustly and in a transparent way. We are running in effect what is an in-year balanced position. This is due to our continued investment in preventative and early help services, our financial planning approach, focus on cost control, overall efficiency and savings delivery. We're in control of our finances and able to deliver services in a financially resilient way; in effect doing more with each pound we spend.

"We have taken a long-term strategic approach to our budget, which included effectively setting a balanced budget for the next three years in February. We are committed to prevention, not short-term fixes, and this strategic approach is putting us in good stead.

"It does not mean we do not face challenges and financial risks. We face significant pressures, as other councils do, particularly due to high and unpredictable inflation and rising service demand.  

"However, we'll continue to ensure the money we spend is adding value and supporting our communities as much as possible, which, during a period of national financial uncertainty and a cost-of-living crisis, is essential. We are determined not to spend any more of taxpayers' money than is absolutely necessary"

At the end of the second quarter there is a small, forecasted under spend for the year of around £0.4m, which has changed from the £0.3m annual overspend which was forecasted at the end of quarter one.

This is a positive position to be in, and reflects the council's careful financial planning, and this position will continue to be carefully monitored as there are a number of risks that could affect the council. This includes sustained higher inflation than was budgeted for, increased demand and higher package costs in the council's people services, SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) transport and less income received so far across some of the council's place services, such as parking and planning.

More than £26m of savings were identified to be made during 2023/24 and, at the end of the second quarter, more than £7m has already been achieved (around 27%) with a further £17m on track to be delivered (around 64%). The council will continue to robustly monitor its finances and focus on the delivery of savings. The council has taken a long-term strategic approach to its budget, which included effectively setting the next three years' budgets in February, and this means it is in a stronger position to respond positively to any unexpected issues.

The council has also provided an update on its monitoring of the capital budget for quarter two of the financial year. Overall, the capital programme for the year stood at approximately £189m at the end of quarter one. The capital budget is traditionally fluid, due to the nature of the projects that it finances, and a small number of changes have taken place since the last update which means that as of the end of quarter two the forecasted capital budget is almost £195m. Some of the changes include some projects due to get under way earlier than originally anticipated, money for education provision in the north of the county, money associated with the River Park project in Salisbury and highways investment.

It is likely the budget will change throughout the year as it's common for timeframes on major capital projects to evolve, particularly taking into consideration the scale, logistics and complexity of the work typically involved, along with the continuing unpredictable nature of inflation.

Traditionally, the council's average annual capital spend has been more than £100m per year and is likely to be more this year due to some significant projects expected to be delivered. So far in 2023/24, more than £66m of the capital budget has been spent, which is around £34% of the revised forecast. Some of the council's capital projects include:

  • Ongoing development of Silverwood School
  • Schools maintenance and modernisation
  • Carbon reduction measures at council properties
  • Building new council houses
  • Drainage improvements
  • Major road improvements
  • Passenger Transport
  • Salisbury and Trowbridge Future High Street projects
  • Continued development of new leisure centre in Trowbridge and other leisure projects
  • History Centre improvements

The updates were presented at Wiltshire Council's cabinet meeting on 14 November. The full reports, and a replay of the meeting, can be found at Cabinet agenda - 12 September 2023 (opens new window).

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