Leading councillors are confident Newcastle City Council will deliver a balanced budget this year, despite a projected multi-million pound overspend being identified.
The latest figures from the first quarter of the 2023/24 financial year showed a net overspend of £5.1 million predicted against a budget of £262.1 million.
A report presented to members of the council’s cabinet on Monday explained that the projected overspend was “due mainly” to pressures in children’s social care and the property portfolio.
However, speaking at the meeting, Cllr Paul Frew said he was confident the council would meet the budget by the end of the year. Cllr Frew, who is cabinet member for resources, pointed out the overspend was less than the one identified at the same stage last year.
He said: “Quarter one this year is better than last year. We have an overspend of £5.1 million projected, whereas last year there was a £6.2 million overspend – and we did bring that one down by the end of the year.
“I’m confident that we can do that again this year. There is the pay award which is a national process, and has left us a bit in the lurch across the sector.
“We’re not able to process this year’s pay award yet, but hopefully this will be done soon so we can pay our staff the back-pay before Christmas. Energy costs are coming down more than expected.”
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Colin Ferguson questioned Cllr Frew’s confidence in balancing the budget, pointing out the difficult financial position other local authorities across the country had found themselves in in recent months.
He said: “Should we be concerned about the financial position at the council, or have you considered that there aren’t the same kind of warning lights that we have seen in other authorities?”
Cllr Frew replied: “I’m more happy than we were this time last year. I don’t think there are any big warning lights for us. There have been a handful of issues at other local authorities that I don’t think we have.
“We’re a well-run organisation with stable finances – but even a well-run council is struggling. The whole sector is struggling.”