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Councillor forecasts Royal Borough could be put on spending ban

An opposition councillor has warned it is ‘inevitable’ that the Royal Borough will be banned from spending in the future as it seeks to balance the books.

The Royal Borough, which is facing a £3.7million projected overspend this year, is seeking to provide nearly £6m of savings in the draft budget for 2020/2021.

The council’s financial officer Terry Neaves has warned in a report this will have to be ‘monitored closely’ when considering whether to issue a s114 notice.

A s114 notice bans all new expenditure with the exception of statutory services for protecting vulnerable people. Once it is issued the council would have 21 days to discuss the implications at a full council meeting.

The report states: “If the council cannot set a balanced budget in 2021/2022 or if its financial position markedly deteriorates in 2020/21 to a point reserves did not cover any overspend, the council s151 officer would have to issue an s114 notice.”

Cllr Lynne Jones, leader of the local independents, said this will be issued in the future ‘without a doubt’.

She said: “If you can’t balance the budget and you haven’t got a plan to balance the budget and bring reserves up this is what is going to happen. It is inevitable.”

Cllr Jones said she is frustrated the council is trying to make savings after years of lowering council tax and said the council is trying to ‘blame’ the increases in adult and social care.

“We’ve been given no explanation or recognition that what happened was wrong. No one has come out and said we shouldn’t have done this and that is the annoying thing,” she added.

But cabinet member for finance Cllr David Hilton (Con, Ascot and Sunninghill) said there would be no reason to issue a s114 as the council is working to deliver a balanced budget.

He said: “We’ve done everything we can to work with the financial team to deliver a balanced budget; we have taken some hard decisions to get our finances back under control.

“We’re not in a good place; it’s been a disappointing year, mainly driven by the ever increasing costs of children and adult services.

“We should have put more money into our reserves in hindsight, but if we go back to a few years ago the Government was encouraging local authorities to use their reserves.

“If I knew what I know now, one would have made different decisions, but now what we’ve got to do is look to the future.”

The revenue budget report will be discussed by cabinet today in York House at 7pm.

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