A PLAN to combat a multi-million pound shortfall in Flintshire Council’s budget got a lukewarm reception from councillors.

In their draft Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) finance chiefs have predicted a £13 million gap in the budget over the next three years.

After taking into account funding from the Welsh Assembly, Council Tax and any ‘rolled over’ budget compared with the council’s outgoings, there is expected to be a funding gap of £3.4m in 2012/13 and 2013/14, and a shortfall of £6.2m in 2014/15.

The plan to plug the gap was criticised by members of a corporate resources overview and scrutiny committee meeting last week.

Kerry Feather, the council’s head of finance, said she was now working with community services, environment and lifelong learning departments to identify new budget pressures that will need to be considered for funding.

She told the meeting: “We need to consider our opportunities to increase resources from additional grants. We are now working with heads of service to make sure we have forecast what all of the pressures and efficiencies are.”

But committee members were doubtful about the plan.

Cllr Patrick Heesom, leader of the New Independents group in Flintshire, said finance chiefs needed to identify and solve budget pressures rather than accept them.

“We have to go back and look again at the MTFS,” he said.

Cllr Aaron Shotton, leader of the Labour group in Flintshire, said the plan needed to be more “radical” to overcome the shortfall.

Council leader Arnold Woolley was keen to stress the plan was not set in stone.
“This is not something that is being thrown down as a gauntlet,” he said.

“This is an opportunity for people to comment on the draft – broadly, deeply and to see if, how and when we can improve it.”

The financial forecast, which takes into account budget requirements for each of the directorates, is expected to be finalised next month.