Fury as Flintshire Council accused of falling into financial chaos

Reporter:

Staff reporter

FEARS are growing that Flintshire Council is in financial “chaos”.

The alarm has been raised after latest financial figures presented to members at County Hall showed a projected overspend of more than £2million in the opening three months of the financial year.

Community leaders are furious at the figures, which come just a fortnight after the local authority announced that it faced a £29million revenue shortfall over the next three years.

Connah’s Quay councillor Bernie Attridge says he fears for people’s jobs.

“I have never seen anything like this before,” he said.

“This council is in absolute chaos and needs to reveal what is going on. It is incompetent that the figure can be this high and I fear it will get worse.

“My main worry is for the futures of staff. We don’t want to see our front-line services cut as a result of this.”

Councillors have also voiced their concerns at figures showing just £954,000 being left in the contingency reserve budget, which can be used for covering additional budget costs.

Mostyn ward councillor Patrick Heesom said: “We have an annual turnover of £350million and yet this is all that is left as a contingency reserve at this stage of the year.

“You have to wonder if we are getting the full story from the council. There needs to be a much greater openness about what is going on.”

But Flintshire’s chief executive, Colin Everett, insisted the council was working to keep to its set budget, despite the projected losses.

He said: “Our strategy remains to stay within the total budget for the remainder of the year, which will be a challenge.”

Council chiefs have cited the cost of out-of-county placements for children’s services as a key reason for the initial spending levels, with the projected ‘outturn’ – the position of the service at the end of the year – being almost £1million higher than the revised budget.

The report shown to members said the cost of each placement was high, with variations in numbers and types of placements having an adverse impact on the projected ‘outturn’.

Flintshire Council leader Arnold Woolley said the issues with provisions would be felt “across the length and breadth of Wales”.

Speaking after the meeting, he said any criticism aimed at the county over the figures was misguided, with the situation being carefully monitored. He said: “We are dealing with the first quarter of the year and the indicative costs being projected. As things stand this is not an overspend but a warning.

“With regards to our out of county placements, we are working with our partners to help identify ways to find the best prices.

“This is a national issue and not something that can be easily controlled locally

“For anyone to wield the axe and use phrases like ‘chaos’ and ‘incompetence’ is most unfair. We are not happy about this ,but we are working to sort it out and the out-of-county placements is the only factor behind the projected overspend.”

He added that most of the overspend was down to out-of-county placements which accounts for £1.8million.

See full story in the Leader

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