The authority’s draft accounts for 2015/16 showed it had managed its budgets prudently, evident in its minor underspend position for the year.
But now the council faces the challenge of having to make £900,000 of savings over the next three to four years due to cuts in Government grant funding.
The authority is working on a draft efficiency plan which sets out how it proposes to save about £702,000 for the general fund, equating to about two thirds of the savings target.
The council is also looking to identify commercial opportunities it could exploit to ease the financial strain.
The council has also established a new ‘economy board’ working group of councillors, which will help shape the authority’s approach to supporting the local economy, and a ‘transformation and efficiency board’ which will help to deliver its draft efficiency plan.
A more formal and final efficiency plan will be presented in September.
Earlier this month the council also agreed to create a ‘spending pressure reserve’ of £72,000, using the increased balance on its corporate priorities reserve. This pot of money will be used to help balance the budget while steps are taken to generate the savings needed in the longer-term. It’s also intended that any council underspends in future years could be added to this pot, reducing the need for short-term cuts to services.
Council leader Pam Posnett praised the work of its officers in helping to identify savings across services, enabling increased costs to be offset by savings elsewhere.
She said: “Looking forward the council is facing an extremely challenging financial position.
“In order to meet these challenges I am working with officers to develop an efficiency plan setting out a range of measures and options for closing the funding gap of £900,000 which the current medium term financial strategy is showing.
“As Central Government funding declines, raising more income will become a key priority for the council if we are to protect cuts to those services the public value the most.
“As such the emphasis within the efficiency plan will be to look to reduce costs and generate additional income as a priority over service reductions, although recognising that unfortunately, ultimately this may be necessary in some lower priority areas.”