Forecast £15.7m end of year underspend could help deliver essential change

A proposal to immediately invest £1.29m of the forecast £15.7m underspend

A proposal to immediately invest £1.29m of the forecast £15.7m underspend in immediate and visible improvements to county highways will be considered by the committee at Cambridgeshire County Council on March 29. - Credit: PA

A forecast end of year underspend of £15.7m caused by short term implications of the Covid-19 pandemic could be used to help deliver essential change. 

The underspend may accelerate highways maintenance plans and future proof Cambridgeshire County Council’s (CCC) ambitious improvements against rising costs. 

The council’s forecast revenue underspend this financial year is concentrated in adult social care and corporate budgets. 

Members will hear details regarding the underspend in a report that will be considered by the committee on March 29. 

Tom Kelly, Cambridgeshire’s director of resources, said: “The council budget for this year was set in a period of great uncertainty where the pattern of demand for social care services over the next year was unknown. 

“As the current year has progressed, the level of demand for social care services, and the level of general risk that needed to be funded, have not been as high as anticipated.” 

In the report, it confirms that much of the extra provision was allowed for one year only, so doesn’t represent a long-term issue for the budget. 

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Also, the gap between anticipated and actual social care demand was revised when the council set its 2022/23 budget. 

A proposal to immediately invest £1.29m of the underspend in immediate and visible improvements to county highways will also be considered by the committee. 

If approved, this will include extra work in pothole ‘hot spots’, an increased programme to reduce surface water in locations highlighted by the community, and improving lines and road markings in more rural areas to make driving safer at night and in bad weather. 

“Last May we inherited a council which we knew faced a challenging budget position over the medium-term,” said Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, leader of CCC.

“Unprecedented levels of inflation because of Brexit, Covid-19 and the impact of the war in Ukraine are impacting on the prices of much of what we buy to deliver services.” 

She added: “We are keen to get on with our own commitments such as improving road maintenance programmes and implementing our climate change strategy.” 

The strategy and resources committee will confirm the decisions surrounding the reallocation of funds once the final outturn for this year is fully known.