Coun­cil faces £ 10m black hole

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Front Page - By Kenmcer­lain ken.mcer­lain@pe­ter­bor­oughto­day.co.uk Twit­ter: @ Ptkenmcer­lain 01733 588728

Coun­cil lead­ers and fi­nance chiefs are bat­tling to plug a £ 10mil­lion bud­get ‘ black hole’

. Coun­cil leader Marco Cer­este is con­fi­dent of balancing the books but op­po­si­tion coun­cil­lors fear more cuts.

Coun­cil bosses have re­vealed they are work­ing to fill a £ 10 mil­lion black hole in next year’s bud­get – lead­ing to fears over front­line cuts. Coun­cil­lor Marco Cer­este, leader of Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil, told the PT that the author­ity had found it­self £ 10 mil­lion worse off than ex­pected for the 2013/ 14 bud­get, as the harsh re­al­i­ties of the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate con­tinue to bite.

The coun­cil chief said most of the short­fall had been made up and was “con­fi­dent” that the books would be balanced in time for the publi­ca­tion of the bud­get on Jan­uary 25.

But Mr Cer­este said he could not re­veal de­tails about sav­ings be­fore the bud­get is an­nounced, lead­ing to op­po­si­tion lead­ers rais­ing fears that front­line ser­vices could be af­fected.

Mr Cer­este said: “This has come about due to the fi­nan­cial pres­sures coun­cils are fac­ing at the moment.

“Ris­ing in­fla­tion com­bined with a loss of pre­vi­ous government grants, meant we found our­selves £ 1 0 mil­lion worse off than we ex­pected for the 2013/ 14 bud­get. “We have worked hard to re­cover most of that and have got a few more meet­ings be­fore the bud­get is pub­lished to work things out, so I’m con­fi­dent that we will bal­ance the books be- fore Jan­uary 25.”

Mr Cer­este said he could not com­ment on whether any cuts or tax rises would be made, due to the sen­si­tiv­ity of the bud­get­ing process.

But he added: “We need to im­prove rev­enue for the lo­cal author­ity that will en­able us to keep rates down and de­liver front­line ser­vices.

“We are look­ing at all sorts of op­tions to gen­er­ate in­come.”

But the news raised con­cern among po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in Peter­bor­ough.

Nazim Khan, leader of the Peter­bor­ough Labour Party, said: “We had pre­dicted that there might be a short­fall of four or five mil­lion, but £ 10 mil­lion is a se­ri­ous blow to the peo­ple.

“We might have to lose some front­line ser­vices, I only see more cuts be­com­ing a re­al­ity.

“It’s all very well Cllr Cer­este be­ing con­fi­dent of fill­ing the short­fall, but it is an aw­ful lot of money to re­coup.”

Nick Sand­ford, leader of the Peter­bor­ough Lib­eral Democrats, said: “We should be fo­cus­ing on es­sen­tial ser­vices rather than lin­ing the pock­ets of pri­vate con­trac­tors.

“We have al­ready seen the clo­sures of care homes, you have to ques­tion what will be next.”

Last year, the coun­cil an­nounced coun­cil tax was ris­ing by nearly three per cent and that 70 jobs were be­ing axed.

Nazim Khan

Marco Cer­este

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