Angus Council’s new finance convener has had an early dig at the authority’s fiscal management by the predecessor SNP administration after highlighting a £3 million overspend last year.
Angus Macmillan Douglas may not have been left a note suggesting the biscuit tin is empty, but the Kirriemuir and Dean Conservative councillor said the new multi-party administration had been left with a “tough inheritance”.
A full council meeting before the summer recess considered a report setting out the authority’s 2016/17 financial outturn, and signed off the draft accounts for the final year of the SNP’s last term in office.
But the balance sheet has already suffered another hit after staff severance costs associated with controversial changes to care services have come in “significantly” above estimates.
Councillor Macmillan Douglas said: “I would draw to members’ attention to the fact that Angus Council overspent by £3.064m in the 2016/17 year.
“This overspend by the previous SNP administration, coupled with the use of hard-earned reserves built up over previous years, and the Scottish Government’s year-on-year reduction in funding for the council, has given the new administration a very tough situation to deal with.
“This tough situation will not be easily or quickly resolved.
“But the administration has made a good start by working with officers to identify how Angus Council can become more effective in the provision of services.”
He cited the phasing out of the deal with external consultants EY as one decision already taken.
The accounts report also revealed that the authority is facing a significantly larger financial headache than anticipated in respect of the severance costs associated with the Help to Live at Home programme.
It stated: “In agreeing the budget settlement with the Angus Integration Joint Board, the Council noted that savings of £0.820 million from the Help to Live at Home project were anticipated to arise in 2017/18 with further savings expected to arise in 2018/19.
Some £1.1m was budgeted for severance costs in the service shake-up.
But the report added: “Predicting the severance costs arising from Help to Live at Home was difficult because these depend wholly on the individual circumstances of each employee being released.
“It is now clear that those severance costs will be significantly more than expected at around £1.8 million. Although these are significant costs they are one-off in nature and will deliver recurring savings of £1.5 million per annum.”
Angus Integration Joint Board does not have the funds to fully meet the costs and councillors have agreed a package which will see the authority dip into its own contingency fund for the pay-offs.
“The recurring savings of £1.5 million per annum cannot be achieved without reducing the workforce and incurring severance costs which are legally and properly due to those staff affected,” said the report.