FINANCE officers told Slough councillors the council is expected to stay within budget during the end of last year.

At a virtual overview and scrutiny committee on July 9 (Thursday), panel members were presented a report where the council believes it had a slight £50,000 underspend against last year’s budget.

The 2019/20 finances were £108.731 million where £16.3 million of that was put into general reserves – which could be used to cushion the blow of the coronavirus if government doesn’t allocate more funds, a finance officer said.

The independent external auditors – Grant Thornton – are expected to look through last year’s accounts and give an accurate report on the finances.

In the report, finance officers for Slough Borough Council (SBC) believe adult social care was overspent by £1.9m – due to increased pressures – schools by nearly one million pounds – due to additional costs arising from transport services – and place and development by over £1m.

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Regeneration, and finance and resources were managed to keep under budget.

SBC’s housing revenue account – where the council’s housing revenue from tenants’ rent and housing costs are kept – saw a potential net deficit of nearly £3m.

According to the report, the budget for the Slough Children’s Trust Service (SCTS) – which is independent but funded by the council and government –was kept balanced at the end of last year.

SCST reported to SBC in 2019 that they expected a significant overspend due to increases of staffing, placement, and legal costs as a result of a spike in referrals in 2018/2019 – which resulted in a potential £4m impact on the council.

Councillor Arvind Dhaliwal (Labour: Elliman) asked if the council is prepared if SCTS risks impacting the finances for 2020/21.

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Neil Wilcox, director of finances and resources, responded: “We are prepared for it. We are in regular discussions with the trust for it. We did agree and they omit now they say ‘you’ve given us a balanced budget for 2021’ – which we’re working with them on.

“We’ve also agreed an in-year funding mechanism.”

He added: “One thing we are planning for is what happens at the end of lockdown. I know the children’s trust is quite concerned that when schools reopen, the number of referrals will go up for them because when children go back to the schools that’s when the teachers start seeing them and refer them to the trust if they see any safeguarding issues.

“There might be some demand coming through, we are in close conversations with them and we’ll keep it updated through the monitoring reports throughout the year.”

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Councillors were also told SBC spent 99.7 per cent of its approved capital budget of a revised £171.119m at the year-end of 2019/2020 to fund programmes and projects – some of which was funded through borrowing an extra £110.520m.

The schemes include the secondary expansion programme (nearly £12.5m), Old Library Site Hotel development (over £22.5m), and the Thames Valley University development (nearly £9m).