Council chiefs hail authority’s good financial performance despite £109,000 overspend

Hartlepool Borough Council offices.
Hartlepool Borough Council offices.

Council bosses reflected on a ‘good performance’ financially last year despite recording an overspend of more than £100,000.

However Hartlepool Borough Council’s finance and policy committee said the £109,000 overspend in the budget was an improvement on the expected figure of £124,000.

The committee noted at its meeting on Monday that one area where it was put under particular financial pressure was children’s services, due to funding cuts the council has faced.

However the council did experience an increase in collection of businesses rates and council tax.

Chris Little, director of finance and policy, said the overspend reflects the ‘continued pressure on services’.

He said: “It’s a good performance.

“We’re very well aware of the pressure facing children’s services.

“These pressures are expected to continue in the coming year.

“Some positives are the collection rates improving for business rates and we’re really pleased to see improved council tax collection.

“Both of the collection rates long term are very good.”

A council report showed there was a net overspend of £2.610million for children’s services.

Coun Brenda Harrison, who sits on the committee, said she would be meeting with the town MP Mike Hill to look at improved funding options into children’s services.

Finance and Policy committee chairman Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher also added he would be looking to write a letter to appeal for help over the funding issues.

In November last year the then chairman of the council’s children’s services committee, Alan Clark wrote to Robert Goodwill MP, the Minister of State for Children at the Department of Education over the issue.

He said the council had done all it could to prioritise the welfare of vulnerable children and young people in the face of funding cuts, but the position was “untenable”.

But it comes as the council tax collection rate for the town was 95.7% for 2017/18, an improvement of 0.4% on the previous year.

Business rate collection also improved 0.5% on the previous year to reach 98.9%, which was above the national average of 97.9%

Meanwhile long term collection rates for business rates are being sustained in the area with 99.6% of rates being collected after five years.

The council noted at the meeting the final 2017/18 overspend of £0.109m was to be funded from the council general fund reserve.

The council had an income budget for the year of £187million and a net budget of £73million.

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service