Warwick District Council warned of 'difficult times around the corner' despite draft accounts showing surplus of funds for end of financial year

A decline in business rates and car parking income could present future challenges for the authority, its resources and transformation portfolio holder has said.

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Warwick District Council’s draft set of accounts for the 12 months up to the end of March shows the authority to be in a favourable position with a surplus of funds.

But councillors have been warned by the portfolio holder for resources and transformation, Cllr Richard Hales (Con, Kenilworth Abbey and Arden), that difficult times could be around the corner.

Figures presented to this week’s [THU] cabinet meeting showed a combined total of more than £2m in the council’s general fund and housing revenue accounts while the capital programme was nearly £34m under budget.

In the general fund, the income from waste collection was £187,000 more than anticipated while bereavement services were £160,000 above budget. Both of these increases were due to the impact of Covid.

Investment interest was £123,000 higher than budgeted due to delays in expenditure meaning more money was available to invest and a number of staffing vacancies that were left unfilled during the pandemic meant employment costs were under budget by £119,000.

On the negative side, car parking income was £364,000 lower than anticipated due to more people staying at home during the various lockdown periods.

On the capital programme, the replacement of bathrooms and kitchens in the council’s housing stock was one of the areas delayed due to Covid restrictions.

Cllr Hales said: “I would just like to remind councillors that while the favourable accounts look very positive, there are a number of challenges that we have coming ahead noticeably reference business rates and car parking.”

And he added that money had been put aside regarding the planning appeal for a new housing development in Whitnash ahead of a decision later this month.

He said: “On Chesterton Gardens, we have put mitigation into the works. If it hadn’t been for the work of this cabinet and group leaders in terms of the stance that we took then the costs could easily have been in excess of £300,000 so I’d just like to put on record my thanks for the work they did to make sure that that figure won’t be at that level.”

Cllr Bill Gifford (Lib Dem, Laeamington Milverton), speaking on behalf of the main opposition party, praised the report.

He said: “It has to be said that in a very difficult time, our finances have stood up quite well in the circumstances and I think some degree of congratulations are required.”