By Lucy Phillips
9 February 2011
Councils might not be able to achieve their required 2011/12
savings on time, risking budgets being overspent, finance chiefs have warned.
An survey of 110 councils in England, Scotland and Wales,
published by CIPFA today, 70% of respondents were concerned that they would not
be able to make the changes needed to slash their budgets in the next financial
year. This was put down to reduced numbers of staff and public opposition to
Furthermore, more than half of councils feared that some
reforms would cost more to implement and save less than planned.
Changes to help balance the budgets include efficiency
projects, more sharing of services with other public bodies, increasing or
introducing new fees and charges for services and reducing or withdrawing
CIPFA warned that a failure to make the changes on time was
likely to result in budgets being overspent, creating further problems for
local authorities in the medium term.
CIPFA chief executive Steve Freer said: ‘Many councils are
planning major organisational, systems and service changes in every department.
Chief finance officers are committed to help implement these initiatives but
they are also drawing attention to the very real risks which must be managed
along the way.
‘Balancing tight budgets is a tough, stressful activity.
CFOs are reminding councils that the business of delivering budgets is likely
to be even more challenging.’
Draft council budgets show savings are being sought in both
back-office and frontline services. Some two-thirds of councils are planning
cuts of 5%–20% to finance, human resources and IT departments while almost half
of authorities are proposing cuts of more than 10% to libraries, arts and museums.
Almost a third (28%) of councils plan to cut leisure, parks, sports