Somerset ‘not in section 114 territory’ despite funding pressures

16 Jul 18

Somerset County Council has played down talk of the need to take emergency financial measures despite a predicted overspend.

Last year the council reported a year-end overspend of 2.018m and it predicts a £12.115m overspend for 2018-19.

The council’s cabinet agenda, published on 9 July, showed that the “largest budget pressure” was on children’s services. In response the council approved emergency funding of £5m to bolster this area.

This £5m will come out of a £7.2m contingency fund.

Despite this, Somerset’s chief accountant Lizzie Watkin said during a council meeting: “We are not in section 114 territory”.

A council spokesperson said: “This authority like all local authorities, is facing considerable financial pressure but it is not poised to, or on the brink of, issuing a section 114 notice and to suggest otherwise is inaccurate.”

The spokesperson said the council had referenced section 114 notices in its paperwork in the last few years.

They said: “There are big pressure on finances – we have had to make more than £130m of savings and efficiencies in the last eight years – but we have plans to address overspending and make savings and we will deliver them.”

The cabinet report said “work is underway to reduce the predicted overspend” and that “there is a risk that the council may have to take a number of urgent decisions to rectify the financial position.”

One option would be to issue a section 114 notice, the report noted.

But the Somerset spokesperson said: “Our financial reporting is honest and transparent, which is why a recent report referred to 114 notices as an option open to all local authorities”.

In February, Northamptonshire County Council became the first authority in 20 years to issue a section 114 notice.

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