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Action needed to prevent £5m overspend

PUBLISHED: 17:08 23 May 2008 | UPDATED: 20:29 05 July 2010

URGENT action is required in order to prevent a £5 million overspend at Waveney District Council, it was revealed this afternoon.

Unless tough new measures are taken a number of prestigious projects, including the new £52m Waveney Campus, are under threat.

URGENT action is required in order to prevent a £5 million overspend at Waveney District Council, it was revealed this afternoon.

Unless tough new measures are taken a number of prestigious projects, including the new £52m Waveney Campus, are under threat.

The council is asking for extra help from the Government and unless its finances are quickly brought under control there is a risk that Government appointed auditors could take over the running of the north Suffolk local authority.

The council's cabinet will be asked to approve the implementation of a management action plan following a review of the authority's finances by senior officers.

With the full approval of the council leader, WDC's new management team has produced a report, reassessing financial risks to the authority - and have developed an action plan to ensure that the council's financial management remains realistic, robust and sustainable.

Leader of the council, Mark Bee, welcomes the report and the work undertaken to address important issues decisively.

He said: “Chief executive, Stephen Baker and our new director of resources, Alan McFarlane, have reassessed the financial risks to the authority and have made clear recommendations about how these risks should be dealt with. It is important that we address these matters now and the action plan included in this report is clear evidence of the professionalism and decisiveness I expect from Stephen and his new team.

“The management restructure has enabled specialists to conduct an almost forensic analysis of the authority's finances and even if their recommendations cause us pain, it will have been worthwhile. These risks could pose a genuine threat to this authority and the report leaves us in absolutely no doubt about the possible consequences.

“But although some of the messages are stark, doing nothing would be worse and it is important that we now have the right people in place to effect the required changes.”

The report confirms that the risks, identified in the 2008-09 budget, are serious enough to require immediate remedial action in seeking to maintain a balanced budget. This action will include a request for support from the Department of Work & Pensions and the Communities & Local Government Department.

The report also recommends continuation of a review of staffing priorities, the creation of more robust financial reporting and management procedures to ensure that such risks are recognised earlier and dealt with more effectively.

Mr Bee continued: “It is worth remembering that we are identifying possible risk, not probability, but by identifying these concerns we can act decisively and this is an indication of the progress we are making under the management of Stephen Baker and colleagues.

“These financial messages merely re-emphasise what we have been saying for some time now. This organisation needs to change; it needs to be more efficient and leaner. The restructure of management is the beginning and changes will continue throughout the organisation to ensure we are fit for purpose.

“We have some momentum now and even if things must get worse before they get better, I share the determination of the chief executive to be open, clear and unequivocal about what needs to be done.”

The report will be heard at the first meeting of the council's new cabinet on May 29.

ENDS

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