Council braced for �3m cash bombshell

A council is still waiting to hear if it will be hit by a �3m bombshell, nearly a year after details of a potential cash crisis first emerged.Waveney District Council is on tenterhooks waiting to see how much in overpaid benefits it will have to return to the government.

A council is still waiting to hear if it will be hit by a �3m bombshell, nearly a year after details of a potential cash crisis first emerged.

Waveney District Council is on tenterhooks waiting to see how much in overpaid benefits it will have to return to the government.

The gravity of the threat was revealed last May after an investigation of the council's finances exposed a potential �5.4m overspend risk to its budget.

Since then, the Conservative-led authority has made widespread savings, including a wave of voluntary redundancies, to achieve a balanced budget.


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However, government officials could yet provide a major sting in the tail once they decide how much Waveney should repay in overpaid benefits.

The Department of Work and Pensions provides local councils funds with which to pay benefits to local taxpayers, but any overpayment can result in demands for cash to be returned, a process known as a claw back.

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Waveney's director of resources, Alan McFarlane, told a recent meeting of the council's scrutiny committee that government officials would consider the case soon.

'We'll then have an indication of how much money they will require us to return and we'll be able to enter negotiations about that sum.'

Mr McFarlane added that, in practical terms, the money could be recouped over a number of years and that the council had approximately �400,000 in reserve to put towards repayments.

Details of Waveney's overall budget improvement emerged at a meeting on Thursday when the council agreed to a 3.9pc increase in its share of the council tax.

Council leader Mark Bee said: 'The council undertook a review of staffing levels, which included the deletion of vacant posts, team restructuring and a programme of voluntary redundancies.

'In total, this review has realised a sum of around �1.4m - a considerable sum which will go some way towards enabling the council to move forward on a sound financial footing.'

Last month, the council revealed 28 people had taken voluntary redundancy and a further 37 posts were not replaced after people left their jobs.

All departments have been asked to make savings, but council bosses have insisted they will not impact on frontline services.

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