SWINDON Council is predicting that it will have saved more than £450,000 of taxpayer’s money by the end of the financial year to plough back into one-off schemes.
In a cabinet report on February 5, the council revealed that it hasunderspent £459,000 in this year’s budget, which will be added to some of a £1.2m pot of contingency money to put towards one-off investments around the town.
David Renard, leader of the council, said: “The figures are a projection and are a result of careful budget management by the council.
“The budgets are set for the year ahead so that the council can deliver hundreds of services and it has to make some estimates.
“Everyone agreed to the plans in the Scrutiny Committee. It was decided that the underspend would be added to contingency money and would be invested in one-off projects, such as School Safety Zones.
“Most schools around the borough have asked for a one-off investment for the schemes, so the money we have been able to save will go towards that.
“If we didn’t have the underspend to spend on that then the schools would have to go without.”
But some councillors have raised concerns that the council has mismanaged the budget and over-charged residents, and then made cuts to important projects around the town.
Derique Montaut (Lab, Liden, Eldene and Park South) said: “Council mismanagement of the budget has meant the council is sitting on a £1.6m pot of money. The budget is set at the start of the year and they charge the council tax accordingly. That’s around two per cent of what they got that they haven’t spent.
“But where a couple of months ago Swindon was a pot hole city, especially in my area, it is now the Olympic champion of pot holes, with residents and councillors asking the council to do something about it but nothing has been done.
“They then cut services like Sure Start, and they cut funding for the regeneration of Liden and Eldene centres.”
But the council has reassured residents that any existing long-term project plans will continue to run, and that the saved money will strictly go towards one-off investments.
Coun Renard said: “There is a long term plan to regenerate village centres around Swindon, which will continue. The money is being invested in one-off projects we wouldn’t have been able to support had we not made the savings.
“Considering that the Eldene centre is to be demolished it seemed a waste of taxpayers money to invest in regenerating it.”