WARWICKSHIRE County Council has underspent by £21 million this year – prompting criticism from union chiefs.
Over the next four years the cash-strapped council has to save £92 million which has already led to them shedding jobs and making service cuts.
Earlier this year council administrators forecast an underspend of nearly £4 million to the 2013/2014 budget – the day to day running of services – which left public sector union Unison baffled when the dramatic underspend was revealed in newly published report.
Unison representative Tony Rabiaotti said: “It looks amateurish. Warwickshire County Council have shed jobs and cut services with a zeal that indicated they had no money at all and now they are saying they have millions they didn’t know about.
“All the councils’ are having to tighten their belts but cutting all these services and jobs and to then say we found £21 million is adding insult to injury.
“People should ask what their council tax is paying for. Essentially they are paying for their council tax to be put into reserves when they aren’t getting the services they should be getting.”
But county finance spokesman Coun Alan Cockburn said the savings were due to government grants coming in late which accounted for nearly half the underspend.
He told the Observer: “We are using our money to deliver the priorities that the council outlined when setting its budget.
“The underspends are generally one-off and are the result of grants from government or savings being delivered early. Neither of these sources of income were definitely coming to us when we made our financial plans for the year and could not be factored in. They have in essence become windfalls that we can use in future years to help us deliver the next round of savings.”
But Coun Cockburn doubted the money could be used to reinstate jobs or services which had been cut.
He said: “One-off money cannot be used to manage ongoing savings and offset any reductions that need to be made. That just leaves a bigger hole in our finances resulting in greater, avoidable cuts being made down the line.
“We are managing the council’s finances over the long term, not just from year to year, and we have a duty to act prudently to protect our residents.”