Council's deficit is likely to get worse

Councillors aghast at a £2m deficit in their authority's finances were yesterday warned that the figure is likely to rise and cannot yet be quantified.

Councillors aghast at a £2m deficit in their authority's finances were yesterday warned that the figure is likely to rise and cannot yet be quantified.

The EDP reported yesterday how controversial plans to use council tax payers' money to buy homes and upgrade sewers in south Norfolk had left the incoming Tory administration with a financial headache.

And council members attending a South Norfolk Council cabinet meeting yesterday were horrified to be told that since the figures were presented in a draft report the situation had materially worsened.

The Tories seized power from the Lib Dems in last month's elections and pledged to scrap a scheme to spend up £2.4m on buying homes which would then be given away free to housing associations.

The idea had been to sell council land elsewhere to pay for the homes.

But the Tories claim there is a £1m shortfall from the land sales and they had to follow through with the policy.

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And they said a scheme to upgrade sewers in the district was over-running by £967,000.

But the Lib Dems have hit back insisting they left the finances in order and had made sure it could cover any increase in the sewer scheme costs.

Council leader John Fuller said: “I had instructed officers to come clean about the council's finances resulting in one of the most complex financial reports the council has ever seen.

“I asked about the state of the authority's finances and it was at this stage that the head of financial services warned members that since the report had been issued the situation had materially worsened, but it was too early to quantify the amount.

“This was unwelcome news as the council is still reeling from the reaction that there has been a £1m overspend on sewers and a £1m shortfall because of the houses. Now we are looking at the possibility of a further shortfall.”

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