Carmarthenshire council has “significant dialogue” with third of schools in financial deficit

AROUND a third of Carmarthenshire’s schools are in deficit, the council’s corporate director has said.

Chris Moore said there has been “significant dialogue” with headteachers of the schools involved and that a lot of work was going into recovery plans.

The deficit issue was present in 2018-19 as well as the recent 2019-20 financial year when £1.6 million was moved from general reserves to address it.

Asked at a council audit committee meeting for an overview of what is done about the highest deficit schools, Mr Moore said he would be happy to bring a report back.

A separate audit, he said, was taking place about schools.

Mr Moore also said the money would need to be spent on more personal protective equipment, sanitisers and hand-washing stations for schools.

“I have not got a clear indication either way whether the Welsh Government will be supportive in funding these items,” he said.

But he pointed out that less money had been spent on school meals of late than normal.

Mr Moore also said the council was in discussions with the Welsh Government about a first-quarter income loss of £6 million, due to coronavirus restrictions.

“There are very many elements which are up in the air,” he said.

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The director said he would be in a better position in September to advise councillors whether restrictions could be needed on non-essential council spending.

He said he was “not uncomfortable with the position” currently.

But he reckoned the Welsh Government “will be challenged by the funding they have got available”.

Cllr David Jenkins, the executive board member for resources, said his main concern was next financial year’s settlement from Cardiff Bay.

“That is going to be a critical settlement,” he said. “It could put a lot of constraints on all our plans.”

The discussion came during an item about the council’s latest set of accounts, which said there had been an overall underspend of £844,000 in 2019-20, partly due to a higher than expected council tax collection.

The council’s total borrowing stood at £433 million at the end of the year, which was well within its £588 million limit.

During the year the authority spent £1.4 million on exit packages for 97 departing staff, including two packages of £100,000 to £150,000. Just over half of the 97 were compulsory redundancies.

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