CHESTER'S council coffers are slipping further towards the red as the credit crunch tightens its grip on the Town Hall's £22m spending plans.
The Tory controlled Executive is due to hear on Thursday (November 6) the council is heading towards a £1.21m shortfall unless corrective measures are taken, up by £112,000 since an earlier report.
Resources portfolio holder Cllr Adrian Walmsley (Con, Newton St Michael's) and strategic director Mr Jim Cassin have already pulled together a recovery package which they have now revised to take account of what they describe as the “budget pressures” facing the council.
The original £1.1m shortfall was due to be financed by almost £0.5m of savings in services, which were said not to affect frontline activities, an additional £400,000 plus being taken from the kitty and £200,000 in staff savings.
They are now proposing to find £555,000 from services and an extra £45,000 in savings from staff turnover.
Cllr Walmsley points out that in setting its budget for this year, the council agreed to have a £1m cheque ready to hand over to the new Cheshire West and Chester council which takes over on April 1, 2009.
Referring to the overspend the council now faces, Cllr Walmsley says: “It is considered imperative that a package of measures is implemented now.”
He warns, however, that it is “probable”" the council's budget position may deteriorate further over the coming months due to the state of the economy and says it is intended to continue to take a number of “precautionary measures”.
These include only filling any vacant posts if it is essential to do so to protect frontline services, not incurring avoidable expenditure and taking steps to make the most of income.
The main shortfalls include £336,000 in park and ride costs and a decline of £188,000 in car parking income.
Development services are struggling as result of the downturn with shortfalls of £365,000 in income from building control, development control and land charges while income at the town hall, which is closed for a £1.3m refurbishment, is down £76,000 on budget.
The increased shortfall ranges from bank charges and the hire of the Retreat House at Chester Cathedral to provide a temporary mansion house for Lord Mayor Cllr Brian Bailey to the cost of Freedom of the City events for HMS Albion and The Mercian Regiment.
Cllr Walmsley says he is hoping to bring in £47,000 from increased housing benefit and council tax subsidies and to find a further £40,000 linked to staff turnover.
Elsewhere, the council is hoping to achieve savings in everything from rural bus tours and measures to deal with giant hogweed to cutting back on international links and CCTV maintenance.