DORSET Council could start work next year with a £15.4 million budget gap.

Financial projections make the assumption that the new council, which starts in April, will be allowed to impose the maximum council tax charge on local residents and that the Government financial settlement is the best it can be.

It also assumes that the same council tax will be charged across the whole area, which has not yet been agreed by the Government.

In the same report to next week’s shadow executive committee the cost of transforming the existing councils into one, and creating a new town council for Weymouth, has been put at between £18million and £27million, well above the £13million anticipated.

The figures have led Liberal Democrat leader at Dorset County Council, Nick Ireland, to warn that the predicted savings forecast by consultants PWC at the start of the local government reorganisation process as being unlikely to be achieved.

“The implication is that savings will have to be made. Some may rise immediately as a result of the coalescence of the six council, but nowhere near that figure,” he told a public meeting in Crossways village hall,

And he said that the new council would not look much different when it comes into being in April next year – with the same staff, doing the same job, with the same managers in the same offices.

A report to shadow executive member next week (Oct 15) says that the new council can save between £6m and £8m by reducing around 200 managerial posts and that it may be able to get between £8.5m and £12.5 million by the sale of buildings and other assets.

Other areas being looked at to maximise income include fees and charges and re-arranging the combined councils debts and investments to produce a better return.

Councillors are being told that if all the measures work out they could still achieve a balanced budget for 2019-20:

“Through the delivery of increased income, convergence savings and reductions of stranded costs the Council should be in a position to have a balanced budget for 2019/20 providing there are no significant changes in the 2018/19 budgets of the sovereign councils which impacts upon 2019/20,” said senior finance officer Jason Vaughan in a report.

A final budget proposal will be considered by the executive on February 11th with proposals going to the shadow council on February 20th.