RAIDING reserve funds should prevent Dorset Council needing to set an emergency budget this year.

The council is currently on course for a £43m shortfall by the end of the current financial year.

Financial brief holder Cllr Tony Ferrari says the authority should manage to last out until next April and says he is still hopeful of further Government grants.

Lib Dem opposition leader Nick Ireland has warned that the Tory leadership’s policy of taking money from reserve funds is not sustainable and once spent the money is likely to be lost forever.

“Given the current projected deficit of £43.1m and a general reserve of £28m, it implies an additional raid on our reserves to the tune of at least £15m, assuming we are actually permitted to wipe out our general reserve completely,” Cllr Ireland told this week’s Cabinet meeting.

Cllr Ferrari told the meeting that even the £43m shortfall figure was uncertain: “How quickly will our income return, how long will our extra cost continue?” he said.

He said that the latest round of government grants gave the council just under £3m and a recently announced income support scheme might deliver a further £6m.

He said that financial moves had made available a further £14.8m of reserves and recategorising a number of earmarked reserves could free up an additional £13.6m.

“We are therefore confident that, with some reduction of the gap from £43.1m, we will be able to manage the shortfall from our reserves and the current level of Government support,” said Cllr Ferrari.

The council has already announced that it will be leaving Princes House in Dorchester and Allenview in Wimborne to help save ongoing expenses – although the exact amount of the savings has not yet been fully calculated.

Work is continuing to see where the council can make other savings with some job losses possible through the ongoing reorganisation process.

Although neighbouring councils furloughed some of their staff and issued notices warning of redundancies Dorset Council managed to work through lockdown without having to resort to either measure.