DEVON County Council's budget will effectively break even at the end of the financial year, councillors heard last week.

This year has seen dire warnings about local authorities "going bankrupt", slashing services and imposing double digit council tax increases.

But a new report by Devon's Director of Finance, Angie Sinclair, predicts that the county's revenue budget of just under £700 million will effectively break even in April with a small overspend of £291,000 currently being forecast.

Her report covers the current financial year to the end of January with two more months to go.

She says: "Financial risks within adult social care and children and young people are still being experienced but the work underway across the authority to support these pressures continues to ensure the whole organisation is focused on achieving a break-even position for the end of the year.

"The position has improved significantly since Month 8, with the forecast overspend reducing from £4.5 million to nearly breakeven, and demonstrates strong financial management.

"The forecast break-even position is a huge achievement and the result of a continued focus on financial control and would not have been possible without the authority pulling together as One Devon and our work with our partners.

“This is mitigating and responding to in-year pressures, delivering planned savings and providing services within the budgets agreed."

Councillors heard the figures included the £10 million savings that were needed to create a reserve to support Devon's submission to the Government for financial support for its spending deficit on special needs education or SEND. 

Angie Sinclair said the work with the Department for Education – known as the SEND Safety Valve - is progressing well and a Ministerial decision is expected soon.

She added: “Demonstrating financial stability, commitment to delivering planned actions and the adoption of a strong governance structure has placed the authority in as good a position as possible ahead of the awaited Ministerial decision.”

Devon’s Cabinet member for finance, Phil Twiss, said: “This report is evidence that the difficult choices Devon County Council has had to make in recent years are putting it on to a long-term sustainable footing, providing the best services possible to people in Devon within the constraints of finite financial resources, with the SEND overspend critically important to this.”