EAST Renfrewshire Council has agreed to maintain a budget underspend of more than £450,000 to prepare for a “very challenging” financial year.

The local authority’s cabinet supported a report from chief financial officer Margaret McCrossan which suggested consolidating current underspends to help address future budget plans.

The report revealed the council’s projected revenue out-turn position for 2018/19 is an operational underspend of £455,000.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Mrs McCrossan said deciding against re-allocating the money would give the council flexibility “to ease into a difficult financial year next year.”

She added there would be a “very challenging” financial outlook going forward and advised all departments to “closely monitor their probably out-turn position and consolidate and maximise underspends wherever possible.”

Council leader Tony Buchanan backed the report before it was approved by cabinet members.

Mrs McCrossan’s report highlighted a number of “operational variances that require management action to ensure that expenditure will be in line with budget at the end of the financial year.”

It continued: “At this time, it is expected that management action will lead to all overspends being recovered.

“Further, in view of the tighter than anticipated 2019/20 provisional grant settlement and the impact of the recent increases in pay offers, all departments are expected to consolidate and maximise underspends wherever possible in the current year in order to help address future budget provision.”

When the figures were forecast in November, there was a projected £109,000 underspend in the education department and a £418,000 underspend in the environment department, primarily due to a reduction in disposal costs within waste management.

There is a forecast £64,000 overspend in additional expenditure due to pay offers to teachers and local government staff, recorded as £449,000, and pension costs arising from service redesigns.

Councillor Buchanan said it was right to factor in provisional pay offers.

A projected underspend of £118,000 in the corporate and community department was said to be “mainly due to a combination of underspends within payroll costs.”