A SHORTAGE of resources, both human and financial, could yet threaten a smooth transition to the new Dorset Council in April next year.

Outside staff are being hired in to help with the process – at additional cost – and budget gaps are emerging.

Acting senior officer Matt Prosser said this week that while some staff were finding workloads reducing in the district and borough councils as projects began to wind down – they couldn’t necessarily be switched to the new council because they did not always have the necessary skills.

“We do have a challenge of resources and, because it’s August, parts of the process are moving at different speeds..but I am confident we will be on target by mid-September,” he said.

The shadow executive was also warned on Tuesday that there is not enough in reserves to meet the estimated £27million in ‘transformation costs’ of changing to the new unitary council.

Cllr Tony Ferrari, who is overseeing the new council’s budgets, said despite the apparent problem there were several ways of bridging the gap and he was confident it could be achieved.

But he did admit that a number of unknown factors, including how much Government cash the new council will get, was making it hard to pin down expected budgets.

He predicted that by the end of September the shadow council should have a better idea over a range of issues including the transfer of staff, the amounts the disappearing councils would bring with them and whether or not the sale of land and buildings was likely to help balance the books.

At the moment the new council is predicted to start life with the need to make first year savings of an absolute minimum of £6million. Despite this a financial report is still confident of being able to achieve an annual saving of more than double the figure.

The biggest saving overall is by shedding staff – put at £10.1 million, although the report admits that many of the lost jobs would not come in the first year, but in the second.

Reducing the number of councillors from more than 200 across the existing councils down to 80 should save £600,000 a year.

One of the key risks currently highlighted is the insistence of the Inland Revenue that all staff are on a common payroll at the birth of the new council.

Finance chief Jason Vaughan said he was hopeful the problem could be resolved in time: “We have engaged consultants to find a solution and we are having discussions with the HRMC. I think we will get a solution, but at this time its labelled as a ‘red risk’ because we don’t have it.”

Cllr Ferrari told the committee that with a target of setting a draft budget by the New Year, ideally earlier, the new council still had a long way to go: “There is a lot of numbers we don’t understand yet…the world is moving very quickly. Almost as soon as you write them down, they’re out of date.”