Local authority finances are sometimes like “turning around the Titanic”, according to the deputy leader of cash-strapped Southampton City Council.

Cllr Simon Letts made the reference to the infamous ship, which sank in 1912 and claimed 1,517 lives after setting sail from Southampton, as he said once finances are heading in the right direction “momentum tends to carry it forward”.

The senior Labour councillor said he sensed a new “collective effort” to minimise expenditure and maximise outputs for residents in the city.

He gave the upbeat assessment when providing an update on the council’s financial position at a meeting on Tuesday, June 25.

Cllr Letts said “for the first time in some while” the authority was in an in-year surplus position.

After two months of the 2024/25 financial year, the forecast outturn stood at a £3.2million underspend, a report said.

This was largely due to an improvement in forecasts for provider uplifts and care package costs to the tune of £2.47million, and a £700,000 drop in the predicted spend on children’s residential places and independent foster carers.

Cabinet member for finance Cllr Letts said continuing the surplus at the same rate for the rest of the year would take the figure to around £19million.

He said: “If we can reach that target, that would be a substantial way to us closing our in-year budget gap and it will minimise the amount of government borrowing we have to take on to close the budget gap in-year, which of course has real serious implications in terms of our revenue expenditure going forward.

“This is all good news but I just hope we can keep it up.

“Well done to everybody that has been involved with working hard and I have said in the past that sometimes councils finances are like turning around the Titanic.

“Once it’s turned and going in the right direction, the momentum tends to carry it forward.”

Southampton City Council has in-principle approval from government for exceptional financial support in 2024/25.

This allows the authority to use up to £121.6million in capital resources to cover revenue costs.

The council was only able to set a balanced budget by including the use of £39.3million of exceptional financial support to offset a deficit.

A target of selling £85million of assets has been set through an approved asset development and disposal programme.

The government set a condition that the council must submit a detailed transformation and improvement plan by late August.

Details on the transformation plan are set to be revealed next month.

Cllr Letts said: “I do sense that a new collective effort to minimise expenditure and maximise outputs for the citizens of Southampton, and we will continue this debate at our next meeting when we will be looking at the transformation plans, which are well in advanced and will come into the public domain for our July cabinet.”