No emer­gency bud­get, but big short­fall looms

Ormskirk Advertiser - - Front Page - BY JAMIE LOPEZ

LAN­CASHIRE County Coun­cil will not need to hold an emer­gency bud­get this fi­nan­cial year de­spite the coron­avirus pan­demic.

But it says dras­tic cuts may be needed from 2021 with a pre­dicted £170m short­fall over the next three years.

At a meet­ing of its cab­i­net last week, mem­bers heard that the ef­fects of the cri­sis would have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the fi­nances of the coun­cil for this and forth­com­ing years.

Given avail­able re­serves and cur­rently lower lev­els of de­mand for a num­ber of ser­vices due to lock­down and so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures, the author­ity will not need an emer­gency bud­get.

But mem­bers were warned that es­ti­mated con­tin­u­ing fi­nan­cial pres­sures sug­gested that with­out sig­nif­i­cant high level in­ter­ven­tion, pos­si­bly from the pro­posed com­pre­hen­sive spend­ing re­view in the au­tumn, ac­tion would be need to re­duce net ex­pen­di­ture to meet po­ten­tial fund­ing gap for 2021/22 and be­yond.

Re­vised fore­cast fund­ing gaps of £44.555m, £54.325m and £71.703m for the three years from 2021 rep­re­sent a cu­mu­la­tive fund­ing gap of £170.583m, which is an in­crease of £105.092m from the cu­mu­la­tive fund­ing gap of £65.491m last re­ported to mem­bers.

Based on this fore­cast there are suf­fi­cient re­serves to sup­port the bud­gets for 2021/22 and 2022/23, which al­lows time for the nec­es­sary ac­tions to be taken in a planned way to ad­dress the fi­nan­cial gap.

The coun­cil said that to ad­dress the fore­cast pres­sure, of­fi­cers, work­ing with na­tional pro­fes­sional or­gan­i­sa­tions, will “de­velop an ev­i­dence base and nar­ra­tive” to in­flu­ence the spend­ing re­view.

The coun­cil will also look to max­imise ef­fi­cien­cies across ser­vices and com­mence work to iden­tify po­ten­tial sav­ings should a poor set­tle­ment arise.

Coun­cil leader Cllr Ge­off Driver CBE said: “Thanks to good fi­nan­cial man­age­ment Lan­cashire County Coun­cil is in a much bet­ter po­si­tion than some other lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

“The work we have done over the past three years to put the coun­cil on a sta­ble fi­nan­cial foot­ing means we are in a good place to deal with the fi­nan­cial im­pact of the coron­avirus cri­sis.

“We are hope­ful that the pro­posed com­pre­hen­sive spend­ing re­view in the au­tumn will also re­flect the ex­tra fi­nan­cial bur­den which lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have been placed un­der, and will con­tinue to lobby gov­ern­ment to en­sure a fair set­tle­ment.

“As al­ways our pri­or­ity re­mains en­sur­ing we pro­vide the best ser­vices pos­si­ble, espe­cially for our vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents. The past five months have shown just how es­sen­tial our ser­vices are to peo­ple.”

Lan­cashire County Coun­cil leader Cllr Ge­off Driver

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