‘Bend Over Here It Comes Again’ – B.O.H.I.C.A – it’s an acronym that grew amongst the United States armed forces during the Vietnam War, it’s used colloquially to indicate that an adverse situation is about to repeat itself.
And for those challenged with balancing Flintshire County Council’s budget for next year, it certainly looks like BOHICA time is here again.
The Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be asked to note an updated forecast for the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) when it next meets on 19 April.
The council is already forecasting a £10.6m gap in the budget for 2019/20 but that could end up being as high as £15m.
A council spokesperson says the Medium Term Financial Strategy is an important first step in the annual budget setting process; “it considers national, local, workforce and social care pressures as well as inflation”
“Due to a number of areas of uncertainty at this early stage of the budget process, the potential budget gap for 2019/20 ranges from £6m to £15m, with a high level projection of £10.6m, proving once again that the Council has a significant challenge in order to be able to balance its budget.”
The council says any savings will be “on top of the significant efficiency savings of £79m that the Council has made over ten years whilst protecting local services and jobs, despite being a low-funded Council.”
The Leader of Flintshire County Council, Councillor Aaron Shotton, said:
“We need to work harder than ever to plan and deliver essential council services in this continuing period of financial austerity. The funding formula for local government in Wales means that Flintshire is particularly exposed to the impacts of significant annual budget reductions when combined with the increasing needs of our residents for key services such as social care and education.
“Each council service area is subject to extensive and ongoing reviews and is being asked how they can respond to these unprecedented cost pressures.
“In addition to rising demand for services and anticipated further reductions in Government grant, the Council is faced with the prospect of increasing financial pressures from policy decisions taken nationally that are not fully funded at a UK and Welsh Government level, notably Local Government staff and teacher pay agreements and changes to social care entitlements.
“The Council will continue to campaign and lobby for the necessary support from Governments over the coming months, in the interests of the residents of our county.”
The increasing demands on social care continue to provide significant challenges for the council and investment in this area has been included in the budget “at the top of the range pending more detailed work.”
“Cost pressures in education and schools continues to be one of the biggest challenges to the ongoing budget alongside social care.”
Council tax bills in Flintshire have already risen by 6.7% partly in a bid to give schools get the funding they need.
The increase for 2018/19 is made up of a 5% rise to balance the council’s books with a further 1.7% increase on top to help schools.
The rise has seen council tax for a Band D property go up from £1,104 for 2017/18 to £1,178 – an increase of £74.