News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Flintshire Council’s financial black hole for next year increases to more than £13m

Flintshire Council’s anticipated financial black hole for next year has increased to more than £13m, a new report shows.

The local authority had previously estimated its budget gap for 2020/21 to stand at £9.8m.

However, senior figures have now raised that forecast to £13.3m amid a ruck of extra pressures.

It includes around £2m required to meet a pay increase for teachers and £1.1m to cover out of county placements for social services and education.

New council leader Ian Roberts, who was appointed earlier this week, said the main methods of tackling the gap would include the authority’s settlement from the Welsh Government and money raised through council tax.

In a report which will go berfore cabinet members next week, he said: “At the council budget meeting on 19 February a high level overview of the range of potential pressures was presented.

“At that time the forecast for 2020/21 was £9.5m with the overall “gap” for the three year period forecast to be £26m.

“The 2020/21 “gap” increased to £9.8m due to the additional use of reserves in balancing the budget for 2019/20 at the final stage.

“Further detailed work has been undertaken to refine the forecasts to reflect more updated information based on current intelligence.

“The high level projection, based on known issues and excluding national funding scenarios, shows that the potential budget gap has risen to £13.3m for 2020/21.”

In the run up to setting its budget for the current financial year, a cross-party group of politicians from Flintshire visited Cardiff to lobby AMs for more money.

However, the Labour administration opted to put council tax up by more than eight per cent after most of their funding requests were not met.

At present, the authority is expecting to receive the same amount of funding from the Welsh Government for 2020/21 as it did this year.

The report does not contain a forecast of the likely bill for ratepayers next year, but does point to an increase.

Cllr Roberts added: “The final settlement announcement in December for 2019/20 advised of a reduction in aggregate external finance of 0.3 per cent, although there was no further information provided of indicative funding allocations from 2020/21 onwards.

“Therefore, the forecast currently shows that the council will receive £188.980m which is the same amount of funding as 2019/20 i.e. ‘cash flat’ at this early stage.

“The council has limited controllable options to address the potential budget gap and the developing high-level strategy will need to include: settlements from Welsh Government – funding of pay awards, social care commissioning and indexation of settlements for inflation together with sustainable base funding for schools.

“Council tax and local income strategy – annual increases in council tax, next phase of income policy and commercialisation of schemes such as green energy.”

The report will be considered by cabinet members at a meeting on Tuesday, 16 April.

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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