Councillors warned: Flintshire faces ‘hard choices’ before setting next budget
Flintshire Council faces some ‘hard choices’ before setting its budget next year, councillors have been warned.
It is anticipated the authority will need to find an additional £14m worth of savings to set a balanced budget for 2024/25.
But due to having to increase spending in the homelessness service, the council is also grappling with an expected overspend of £2.4m this year.
The council’s ruling cabinet was made acutely aware of the challenges ahead at its meeting this month, the first since the summer recess.
Cabinet member for finance, Holywell West Cllr Paul Johnson (Lab) provided an update on the council’s position as it works towards setting its budget and council tax for next year.
It is already known that Flintshire will receive a 3.1 per cent increase in its annual settlement from the Welsh Government, but they may have to push for more funding from Cardiff as Cllr Johnson confirmed this is currently not enough to plug the gap.
He said: “It’s clear that our council faces a formidable fiscal challenge in the forthcoming financial year, should there be no significant movement in the indicative uplift provided by the Welsh Government.
“The council remains committed to working towards a more favourable settlement, working with and alongside our fellow Welsh councils in the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Association).
“We find ourselves facing a shortfall of £14m to achieve a legally balanced budget. Urgent cost reductions must be considered as a matter of upmost priority for this gap to be bridged.
“This will be a budget of hard choices, no doubt about that and we have to be realistic about the decisions we have to take.”
Cllr Johnson said the values and priorities of the council and its leadership would shape what choices are made, and that they will be responsible, fair and transparent in decision making.
All councillors will have their say, through scrutiny committees and budget workshops scheduled to start as early as next month.
Chief finance officer Gary Ferguson said: “It’s a major challenge for the council to get to a balanced position in March next year.”
He added that the national pay award issue was still to be resolved, and with the homelessness service and out of county social service placements contributing to an overspend, much is still unknown about how much the council will actually have to find in savings.
Mr Ferguson said with the autumn statement from the Chancellor scheduled for November, Welsh Government settlement funding is expected to be announced in the week running up to Christmas.
Council leader, Flint Castle Cllr Ian Roberts (Lab) was keen to stress that decisions would be made by all 67 councillors.
He said: “I’m extremely aware that some very difficult decisions need to be made.
“These decisions face the whole of the council. Budgetary decisions are made by the whole of the council.
“We may make recommendations, but decisions are made by the whole of the council.”
By Rory Sheehan – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).