Posted: Sat 8th Jan 2022

Flintshire Council faces ‘significant’ budget challenges despite £19m funding uplift

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

A local authority has said it faces “significant challenges” to set a balanced budget despite receiving a funding uplift of more than £19m.

Flintshire Council is due to be given a revenue settlement of approximately £232m for the next financial year, compared to nearly £213m for the current year.

The provisional figure announced by the Welsh Government last month represents a 9.2 per cent increase.

However, while the council previously estimated it would need £20.7m to plug the gap in its budget, that amount is expected to rise substantially due to other decisions made by ministers.

It includes a move to ensure social care staff receive the “real living wage” of £9.90 an hour and a pay increase for teachers.

A hardship fund set up to help authorities recover extra costs and lost income caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is also expected to come to an end in March.

The uplift received by Flintshire places it 14th out out the 22 Welsh local authorities, which on average saw a 9.4 per cent rise.

In a report, the council’s chief executive Neal Cockerton said: “The 2022/23 provisional settlement will contribute £19.559m towards the previously reported additional budget requirement of £20.696m.

“Whilst the annual uplift represents a significant increase in cash terms there will still be significant challenges to address when setting the budget for 2022/23 which will require a significant amount of urgent and prioritised work.

“It is clear that the allocation provided for 2022/23 will need to cover in full the impacts of all pay awards as well as the national expectation for councils to implement the Real Living Wage.

“Implementation of the Real Living Wage may have significant cost implications for the council, not just for our own employees but for those within the independent sector from whom we commission care.”

The council has claimed a total of £6.9m from the government hardship fund in the current financial year up until the end of November.

About £1.1m of the amount related to lost income and Mr Cockerton said an “urgent risk assessment” was being carried out as it draws to a close.

The authority has until February to respond to the provisional settlement.

Both its cabinet and full council will need to approve a budget for the next financial year during the same month.

In December, Rebecca Evans, Welsh Minister for Finance and Local Government, described the funding announcement as positive news.

She said: “This is a good settlement for local government, one that provides councils with a stable platform to plan their budgets for the coming financial year and beyond.

“We fully recognise the pressures local authorities are facing, and will continue to work closely with local government so we can meet the shared challenges we face and deliver services to benefit the people of Wales.”

The impact of the budget announcement on Flintshire Council will be discussed at a meeting of its corporate resources scrutiny committee on Thursday, January 13.

Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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