Stratford council chiefs confident they can plug funding gap - The Stratford Observer

Stratford council chiefs confident they can plug funding gap

Stratford Editorial 5th Oct, 2023   0

A SHOCKING report claiming Warwickshire County Council was at risk of being swept up by a region-wide cash crisis has led to the authority admitting it is facing its ‘most difficult financial position’ in over a decade.

But despite being identified as a ‘council under pressure’ by the Unison union report, WCC chiefs said they remained confident the authority could ‘navigate its way through the current situation to a brighter future.’

Warwickshire faces a funding gap of £18.1million for the 2024/25 financial year- the third highest in the West Midlands.

A WCC spokesperson said councillors and officers were braced for a difficult time but backed the authority’s track record of ‘prudent financial management.’

The spokesperson added: “Across the country, local authorities are facing significant financial challenges.

“Here in Warwickshire, we face many of the same root causes, with increases for example, in demand and costs across social care, education and home-to-school transport.

“Demand for services, inflation, market capacity and an increasing growth in the gap between spending needed on key services and funding have all combined.

“Following the budget forecast, the council has taken swift action to mitigate against overspending and has set out a financial recovery plan detailing how it will balance the books.”

Stratford District Council faces a black hole of almost £500,000 from April 2024, highlighted in its financial plan.

But the authority said it currently held sufficient reserves to cover such a funding gap in the short term.

A spokesperson added dipping into its reserves would give the authority the time needed for decisions on the delivery of services in light of ‘confirmed reduced funding.’

Unison gathered its data through Freedom of Information requests and from plans or papers from budget-setting meetings for those which did not respond.

Union bosses called on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to provide extra grant funding in the autumn statement before authorities across the West Midlands were ‘no longer able to cope.’

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities dismissed the union’s figures, claiming they did not take into account local authorities’ reserves, which rose ‘significantly’ over the pandemic.

A spokesperson said: “We stand ready to speak to any council that has concerns about its ability to manage its finances or faces pressures it has not planned for.

“Local authorities have seen an increase in Core Spending Power of up to £5.1billion or 9.4 per cent in cash terms on 2022/23, with almost £60 billion available for local government in England.”

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