“Huge uncertainty” with council finances due to Government delays

Council chiefs are in limbo with finances because of a number of delays with Government policies – and it’s not just Brexit.

By Lucy Ashton, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 22 July, 2019, 14:10
David Phillips, head of strategic finance, Sheffield Council

Finance bosses say they are in an “increasingly uncertain position” because of the change of Prime Minister and a number of delays with spending reviews.

David Phillips, head of strategic finance at the council, told a meeting: “It’s an increasingly uncertain position with a new Prime Minister, the spending review promised this summer is delayed, the fair funding review to set our funding levels for the next four years is almost certainly delayed, there are changes to business rates and we have been waiting for a green paper on social care which has been delayed and delayed for a number of years so there is a huge range of uncertainty.

“It’s been quite difficult for local authorities who can’t set budgets and plan in a very uncertain environment.”

Mr Phillips also said there was an overspend but not as much as previous years.

“We are forecasting an overspend of £5.4m this year and the context is our net revenue budget is over £400m.

“We normally start off forecasting an overspend and in the last few years that overspend has been significantly higher so this is an improved position from previous years and reflects the hard work everyone has put in and enabled us to find a little bit of extra resources for social care.

“The positive news is that it should enable us to focus more on the medium term now because we’re not trying to firefight.

“It looks like that overspend will reduce further and dribble down by a million, so again it’s going in the right direction.

“I know from previous years we always get some late government and NHS grants coming in so an overspend of that size at this point in the year is positive news – as long as we can keep on top of it, it means we can focus on the medium term.

“There is still a social care overspend and lots of pressures and I’m not minimising the challenges we face with an ageing population, more demand and limited resources from central government.”