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12.09.18

Warrington council predicts £6m deficit but pledges ‘rigorous financial management’

Warrington Borough Council is forecasting an overspend of £6.1m for 2018-19 according to its Q1 forecast, making it just the latest in a string of local authorities to report a looming deficit this financial year.

This is, however, slightly down from the forecast for the same period last year of £6.2m, thus representing a “very prudent position” taking into account uncertainties that may occur during the year.

In February the council approved a £136.8m budget for 2018-19, making savings of £15.5m. It has made more than £121m of savings since 2010-11 in line with reductions in government funding, but will need to save a further £38m over the four-year budget cycle.

A board meeting paper said that attempts were being made throughout the year to stay within financial limits, but that “this is becoming increasingly challenging as budgets are cut further.”

Cllr Russ Bowden, executive board member for corporate finance, explained: “The council does have historical, well-established and robust financial management procedures in place to monitor budgets and mitigate forecast overspends.

“This has been very successful in the past as an early warning indicator to identify where savings are at risk of not being achieved.

“In 2018-19, rigorous management and monitoring of the financial position will continue to ensure that all proposals are on track and the Outcomes Based Budgeting Programme Board continues to oversee the delivery of savings.”

The challenges facing Warrington BC are similar to those faced by many other local authorities across the UK.

East Sussex announced last month that it is slashing services in order to prevent a Northamptonshire-style financial crisis which has left the Midlands authority bankrupt. Other councils predicting a looming deficit include Hartlepool, Swindon, Burnley, Highland, Glasgow, Oxfordshire, Torbay and Somerset.

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Image credit: Geograph

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