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18.09.18

Surrey County Council issued warning as council faces near-£100m deficit

Surrey County Council will face a funding gap of almost £100m by March 2021 unless it acts now, a report by accountancy experts CIPFA has warned.

In a report commissioned by the council, CIPFA said that Surrey won’t have sufficient reserves to meet its expected budget gap and will need “to reform fundamentally how it provides services to communities.”

According to the body’s analysis, Surrey’s gross expenditure is expected to increase by 6.5% over four years, but funding will only rise by 2.4% over the same period – leading to this year’s funding gap rising to £86m in March 2020 and then to £94m by March 2021.

The report said that a restructuring of a top-heavy finance team is overdue and that “the pace of change needs to be quicker.”

Responding to the findings, Surrey council leader David Hodge said: “It’s critical that we discharge our responsibility to our residents and ensure every penny of their council tax is spent as effectively as possible.

“It’s well known that local government budgets across the country are under severe pressure. However, we have a duty to ensure the council remains as financially sound as possible in these unprecedented times and that’s why we asked CIPFA to do this review.”

Hodge added that while the local authority has achieved a balanced budget or “small underspend” in the past eight years, it has actively wanted its financial situation “to be independently challenged.”

“We know there is much more to do to make our finances sustainable and able to withstand the huge pressures in adult and children’s services that we’ll continue to face into the future,” the leader continued.

“But with a new senior team leading the council, including an interim director of finance, we’re taking all the right steps to achieve this. That includes the work to transform services around residents’ needs, bolstering skills and capacity in the finance team and a review of our Orbis partnership looking at how things can be done better.”

The council has already appointed new executive directors and planning to manage extra demand and reduce costs.

Surrey CC appointed a former London borough senior financial officer as its new interim director of finance last month.

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 Top Image - Surrey CC

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