Cumberland Council has announced that it is working to control escalating costs across services, whilst also balancing the move to a new unitary authority, as it acknowledges the financial challenges that are to come.
The council published its financial situation yesterday, ahead of the Executive meeting on the 3rd October, with the situation ahead looking to be “challenging” as it shares similar concerns to other councils that are struggling with budgets, and growing demands on their services. This sentiment was echoed by Leeds City Council as it called for urgent action to support frontline services, whilst financial struggles have been seen on an even larger scale in Birmingham.
According to the council, initial forecasts are suggesting that a further cost of £28.9 million could be placed on services, however saving measures, as well as government support, that number could decrease t0 £17.5 million. This figure would be funded through the council’s reserves.
The reasons behind these increasing costs are down to the increasing demands within Adult and Children’s care services, which the council has a legal obligation to fund and has seen an unprecedented rise in the demand and complexity of need. These pressures have also led to an increased reliance on agency staff, which is a challenge that is being faced by many councils around the country and has led to recruitment struggles.
Cumberland Council’s Executive Member for Financial Planning and Assets, Cllr Barbara Cannon, said:
“The combination of years of funding cuts from central government, rising costs, and surging service demand has created a formidable challenge for local authorities like ours. We are constantly pressed to do more with less.
“We are committed to building upon the transformation and improvement initiatives already underway as part of the local government reorganisation process. Our primary goal is to ensure every taxpayer's pound is spent wisely to deliver essential services across Cumberland.”
A number of financial pressure points were identified by the council when it agreed the original budget, with a number of duplicated positions needing to be staffed thanks to the ongoing reorganisation that has seen responsibility being split between Cumberland Council and Westmorland and Furness Council.
Councillor Mark Fryer, Leader of Cumberland Council, added:
“We know that we face significant challenges in the coming years. Some of which we can offset from the development of our transformation plan and implementation of the new operating model.
“But we simply have to acknowledge the need for public service reform in this country. We need a new deal for local government.
“After more than a decade of neglect and austerity, the Government has to wake up and address the future of council funding. The existing public sector funding formula doesn’t work for areas like ours and needs to be overhauled. Pressures, particularly on councils with social care responsibilities, are pushing many well-run councils to the brink of bankruptcy.
“The demand on social care services grows daily and is compounded by rising inflation and interest rates which intensifies our financial complexities. Whilst we now have a clearer understanding of the financial legacies from our four predecessor councils, we are acutely aware that we have work to do but the local government sector needs national help.
“As a new unitary authority, we have integrated services on an unprecedented scale. We have a comprehensive plan for Cumberland, but we recognise that the next few years will be very demanding. Our primary objective is to continue to deliver high quality services to our residents. We will explore all opportunities and work with willing partners to ensure this happens.”
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