Council takes steps to deal with emerging financial challengesFinance
01 September 2022
West Northamptonshire Council is taking precautionary steps to deal with a fresh wave of significant financial challenges emerging as issues for many local authorities from the continuing cost of living crisis and lasting impacts of the Covid pandemic.
The council’s financial position is not unique and being faced by all councils due to a range of national factors, including rising inflation rates which are driving up Council running costs, construction costs and the cost of services that the council buys, the ongoing impact of Covid on income and on the demand for services.
The challenges, which are particularly evident in the important work the council does in supporting children in care, vulnerable adults, and those needing temporary accommodation, are likely to result in an unpredicted shortfall in its budget this year, with the pressures set to continue into 2023/24. The council is taking swift action to ensure it continues to deliver its ambitions, and meet its duty to provide vital services to local communities.
Finance officers are currently working through the figures to confirm the authority’s future financial projections in time for its Quarter One reporting to both members of Cabinet and Scrutiny Committee later this month. However prudent planning is already under way for a potential shortfall in the range of between £5million and £10million.
Senior managers and Cabinet members continually monitoring budget and spending for the authority, and this week all WNC staff received the latest update on financial pressures and the need to take immediate action to start heading off the issues. New measures include stricter spending controls across teams and a major review of existing budgets to see where further savings and efficiencies can be made. Alongside this, the council continues to drive forward its work to transform services.
Councillor Malcolm Longley, Cabinet Member for Finance at West Northamptonshire Council, said: “Having initially balanced the books in our first year, stabilising services and progressing towards post-pandemic recovery, we find ourselves facing a fresh wave of financial challenges which no-one could have predicted.
"We are not alone in this, with many other councils finding themselves in a similar, if not worse position and we need to act now to start addressing the scale of the challenge ahead in ways that protect services as a priority.
"We have managed our finances robustly and prudently, learning lessons from the legacy of the previous local authorities and we will build on this strong start and act now to tackle these emerging pressures head on.
"A financial review is under way across the authority and we’re putting tighter spending controls in place as early as possible to help mitigate these issues. We will also be looking at additional ways we can work more efficiently and differently to help save money and our staff will be playing an important role in supporting this work."
A report on the Council’s financial position for quarter one of this year’s budget, plus details of emerging future pressures on the authority, will be presented to members of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 19 September and then to members of the Cabinet at their meeting on 23 September.
The reports will be published closer to the meeting dates and viewed on the committee pages of this website.