Council’s first year on budget despite financial challengesFinance
15 July 2022
West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) completed its first year as a new unitary authority on budget, despite ongoing financial challenges and increased demand for services.
At this week’s Cabinet meeting, members heard how the Council, which was set up on 1 April last year, had managed to deliver upon its budget for 2021/22 with an underspend of just over £100,000 and without touching the £5m of contingency funds it had set aside from its general reserves.
The report to Cabinet, which presented provisional year-end figures for the Council’s first year as an authority, also highlighted how finances must continue to be managed as robustly as possible in the year ahead, with continuing challenges such as Covid, the cost of living crisis and rising operational costs set to cause financial pressures and increased demand for services such as social care.
Councillor Malcolm Longley, WNC’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “Budget forecasting for a brand new council can never be as reliable as forecasting for a well-established authority, so there was always going to be an element of the unknown until we started operating. Managing to deliver our first 12 months of services so closely to our initial budget figure and avoiding using our contingencies is therefore a remarkable achievement and a great start for our new council.
"We’ve taken a prudent approach and it’s important we continue to be strong and robust in managing our finances in our second year, whilst also enabling new investment in services and increasing the support we provide to our local communities.
"We know there are challenging times ahead. We’re seeing major growth at a time of a national cost of living crisis, with significant demand for social care services from a rising population of both the elderly and the very young and with some pressures of Covid-19 continuing but without the additional funding support of previous years. So we cannot rest on our laurels as we move forward."