Council chiefs balance the books after £44million cuts - but say even tougher times are on the way

Council bosses have reported a balanced budget for 2018/19 despite facing continued government grant cuts.

Thursday, 20th June 2019, 5:46 pm
Hartlepool Civic Centre
Hartlepool Civic Centre

A report to go before Hartlepool Borough Council audit and governance committee next week will give an update on the council finances for 2018/19.

The report, from council director of finance and policy Chris Little, states local authorities continue to face ‘an extremely challenging financial position’ due to government cuts.

The council had anticipated an overspend for 2018/19 due to costs of increased numbers of looked after children and other issues, and the resulting overspend came out at £566,000.

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It aimed to offset this by achieving underspend on corporate budgets and reviewing grants, among other measures.

Council chiefs have revealed they saved £617,000, covering the overspend and more – with the remaining £51,000 transferred to the council’s budget support fund.

Mr Little wrote: “Reports anticipated a year end overspend in service based expenditure including significantly higher costs of increased numbers of looked after children and the impact of court decisions regarding these cases.

“It was anticipated that that these costs could be offset by an under spend on corporate budgets alongside a review of all grants and other funding flexibilities as well as overachieving salary abatement targets and reducing discretionary spending.

Council chiefs also highlighted the impact of government cuts on the financial challenges they face, adding further struggles are expected in the coming years.

It said: “This was the eighth successive annual reduction in government funding.

“The government has confirmed that local authorities will continue to face a further annual grant cut next year (2019/20).

“This means that by 2019/20 funding received from the government will be approximately £44.2million less than the level provided in 2010/11. This equates to a reduction of 57%.”

The findings came as part of the council draft financial report for 2018/19, which the audit and governance committee will review prior to the final document being referred to audit and governance committee on 25th July 2019 for approval.

The report will first be subject to an independent audit by Mazars, a global accountancy and audit firm.

The draft report will be discussed at the audit and governance committee meeting on June 29 at 10am.