Accountancy firm says Hartlepool Borough Council is in a ‘very difficult position’ following years of financial cuts

Accountancy firm bosses have stated Hartlepool Borough Council is in a ‘very difficult position’ due to the impact of government cuts and austerity.

Wednesday, 24th April 2019, 2:51 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th April 2019, 2:54 pm
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Bosses from Mazars, a global audit and accounting group, added the council has made savings in the ‘most obvious areas’ so far and has a responsibility to balance its books.

Gavin Barker, from Mazars, gave the update ahead of carrying out the audit for Hartlepool Borough Council.

He said the final audit for the council for 2018/19 will be released later in the year, which will give their opinion on the council financial statements and provide a review of their arrangements.

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Speaking at a recent council audit and governance committee, Mr Barker said the council is in a difficult position due to years of cuts and austerity.

He said: “It’s about how the council ensures it has sustainable resources and how the council works with its partners and other third parties to deliver its priorities.

“As you can imagine in the context of local government and the public sector as a whole really, we’ve gone through a prolonged period of austerity and cuts in funding of services.

“We’re looking at the council arrangements around sustaining its financial resources and its fair to say the council is in a very difficult position.

“There was a predicted budget deficit for 2019/20 of £6million, the council is looking to use reserves in the short term while it comes up with medium term financial plans to make savings.

“It has to be said the council faces very difficult choices going forward about what to do to address that.

“After all these years of austerity the council has taken the savings in all the obvious areas to take them but the council still has a responsibility to balance its books however difficult it is.

“The council will have to face up to those decisions. It’s a very very difficult position.”

It comes as an internal audit carried out by council bosses for 2018/19 ahead of the Mazars review stated they were doing a ‘positive’ job of managing internal finances and different departments, and were in line with expectations.

Mr Barker also added council bosses may not have received as much help as they would have hoped from central government.

He said: “One of the things the council was hoping for was a clear, comprehensive spending assessment, a clear fair funding formula review which sets out the council’s financial position for the medium term.

“Because of central government distractions with the issue that’s dominating our lives at the moment, it’s quite likely some of those things will slip.

“A lot of people that I’m talking to now are predicting that we’ll have a roll forward for a year, so you’ll get to know the financial position for the next year rather than the longer term.

“That makes it very difficult for you [the council] to plan going forward, so these are the constraints you face [the council], and as part of our work we’re looking to see that the council is taking the steps it needs to in these difficult circumstances.”

Coun Brenda Loynes, chair of the audit and governance committee, noted recent years have been difficult for the council.

She said: “It’s been a difficult few years, and I appreciate that, but I think things will turn out for the best in the long run.”

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service