'Crunch time' for Hartlepool council as cuts continue to bite
Finance bosses have stated it is approaching ‘crunch time’ for the council as it continues to deal with funding issues stemming from government cuts.
It came as the final 2018/19 financial report went before the Hartlepool Borough Council Audit and Governance Committee.
The accounts have been reviewed by external auditors Mazars, who praised the work of council officers despite the difficult financial position public bodies are facing across the country.
Gavin Barker, from Mazars, noted the council has faced difficulties following government cuts, but said they are aware of the position and will be able to manage over the next few years due to reserves.
However he did note it is approaching ‘crunch time’ due to budget decisions the council face, along with pending government financial decisions.
He said: “It is very difficult for the council to take a medium term view for what emerges from national initiatives which still need to take place.
“It is clear from your[Hartlepool Council’s] own financial planning and report that the council faces a really difficult financial position.
“We can see the council has arrangements in place to address this and has set off on the process of addressing this, but it is really important the council does do that.
“We’re in probably one of the most difficult periods the council faces because it is crunch time to do that now.
“The council can still deal with this, the budget is balanced for the current year, the budget is balanced for the next two years, you can deal with that, but if you don’t deal with it it could become an issue in the future.”
A report from council director of finance and policy Chris Little said 2019/20 funding received from the government is approximately £44.2million less than the level provided in 2010/11, equating to a 57% reduction, following nine years of austerity.
He said: “The key decision for members is we’re going to have to come up with a plan that addresses the budget gap, there isn’t a choice of not doing it.
“We will be able to set a budget for 2020/21, it will be difficult, but it will all depend thereafter on what the government do.”