Calderdale Council has issued a response to the local government finance policy statement released on 5 December 2023, cautioning that its budgets are facing unprecedented pressure, necessitating additional tough decisions.
The local government finance policy statement for the fiscal year 2024 to 2025 outlines the government’s plans for the Local Government Finance Settlement during that period.
This policy statement offers insight into what councils can anticipate from the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement, scheduled for publication later this month. Following consultations, the allocations are confirmed in the final settlement, typically released in February.
The settlement serves as a foundation for the budget proposals that Calderdale Council’s Cabinet will assess in January 2024. A crucial point in the budget process occurred with the publication of the Council’s Medium-Term Financial Plan in November 2023, providing a projection of the Council’s financial standing.
A survey conducted by the Local Government Association revealed that nearly one in five council leaders and chief executives in England believe it is very or fairly likely that their chief finance officer will have to issue a Section 114 Notice (indicating an inability to establish a balanced budget) this year or the next, due to insufficient funding to sustain essential services.
While Calderdale Council is not presently at immediate risk of such a situation, its obligations have expanded, especially in the realms of children’s and adults’ social care, amid a higher demand for services. The Council has witnessed a reduction of approximately a third of its workforce since 2010, limiting its capacity and foreshadowing a smaller organization in the future.
Cllr Jane Scullion, Leader of Calderdale Council, said; “Whilst we welcome any guarantee of a minimum increase to our core spending power, the 3% announced in the local government finance policy statement is below inflation levels impacting the Council, and doesn’t take into account rising demand for complex, specialist services such as children’s placements.
“In Calderdale, over £110 million of budget savings, which we’ve had to make over the past decade, have an impact on what we do every day. Like other councils, we know that more challenges and difficult decisions lie ahead.
“We are operating in the most difficult financial situation that we have ever seen in local government. The proportion of our budget for children’s and adults’ services has increased to 70% of all we spend, and we have been given additional statutory responsibilities. Since the pandemic, the number of children with complex needs requiring additional support has quadrupled, and the number of families living in temporary accommodation has doubled.
“Fortunately, we have a strong foundation of creativity, talent and innovation, strong links with the voluntary sector, and resilience to adapt to ensure a balanced budget and a sustainable future. Our recent Local Government Association Corporate Peer Challenge praised our ambition, strong leadership, sound financial position and wise choices during austerity.
“Using these strengths, we continue to provide and commission services for our borough which impact on everyone’s lives every day. Across our towns, we continue to deliver our largest capital programme of regeneration since we became a local authority, strive to reduce inequalities and are responding to the climate emergency given its impact on Calderdale.”