Thursday 29 February 2024
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Nottingham

No drastic cuts planned to balance books at Nottinghamshire County Council

No drastic cuts or staff redundancies will be used to help Nottinghamshire County Council balance its books next year, the authority’s leader has said.

The Conservative-led council needs to find at least £24m in the 2023/24  financial year.

Inflationary pressures fuelled by the ongoing energy crisis are being blamed for the gap.

Councils across Nottinghamshire and the rest of the country are expected to find out their financial settlements from the Government next week.

This will let them know how much grant support they will receive for the coming financial year and give certainty over their council tax plans.

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Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed last month local authorities like Nottinghamshire will be able to increase council tax bills by 4.99 per cent.

This includes a two per cent increase for the ringfenced adult social care precept and a further 2.99 per cent for general services like education and transport.

If the authority opted to take the full amount, it would equate to an £82.20 increase on the council’s portion of the bill in households classed as ‘Band D’.

However, last month, Cllr Richard Jackson (Con), the authority’s portfolio holder for finance, said the council plans to keep the rise at an “affordable level” amid the cost of living crisis.

Now Cllr Bradley has said there will not be significant cuts to services or massive  job losses next year and that the authority is confident it can balance the books.

He said: “We’re still able to balance the books despite that £24m inflation impact.

“We haven’t finalised budgets yet and we’re waiting for the settlement but we’re not looking at significant service reductions or massive redundancies – or things other councils have announced.

“Councils are affected the same as households with energy bills and increasing costs, and it’s a significant challenge.

“But I’m really optimistic that, although there will be some difficult elements to it, we are relatively in a really stable position.”

It follows Nottingham City Council announcing a five per cent council tax hike, 110 redundancies and a raft of other measures to save £29m.

The cash-strapped council needs to find £32.2m next year as it looks to prove to Government inspectors that it is managing its finances well.

However, councils were dealt a blow earlier this week when the long-awaited Fair Funding Review was delayed yet again by the Government.

The review – promised since 2016 – would set out a new funding formula for councils and offer longer-term budget flexibilities.

But it has been repeatedly delayed and now a Whitehall finance policy says the review will not be carried out until the next term of Parliament.

The Government statement said: “The government had previously committed to carrying out a review of relative needs and resources.

“Whilst we can confirm these will not be implemented in this spending review period, the Government remains committed to improving the local government finance landscape in the next Parliament.”

Cllr David Martin (Ash Ind), cabinet member for finance at Ashfield District Council, said the delay is a “devastating blow” for councils.

Cllr Martin, also a member of the Independent Alliance opposition group at County Hall, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We’ve been promised a ‘fair funding review’ for the last eight years.

“This represents yet another broken promise to local government by the Conservatives. It’s a devastating blow and it’s clear no one is listening at the heart of Government.”

However, Cllr Bradley believes new flexibilities could still be offered by the ministers.

He said: “At some point, the Government will have to bite the bullet but it is frustrating.

“We have seen some steps forward, I’m hoping we’ve got some opportunities for flexible funding and there are positive things going on behind the scenes.

“If we were allowed to spend our budget how we wanted, we wouldn’t need to have difficult budget conversations and we’d probably be able to cut tax.

“More flexibility would be good.”

•  Ben Bradley MP to contest seat again at next election

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