Very tough choices ahead to meet budget savings in Calderdale

Leader of Calderdale Council Councillor Tim Swift
Leader of Calderdale Council Councillor Tim Swift

Councillors will be asked to approve a financial strategy for Calderdale Council which will set a framework for prioritising budget pressures it faces to balance the books over the next three years.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet agreed to recommend to full council that the Medium Term Financial Strategy should be approved, that draft budget proposals are brought forward by Cabinet for consultation in line with the approach outlined in the report, that council approves external debt limits be raised and that council includes up to £15 million in its capital programme to allow it to proceed with the investment strategy set out in the MTFS report.

The council’s current financial forecast shows the authority must make savings of £1.7 million in 2019/20, £7.9 million in 2020/21 and £8.9 million from 2021/22 onwards.

Leader of Calderdale Council, Coun Tim Swift, said budgeting was having to be done at a time of great uncertainty.

In 2016 a four-year funding agreement was in place from Government but there was currently no such security about planning beyond 2020.

The MTFS forms a key part of the council’s strategic planning and usually takes a three-year perspective.

Coun Swift said: “We don’t know for certain what the process will be.”

Some assumptions could be made where things were under the control of the district, he said.

Some level of cuts might be needed with further pressures on spending, with the bulk of spending cuts during years of austerity since 2010 falling on local councils, said Coun Swift.

He said councils throughout the country were also facing increasing social care costs – these are legal as well as moral obligations – and this week these had been highlighted by the Local Government Association.

All taken together, by the end of this period £105 million in savings will have been found by Calderdale Council since 2010.

Finding the savings would be difficult but the council would do what was necessary.

“We have had a really good track record on this, delivering balanced budgets and we will strive to do that. This report sets out what we need to do,” he said.

The council’s Cabinet member for Resources, Performance and Business Change, Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said the situation was really unprecendented with the assumption that after eight years of cuts, austerity would continue.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to choose where we make cuts. We really, really have to think carefully about this. It’s going to be tough,” she said.

The MTFS report will be used as a basis to create draft budget proposals which will be published for public consultation in January 2019.

The final budget proposals will then be presented to Budget Council in February 2019.