The Chancellor of the Exchequer made no reference to local government funding in his budget speech last week and based on current information, City of Wolverhampton Council is forecasting a £29.6 million deficit by 2023-2024.
The council set its budget for 2021-2022 last week and thoughts have immediately turned to being able to balance the books again for the following year and minimising the impact of any necessary cuts on essential services.
Councillor Louise Miles, City of Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member for resources, said that the council continued to manage its finances prudently and in line with an agreed strategy to ensure it was best placed to deal with future uncertainties.
She added: “With no clarity over future years funding from Government and a forecast deficit of almost £30 million by 2023-2024, we are always having to look ahead to see how we can bridge that gap.
“We set our budget for 2021-2022 last week, but immediately we are now looking at what needs to be done to balance the books in the future.
“Part of our agreed strategy is to be prudent with our spending, for example by keeping some vacancies unfilled and to set aside money now to be able to make efficiencies later in a planned and thought out way.
“We have a reputation for managing our money well and planning over the medium term to avoid the need to make knee jerk decisions and we will continue this policy until we have greater certainty over future Government funding for councils.”
A report to the council’s Cabinet Resources Panel on 17 March will provide an update on the council’s in year spending, it will set out that the authority is on track with its previously agreed budget management plans.
Tightly controlled spending means that the council is currently forecasting an underspend of £507,000 by the end of the current financial year which will be used to ease pressures on next year's budget. It has also created a new budget strategy reserve, as previously agreed by Cabinet, which has enabled the council to balance the 2021-2022 budget without the need to cut essential services.