Message from Cllr Fletham, Chair of Leicestershire County Council
A report for the Council Cabinet on 23 September laid out the dire financial position for local government and for Leicestershire County Council in particular. The Council's budget gap is set to grow from £8m to £28m next year and could surpass £140m by 2026. Although the Council, which is known for its efficient spending of available money, has had to face and plan for many budget challenges in recent years –this is on a scale never seen before in my 21 years as a County Councillor.
Global events such as Covid and Putin's war in Ukraine, rising inflation and the cost of living, plus growing infrastructure costs, and an unrelenting demand on services have all contributed to what is being described as this 'dire' financial challenge.
As the lowest funded County Council under the Government's present funding system, Leicestershire will always be sensitive to financial shocks. But the challenge currently being faced has put even the best funded local authorities under pressure.
Inflation is expected to continue to rise, despite recent interventions, adding another £20-£30m every year to the budget, while service demand is expected to go up by £18m per year, plus infrastructure costs (building roads and schools, for example) could increase this by a further £45m. The current national pay offer alone, if accepted, would mean the Council has to find an extra £8m, whilst every 50p added to the National Living Wage would cost the Council over £10m.
Whilst there are no firm proposals at this stage, the Cabinet report illustrates the challenge ahead by providing an initial list of potential areas to investigate for possible service changes or reductions. These include winter gritting, country parks, bus subsidies, projects for reducing smoking and boosting health, selling Beaumanor Hall and reducing or omitting planned large road schemes. The reality is that all income and expenditure is being looked at. A public consultation will take place this autumn and I will publicise ways in which residents and parishes can respond to it.
The Council's budget scrutiny process will review proposals next January, before the full Council votes on the medium term budgets for 2023 to 2026 in February.
Posted: Wed, 05 Oct 2022 15:45 by Joanne Adkins