Savings of £9.5m potentially needed at Cherwell District Council
Authority looking into potential scenarios for next financial year due to national issues and COVID-19
Having to make savings of around £9.5million is one possible scenario facing Cherwell District Council as it looks ahead to its budgetary challenges for next year. The Council says general issues to do with local government funding across the nation and the long-term impact of COVID-19 are behind its thinking.
Staff and councillors are currently awaiting the outcome of the Government’s Spending Review and updates from central Government on how business rates, the New Homes Bonus and other grants will be re-configured nationally. It is anticipated this information will begin to become available in November, with detailed announcements during December.
A report setting the scene for the forthcoming budget-setting period will be considered by the council’s executive committee on 5 October.
Councillor Tony Ilott, lead member for finance, said: “This is a challenging situation. We are setting a savings target of £9.5m in the expectation that this figure will be significantly reduced once we receive news from central Government as we move towards setting a final budget for 2021/22 in February.
“However, we must plan responsibly for every kind of scenario and that is why we are letting residents know at this early stage that challenges may lie ahead.
“In addition, the unpredictability of COVID-19 and the potential for a second wave adds an extra layer of complexity, both for councils and central Government.
“The council’s staff along with councillors are all working flat out to maintain the high standard of service that Cherwell District Council provides for its residents.”
The projected shortfall has come about as a result of longer-term national issues combined with more recent issues stemming in part from the impact of COVID-19. Longer-term issues include the Government’s national plans on resetting business rates and the winding-up of the national New Homes Bonus Scheme. Recent issues include an expected negative impact on Council Tax income as a result of increased numbers of Council Tax Reduction Scheme claimants and a lower-than-anticipated number of new homes being built, together with the loss of income in places such as car parks due to COVID-19.
Councillor Barry Wood, leader of the council, said: “The financial impact of COVID has compounded a difficult situation for which we had already begun to prepare – namely the changes to business rates and the New Homes Bonus Scheme.
“There is no doubt that our success in creating a climate in which businesses can thrive has helped insulate Cherwell District Council against the cuts that have been experienced elsewhere.
“We have made our views about resetting business rates known to central Government and we will continue to work with them”.