Council statement on Budget
Flintshire County Council's Cabinet meets next week to consider options to set a balanced budget for 2018/19 to recommend to Council.
Through a combination of being inventive in organising ourselves and our services to save £79m savings over the past 10 years, reducing our office space and our workforce and having great support from our communities in accommodating change and taking on more responsibility for providing services for themselves, we have been able to protect our front line services thus far.
Despite considerable change and cost-cutting over a series of annual budgets, there still remains a budget gap of close to £6m for 2018/19 with few options remaining. The scope for further service portfolio reductions for 2018/19 has been exhausted. This position is accepted by the Overview and Scrutiny Committees and Cabinet.
The Council can do little more at this stage and finds itself, along with every other Council in Wales and England, in an unprecedented and increasingly difficult situation given the continued austerity programme being pursued by the UK Government.
The three specific requests made to Welsh Government for assistance with the budget, in accordance with the previous Council resolution, have been made and are under negotiation.
Beyond a financial intervention by Welsh Government the only remaining options to balance the budget are Council Tax income and drawing upon reserves and balances. These two options will be discussed at next week's meeting.
The Council sets its budget in three stages and, at this third and final stage, we have no option but to openly consider the use of reserves and balances to part close the remaining budget gap and then to set a higher than traditional level of Council Tax for 2019/20 both to balance the budget and provide any support for the schools funding formula. A Council Tax rise of 6.71% would raise £4.984m towards the remaining budget gap of £5.752m. Reserves and balances can be drawn upon to a manageable level only in support of balancing the budget.
We fully recognise and share the risk position for our schools and fully appreciate that schools are concerned about the impact of a potential cash flat settlement to their delegated budgets. We have been very open with head teachers about the financial challenges facing the Council and the subsequent impact on schools' funding with the risks that it poses. We are trying to find at least a partial solution with very few options at our disposal. Given the overall budget position, the Council must continue to focus on setting a legally balanced budget.
If there is any further information forthcoming regarding the Council's negotiations with Welsh Government and whether there are any further options to balance the budget, this will be shared in Cabinet next week.