More funding pressure on council budget after Government cutsBy Jon Nurse
February 11, 2013
Government funding to the borough council has been slashed again, heaping pressure on this month’s budget announcement.
Council leader David Lee is ‘bitterly disappointed’ with the cut which offers the borough the lowest formula grant per person of all unitary authorities in the country – less than a third of Reading’s allocation and around a quarter of the national average per person.
The council’s budget requirement has jumped from £102 million to around £110 million for next year, but officers face a spending headache after receiving the worst local Government finance settlement ever.
Cllr Lee said: “Despite the national headlines that we suffered an overall grant reduction of only 1.7 per cent (£2 million), the reality is very different.
“It’s brutal and we actually lose £5 million – councils are bearing the brunt of public spending cuts and it means we have some very difficult decisions to take.
“We continue to face major financial challenges, as well as continuing demand for services and for service quality from our residents.”
The leanness of the formula grant is most stark when considering the funding per head of the population.
Wokingham will receive £86.6 per head compared to neighbouring allocations of £329.3 for Slough, £287.4 for Reading and £165.7 for Bracknell Forest. The national average for unitary authorities is £313.1, close to four times Wokingham’s total.
After years of progressive increases in the formula grant, the council has been forced to deal with severe cuts since 2011, with the total falling by 10.3 per cent the following financial year and a further 16 per cent the year after.
Cllr Lee added: “It won’t stop us in our bid to safeguard the most vulnerable in our communities.
“These tough times aren’t going to disappear overnight. Over the past four years we’ve saved in the region of £16.5 million.
“Much of this has been achieved without having a serious impact on the services most valued by residents, but it’s clear that achieving the efficiencies required over the coming years is going to be a challenge.
“We’re acting now to review our priorities and find new, leaner and different ways of delivering the services that we must continue to deliver.
“We’re also looking ahead and have started work on the next few years. It’s a huge challenge but I am confident we are well placed to meet it.”
Next year’s budget will be agreed at a council meeting on February 21, when the council tax will be set.