Surrey County Council will not have sufficient reserves to meet its funding gap in 2019-20 unless it acts now, accountants have warned in a report.
The Conservative-run County Council, operating in the second richest borough in the country was accused last year of agreeing an alleged “sweetheart” funding deal with the government after it planned a 15% council tax hike.
However, perhaps the Waverly Borough Cllr for Hambledon had his facts right when he dropped this little bombshell into a recent council meeting of Waverley Council? Maybe, just maybe, we are watching the beginning of the death throes of county towers? Perhaps local government final salary pensions should be finally ditched to get our local authorities back in the black, instead of slashing and burning our services?
Listen here to a clip which has sent shivers down the back of doomed Surrey County Council.
The new report says this year’s £36m funding gap could rise to £94m by 2021. Probably even further if it continues with Leader David Hodge’s present economic strategy. But fear not Surrey taxpayers, he said Surrey was “taking all the right steps”.
In a report commissioned by the council, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) said Surrey’s gross expenditure was expected to increase by 6.5% over four years, but funding would rise by “only 2.4%” over the same period.
It warned this would lead to a funding gap of £36m in 2018-19, rising to £86m by March 2020 and to £94m by March 2021.
The Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey Chris Botten said:
“The CIPFA report says Surrey’s finance function is not fit for purpose. It is “too passive” and cannot provide the leadership required to address the current financial pressures in Surrey.
The CEO Joanna Killian called in CIPFA because she was concerned to ensure that the finance function was strong enough and on the evidence of the report has taken the appropriate steps to put things right.
The trouble is, it is seven years too late. Because the quality of financial reporting has been poor, and because of the reported “passivity” residents will face more sudden, deeper cutting service reductions because SCC didn’t start addressing the changing funding regime until a couple of years ago. The wasted years will leave a legacy of much-reduced services which will genuinely shock residents.
A classic case of too little, too late.”