Brentwood Council warns finances covering services ‘will have to be monitored’

Brentwood Borough Council has warned that while it is not anticipating the need to reduce any services the ‘financial position will have to be monitored over the year’ as it faces financial challenges worse than during COVID.

The General Fund is forecasting a deficit of £323,000, this is where there is more expenditure than income.

However, by the utilisation of reserves the overall impact to the authority’s working balance will be zero as the deficit is forecast to be funded from earmarked reserves.

But given challenges over soaring costs the council has warned of future financial mitigation measures.

A statement to the council in a report from its s151 officer, Jacqueline Van Mellaerts, said: “Whilst the council is not anticipating the need to reduce any services the financial position will have to be monitored over the year and will make the medium term financial forecast for 2023/24 even more of a challenge.”

Added to warnings of soaring inflation and energy prices the borough council has warned that pay inflation may add another £500,000 to the current deficit.

Leader of Brentwood Council, Councillor Chris Hossack, said at a policy committee meeting on October 3: “While the outlook is bleak will get through this year and balance the budget but you will see a depletion of reserves. That is without question.”

A Local Government Association (LGA) letter – co-signed at the beginning of September by LGA Chairman Cllr James Jamieson and the leaders of all four political groups at the LGA – warns that energy prices, spiralling inflation, and National Living Wage pressures are set to add significantly increased costs to councils’ budgets

The LGA, which represents more than 350 councils across England and Wales, said: “It is only by addressing this significant funding gap that councils can protect services, invest in local services and employ the necessary skilled and motivated workforce and deliver for our communities and level up all parts of the country.

“Alongside this, greater devolution of funding and powers will allow councils to fulfil their ambitions as leaders of place.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter