Warning light for our LEP council partner’s finances (Somerset)

Owl wonders how our Local Enterprise Partnership will function with (at least) one partner council “showing financial stress” – and the lead partner which provides most of the administrative services to the LEP … and have some of those “fallen useable reserves” (fallen 60% in five years) “fallen” to the LEP – possibly even towards Hinckley C support?

As we do not get to see LEP accounts, we will never know.

“Three Conservative-run counties have been added to the list of those showing signs of financial stress because of funding cuts.

Somerset, Norfolk and Lancashire county councils are exhibiting some of the warning signs demonstrated by Northamptonshire county council before it declared itself effectively bankrupt last month, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

The three join the Tory-run Surrey county council, which is facing a £100 million shortfall, as the counties in the deepest financial crises. The National Audit Office has found that one in ten councils could run out of money in the next three years. County councils have been hit hard by cuts to local government funding since 2010 and social care costs are rising.

Somerset, Norfolk and Lancashire’s usable reserves — effectively rainy day funds — have all fallen substantially in recent years, the bureau’s research found. Somerset’s usable reserves have fallen by 60 per cent in the past five years, Norfolk’s have halved and Lancashire’s have fallen by 48 per cent.

All three show further signs of financial difficulty. In Somerset the council overspent on children’s and adult’s social services in each of the past three years and its budget this year projects a £14.6 million overspend on children’s services, the largest in the country. Last month it announced plans to close two-thirds of its children’s centres.

In Norfolk the council has spent more than it budgeted for in each of the past three years, the bureau found, although the council disputed the claim it had been overspending and insisted its budgeting was “robust and prudent”.

Lancashire has overspent on children’s and adult social services in each of the past three years, and its funding gap is £97 million in the coming financial year.

A spokesman for Somerset said that the findings “overstate the position and don’t take account of our considerable contingency funds or the plans we have in place to make savings”. A Norfolk spokesman said the research was “scaremongering” and that the council had recently “set a balanced budget for 2018-19”. Angie Ridgwell, Lancashire’s chief executive, said: “There may be sufficient funds within the transitional reserve to support the identified budget gap in 2018-19 and 2019-20. However, further savings will need to be made.”

Source: The Times (paywall)

[Somerset county council has announced plans to close two thirds of its children’s centres in a bid to save cash]

One thought on “Warning light for our LEP council partner’s finances (Somerset)

  1. Pingback: LEP governance … in the wrong hands? | East Devon Watch

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