A Council leader is calling on the Government to bring an end to the uncertainty surrounding how local authorities will be funded beyond 2020.
The plea, from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council Leader, Councillor Bob Cook, comes ahead of a budget update report to the Council’s Cabinet this week.
The report confirms the Council continues to face rising costs to safeguard the Borough’s most vulnerable children and adults.
It also identifies emerging financial pressures in the shape of a recent hike in energy costs.
“Despite this, there’s still no clear indication from Government about how councils are going to be funded beyond 2020,” said Councillor Cook.
“So as things stand, here we are heading into 2019 and yet nobody can tell us what money is going to be available to councils after the end of the 2019/20 financial year.
“In fact, we’re still awaiting details of our financial settlement for 2019/20 – that was due to be announced last week but the Government has put it off until after the Brexit vote.
“That speaks volumes and the lack of clarity is frankly unacceptable.
“The pressures we’re facing, particularly in social care – which now accounts for well over half of our annual spend on services – are not new and they’re not going away.
“The Government know all about them and yet there’s still no sign of a sustainable financial settlement.
"Their stock response is to tell councils to put up Council Tax – not only is that unfair but it will raise nowhere near enough to keep pace with increasing demand.
“This has got to end. It’s just not a credible position. We need a fair and sustainable multi-year settlement so that we can plan at the very least.
“It’s no surprise we’re seeing councils reaching a financial cliff edge.”
Councillor Cook added: “It’s worth pointing out that what we’re talking about here is our revenue budget, which is the money we have to spend on day to day services. It’s this money which is being hit by year after year of cuts.
“The council has already taken some innovative, and at times controversial, decisions to do things that have so far generated, and will continue to generate, income like setting up the joint venture with Spark of Genius, or investing in the Hampton by Hilton hotel and new crematorium. These schemes are helping to protect the high quality services our residents value and if we hadn’t done them the impact of the funding cuts we face would have been even worse.
“Our capital investment is also driven by our desire to regenerate the Borough, making it a more attractive place for businesses to invest and a better place for people to live and work. Money for these projects cannot be spent on services.”
The ‘Financial Update and Medium Term Financial Plan’ report will be considered by members of the Council’s Cabinet when they meet on Thursday (December 13).
The final report on the Medium Term Financial Plan will then be considered by Cabinet and Full Council in February.