Wirral Council moves to next step in setting budget for 2023-24
Councillors are due to meet to consider proposals to close a budget gap of £32 million for Wirral Council in the coming year 2023-24.
Wirral Council, like the majority of councils across the country, is seeing the costs of providing services increase, at the same time as demands for many of those council services are also rising, stretching the limited budget.
Members of Wirral Council’s Policy and Resources (P&R) Committee will look at a series of recommendations to set a balanced budget.
The budget recommendations are contained within the 2023/24 Budget and Medium-Term Financial Strategy report. This report says, “the scale of the financial challenge that the Council faces cannot be overstated” and that setting a budget against a background of broader national and international economic pressures requires challenging decisions to be made.
Leader of Wirral Council, Cllr Janette Williamson, said: “I’d like to thank all of you who took the time to engage with the budget consultation process and tell us what services matter most to you and why. This has been a difficult period but it is not something specific to Wirral, it is part of a wider national issue forced upon us by the incredibly difficult economic conditions nationally and internationally. It affects local authorities across the country.
“However, we have a legal duty to set a balanced budget while doing everything we can to protect frontline services and ensuring the people of Wirral get the council services they expect and deserve within our available resources.”
Budget-setting was started by the P&R Committee in March 2022 and saw major progress in plans to bridge what at the time was forecast to be a budget gap of £14.1m. However, by June the situation had worsened dramatically with significant new financial pressures resulting from emerging national and global circumstances; notable among these were the war in Ukraine and rising inflation.
The report to P&R says the national economic picture deteriorated further “at an unprecedented rate” and the budget gap was subsequently confirmed as £32.3m after application of the Provisional Finance Settlement in December.
The current budget proposals have been developed through a rigorous review process over the subsequent months. They stem from those presented to Policy & Resources Committee on 18 January 2023, however some of those items have been adjusted following consultation. The report sets out efficiencies, income and savings proposals of £28.44m.
The budget recommendations being put before councillors will also include proposals for a below-inflation increase in Council Tax of 4.99% for the budget year 2023/24, representing a general increase of 2.99% plus an additional 2% which is ringfenced for Adult Social Care.
The report to be presented to councillors says that “it is of the utmost importance that this stream of funding is agreed” and that if the recommended 4.99% council tax rise is reduced then further savings elsewhere would be needed.
A final decision on the budget for 2023-24 is due to be made the meeting of Full Council on 27 February 2023.