Lancashire County Council budget snapshot delayed until October

Posted on - 21st August, 2023 - 8:00am | Author - | Posted in - Fylde News, Politics, Preston News, Ribble Valley News, South Ribble News, Wyre News
Lancashire County Hall
Lancashire County Hall

The first in-depth look at Lancashire County Council’s finances since it set its budget earlier this year has been delayed until October, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands.

The authority would usually publish its “Money Matters” report, revealing the condition of County Hall’s coffers after the first few months of the financial year, in just a fortnight’s time.

However, the update has been put back by a month as a result of issues with a new software system that the council has adopted.

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As the LDRS revealed in July, the switch to the Oracle Fusion platform has already delayed publication of the authority’s accounts for 2022/23 – and it has now held up the usual September financial healthcheck.

The delayed report is eagerly anticipated as it will set out how the county council is coping with inflation – which has remained stubbornly high since the February budget meeting – and interest rates, which have gone up by 1.25 percent over the same period, now standing at 5.25 percent.

The document will also lift the lid on the seemingly interminable pressures for adult and children’s social care.

It comes as a BBC investigation reveals that the average deficit faced by top-tier local authorties, like Lancashire County Council, has soared by 60 percent over the last two years – generating a collective £5bn black hole in theior finances.

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The figures have prompted the union Unision to warn that some councils would not be able to offer even the “legal minimum of care” next year, with basic services under threat.

When County Hall agreed its budget six months ago, it had a forecast deficit of £23.2m by 2026/27, down from a colossal £160m estimate just two months earlier.

The budget for 2023/24 – the first in the county council’s history to cross the £1bn mark – included a share of an £86m savings package that had already been identified last November. The delayed report, when it comes, will set out any challenges faced in delivering those savings.

It will also provide an update of the level of the county’s reserves, which were expected to stand at £188m at the end of March – and were at that point deemed sufficient to cover any budget gaps through until 2026/27.

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In February, the authority was predicting a modest overspend of £2.5m for the 2022/23 financial year. Confirmation of the eventual “outturn”, as it is known, will be brought before a cabinet meeting next month and will not have to wait for the broader update report in October.

A spokesman for the county council said: “The 2023/24 budget was agreed at a meeting of our full council in February.

“An update on the 2023/24 financial position is expected to be considered at our cabinet meeting in October.

“Delivering the best services at the best value for money for our residents remains our priority and the council is committed to careful management of its finances.”

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