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Council demonstrates effective and robust budget planning

by Gemma Melling

At Knowsley Council’s Cabinet meeting on 20 November 2019, it was confirmed that the 2019/20 mid-year forecast is predicting a surplus of £0.756m. This will be available for allocation on a one-off basis if required and some security for future years given the uncertainty with budget setting in the medium or longer-term.

The budget position reflects robust financial management within the council during challenging and uncertain times.

In addition, 94% of savings from across a range of council services that were approved for 2019/20 have now been fully implemented or due to be implemented by the end of the year.

There are two service savings that cannot be implemented as the impact was deemed to be too great, particularly in the area of Children’s Social Care.  Extra cost in this area is outside of the council’s control, including increases in the number of children looked after and pressures with Special Educational Needs and / or Disabilities.

However, Knowsley Council’s ambitious growth agenda has helped to offset some of these extra costs due to an increase in the amount of income generated from legal agreements with developers.

As well as the mid-year forecast, an update on the council’s medium-term financial strategy was also presented with a forecast surplus of £3.6m predicted for 2020/21. This again is due to effective financial management, a better than anticipated Spending Round and the council has negotiated a significant reduction in its contributions to the Merseyside Pension Fund, saving the council £5.5m per year from 2020/21.

The council’s financial position for 2021/22 onwards is difficult to predict given the uncertainty around the Government’s Funding Review, the future of Adult and Children’s Social Care funding, changes to the Business Rates system and the potential impact of Brexit.

James Duncan, Executive Director for Resources, said: “Our financial position allows us some welcome flexibility to invest in key services in 2020/21.  There is considerable uncertainty over future years’ funding so the focus will be on one-off investments that give the biggest impact.”