Chichester District Council upbeat on its financial future

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COUNCILLORS have spoken positively of the district council’s immediate financial future, despite possible government funding cuts.

At Chichester District Council cabinet on Tuesday (December 3), Cllr Tony Dignum presented the council’s financial strategy to members, describing it as ‘one of the most important documents the council has to consider’.

The report was jointly authored by Cllr Dignum and head of finance John Ward and summarises a five-year plan to save money in the face of central government cutbacks.

The report stated: “The council currently anticipates further funding reductions over the course of the next five years which, without intervention, would create a deficit in our revenue position that must be addressed if we are to comply with the legal requirement of setting a balanced budget each year.

“The challenge facing the council remains being able to provide services that meet community needs with a significantly reduced overall level of resource.”

Cllr Dignum emphasised the financial strategy managed to achieve the savings with barely any impact on frontline services.

Earlier this year, the council undertook a radical restructure of its senior management, giving an annual saving of £306,000.

Cabinet has recommended to council that a minimum level of general fund reserves is set at £5m, following a recommendation from the corporate governance and audit committee.

However, the question of the district council’s decision on council tax is yet to be made, with Cllr Dignum saying this would be considered at the cabinet’s meeting in January.

The likelihood of a possible council tax rise could still rest on any surprise announcements in today’s autumn statement by chancellor George Osborne.

Attached to the report, the statement of resources for 2013/14 to 2018/19 said council reserves in April, 2013, stood at £32.5m, which rose to £46.8m with new resources from right to buy receipts, asset sales, investment interests and other contributions.

However, it dropped back to £32.5m, with £1.3m spent on revenue budget support, £600,000 spent on one-off costs for future service reductions, a £1.8m cultural grant to the festival theatre and Pallant House Gallery, a £5m payment into the minimum level of reserves and £5.6m spent on ‘other earmarked funding’.

With £20.3m allocated to the capital and projects programme and £3.4m to be spent on an asset replacement programme, there was £8.8m left as an ‘uncommitted resource’.