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Wirral Council facing massive £17m overspend
WIRRAL’S council leader has pledged to “face up” to the authority’s cash-flow problems as a multi-million pound overspend is revealed.
Councillor Phil Davies, who ordered an urgent review of council finances, wants the accounts to be more transparent following a “significant budget shortfall” over the last three months.
A report due to go before cabinet next Thursday shows the council could be left with a £17m overspend by the end of the financial year if action is not taken immediately.
As a result, plans are underway to report the authority’s financial position monthly to cabinet so problems are dealt with as soon as possible.
And Cllr Davies said he is keen to deal with the issues promptly and will be making recommendations to freeze some spending and releasing reserves.
He said: “Ensuring that the council has a sound budget planning process moving forward is a key part of our plans to drive improvements across the authority.
"That is why I instructed chief officers, including the newly appointed Interim Director of Finance, Peter Timmins, to conduct a full and robust review of all of our budgets.
“The structural deficits that exist in some of our budgets have clearly been a problem for a number of years.
"In the past, we have not had sufficiently robust processes in place to ensure a clear understanding of where budget shortfalls exist.
"As a result, successive political administrations and senior managers were not in a position to tackle these vital issues.
“That is no longer the case and, as leader, I am committed to ensuring this council faces up to the challenge before us. This is to continue to improve our services to residents - and to do so within budget.
“I will recommend to cabinet that we take immediate action, which will include freezing non-essential council spending and releasing reserves we no longer require.
"This will release around £9m. However, much more will need to be done which is why I am launching a budget consultation across Wirral next month that will engage all our residents, communities, the voluntary sector, businesses and staff in this debate.
“With the support of our Improvement Board, we are already changing the way the council gets things done.
"This means facing up to tough facts and making tough decisions. Working together I am confident the result will be a transparent council we can all be proud of.”
And Tory leader Cllr Jeff Green has also promised to support the ruling administration in making the necessary changes.
He said his group would be available to offer any knowledge to achieve the best results.
Councillor Green told the Globe: “I welcome the transparency being put forward as we have been arguing for some time to get some clarity and some openness about what the council spends.
“It’s important that the public are informed of the challenges the council faces and I’m pleased that the administration is following our lead from two years ago and embarking on a public consultation.
“But my concern is that following the actions we took to downsize the council by allowing people to leave and cutting senior management by 25%, it’s worrying that the council is still in a position where it has to make these reductions.
“However we will work with the current administration to use any expertise and knowledge to achieve it because clearly, the council faces serious financial challenges.”