Lancashire County Council meets today to set its Council Tax and budget for 2017/18 with a warning that yet more multi million pound cuts could lie ahead.
As it prepares to introduce a Band D Council Tax of £1,221.74 it has predicted it will be beyond broke by 2018/19 and unable to set a legal budget. If that point is reached the Government would be forced to intervene.
A detailed report prepared by finance officers for the full council spells out the urgent need for radical change and declares: “The challenge facing the County Council is unprecedented.”
With £51m of savings identified for the year ahead, a funding gap of £57m remains and a likely funding gap of £156m is predicted by 2021 on day to day running costs. In total it is planned to use £73m from reserves to bolster available funds in 2017/18.
Officers say that if the council is to cut its coat according to its cloth it will have to take a “radically different approach.”
The report stated: “Delivering this level of saving whilst seeking to deliver effective services for our communities cannot be achieved without a radically different approach which focuses on service delivery within a reducing budget envelope.”
There is clear guidance that no time must be lost in identifying further cuts for 2018/19 - an indication of the challenge facing whichever party or parties win control at the May elections.
The breakdown of Council Tax charges which councillors will be asked to approve today are:
Council Tax Band A: £814.49, Band B: £950.24, Band C: £1085.99, Band D: £1,221.74, Band E: £1,493.24, Band F: £1,764.74, Band G: £2,036.23, Band H: £2,443.48.
The Council is putting up its Council Tax rate by 3.99%, with 2% of the rise being used to help meet adult social care costs. Council Tax payers will face additional charges from their local district council, parish or town councils and police and fire services.
• The county council is predicting a funding gap of £88m in 2018/19. Last December it identified a further£8m savings in addition to £142m of previously agreed savings for 2016/17 and 2017/18. Many of the cuts which will hit this year were agreed in February 2016 as part of a two year programme of cuts. A report to councillors said “The budget is still facing a hugely challenging future with savings of c.£51m to achieve as part of the 2017/18 budget and significant additional inflation and demand pressures across children’s social care, adults’ social care and waste service.”