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Bradford
Saturday, March 2, 2024

Council bosses ‘don’t have many rabbits to pull out of their hat’

BRADFORD Council “don’t have many rabbits left to pull out of their hat” as it aims to stave off bankruptcy, a councillor has claimed.

At next week’s meeting of the council’s Executive, members will get the latest report into Bradford’s increasingly stretched finances.

The council has already proposed around £40m worth of cuts, but the latest financial report says the authority needs to make a “significantly higher level of savings than is currently proposed”.

Last year, the council announced that it had applied to the Government for “exceptional financial support” and if this was not forthcoming the authority would effectively have to declare bankruptcy.

That support would allow the council to borrow money to balance its budget, as well as use money from the sale of assets to shore up services.

The council is currently awaiting a decision from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

The report says the council’s predicted overspend this year is currently £75m – £7.7m higher than estimates from just a few months ago.

The Executive will hear the council has applied to the Government for permission to borrow £80m for the current year.

The report adds: “The council has applied for £80m in 2023-24.

“This is £22m higher than previously outlined and reflects the essential need for the council to maintain its reserves in this financial year in what are exceptionally challenging financial times including the continued rising pressures of children’s social care, adult social care and inflation.

“The council has applied for £140m for 2024-25 which will allow the council to set a balanced budget and finance the changes the council is planning to ensure its long-term financial sustainability.

“There is an unprecedented level of financial pressure due mostly to the continued significant increases in children’s and adult social care demand and cost pressures that are consuming an ever-greater proportion of the council’s resources.”

The report adds: “A capitalisation directive is however only an interim solution.

“To achieve a financially sustainable position, the council and the trust will need to deliver a combination of; a significantly higher level of savings than is currently proposed; additional income, further asset disposals and further capital expenditure reductions.

“A continuous cycle of identifying new savings and other measures to reducing the gap will need to be embedded in 2024-25.”

Councillor Mike Pollard (Baildon), the Conservative Group on Bradford Council’s spokesperson for finance, said: “Each successive quarter the council sinks deeper in the mire.

“However, the request for a capitalisation direction of £80 million to square off the epic overspend for the current financial year ending 31 March, seems a bit over the top.

“The final directives from DLUHC are awaited with interest. In the meantime, residents should stand by their beds for bad news. I don’t think there are many live rabbits for the Labour Executive to pull out of the hat in the forthcoming council budget.”

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