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Wigan Council leader says era of cuts 'far from over'

Council leader David Molyneux
Council leader David Molyneux

Wigan’s council leader says “more difficult decisions” lie ahead for the town hall because of continuing budget pressures.

David Molyneux’s warning that the era of budget reductions was “far from over” came as authority finance officers outline estimated savings targets up to 2022.

Since 2012, the council has faced closing a £160m budget gap ahead of 2020 and councillors were recently informed of a £26m savings target for the period 2019 to 2022.

Coun Molyneux said rising pressures on adult social care, children’s services and the health sector are adding to the challenge of balancing the books.

He said: “The council has had to meet a wide range of financial challenges over the past eight years due to the Government’s austerity measures. Unfortunately it is clear the era of uncertainty over local government funding and budget reductions is far from over.

“Due to this uncertainty forecasting the council’s budget for the next four years remains extremely difficult.”

Expected reforms to local government funding are yet to be finalised by ministers, adding to the uncertainty town halls are facing in setting long-term financial plans. In response to this,

Coun Molyneux said: “It is right that through our medium-term financial plan we identify all the risks and challenges and consider all options in how we can deliver balanced budgets in the years to come.

“We are refreshing The Deal through to 2030 and we remain committed to transforming services while improving them for residents, supporting business growth and keeping council tax as low as possible. The plight of other councils facing bankruptcy, such as Northampton County Council, illustrates the importance of transforming services to deliver efficiencies.

“There’s no doubt more difficult decisions will have to be made with an estimated £26m to be saved between 2019 and 2022 and increasing pressures on adult social care, children’s services and the health sector among others.”

The Government will introduce a new funding formula in 2020/21 with councils’ reliance on council tax and business rates increasing due to revenue support and public health grants being withdrawn.

Coun Molyneux added: “Wigan Council has a proven track record for excellent financial planning, delivering to budget and achieving savings targets. External auditors regularly conclude that we have strong arrangements in place to deliver value for money and use resources well.”