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WIRRAL: Budget cuts ahead

WIRRAL: Budget cuts ahead

Wirral Council is set to make £27m worth of savings next year in a bid to solve its budget crisis.

Last month, Wirral Council was told to consider closing libraries, leisure centres and golf clubs, as well as selling Wallasey and Birkenhead Town Halls after a government inspection which made for grim reading.

Two reports, one on finance carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), and another by Ada Burns on governance, gave a damning verdict.

The reports included strong criticism of elected councillors and officers, stating that the ‘prevailing culture’ at the council prior to the pandemic had been to avoid difficult financial decisions, meaning the council’s emergency reserves had been dramatically reduced in recent years.

Earlier today, the LDRS reported that the authority faces a potential deficit of £25m in 2022/23.

At tonight’s Policy and Resources Committee, Stuart Fair, Wirral Council’s interim finance director, said savings of £27m were required in the next financial year for the council to balance its budget.

Mr Fair said that of all the council’s financial challenges, this would be the biggest of them all, as the £27m figure meant Wirral Council would have to reduce its revenue spending by 8.3% in the space of 12 months.

But after last month’s damning reports, Mr Fair saw this as a necessary move to ensure the council was financially sustainable.

It is understood that proposals for how these cuts can be achieved will be brought forward in the new year.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist, who leads the Liberal Democrat group on the council, said it was important that the local authority got the 8.3% figure out so that people knew what the budget cuts meant.

However, the Eastham councillor noted a section of the report which said it was possible that not all of the planned savings would be made.

He thought that this implied an element of leeway or some scope for argument within the council’s budget plans.

Cllr Jeff Green, a Conservative, asked Mr Field if the report he was presenting had to be so long and suggested a shorter report may be easier for some to understand.

But Mr Fair said it needed to include most of its contents for reasons such as transparency.

Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter

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