PEMBROKESHIRE County Council faces a potential funding gap of £18.4million as the setting of the final budget for 2021-22 is moved to March following central and Welsh Government delays.
Pembrokeshire County Council will continue its work on a draft budget for the coming financial year using a flatline settlement and present it at December’s full council, cabinet member for finance Cllr Bob Kilmister said on Monday (November 2).
It had been expected that Welsh Government would have issued details local government settlements in early December but this has been deferred until December 22, following the decision of UK Government to delay publication of its comprehensive spending review, cabinet heard.
A four week public consultation on the draft budget will be held following overview and scrutiny committee examination of the draft in January but this does not allow enough time got a report on residents’ views to be prepared before the February 8 cabinet meeting.
Cllr Kilmister requested that cabinet move its meeting to later in the month, as well as deferring full council to March when the final settlement should have been received.
The draft budget “will be very different from the final one as a result,” said Cllr Kilmister, with the projected funding gap faced by the council increasing to £18.4million from £8.8million.
He added that at a recent, well attended, members’ seminar the difficulties and options for the budget were outlined with fully costed options for the draft budget were being prepared.
This includes consideration of a two per cent council tax rise instead of the five per cent increase included in the medium term financial plan.
He warned that the cost of Covid-19 and its impact on savings and efficiencies would result in the flatlined budgets for services having to off set all inflationary, demand, demographic and legislative costs.
“The final costs are extremely significant and the effects are likely to last for a generation. This authority dealt extremely well with this pandemic and worked with Welsh Government to protect the vulnerable,” said Cllr Kilmister.
The projected funding gap does not include the financial impact of the pandemic which – if it continues and is unfunded by Welsh Government in 20121-22 – would cost an estimated £9.5million.
If an increase in budget is received departments will use the bid for growth model used this year.
“We have to balance our budget and we will achieve that but maintaining the status quo will not be possible,” added Cllr Kilmister.