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Pembrokeshire Council’s finances at “risk” because of Covid and Brexit

MEMBERS of Pembrokeshire County Council audit committee were told on Tuesday (July 14) following questions from chairman Cllr Tony Baron. that dealing with Covid-19 and the unknown outcomes of Brexit will hit council finances but the risk of a stop on all spending bar statutory services is low.

Cllr Baron has previously referred to the risk of section 114 notices being issued by English local authorities which limit expenditure to vulnerable people and statutory services only.

“I believe that we are at nowhere near that in Pembrokeshire but it would be interesting for the committee and the community at large to understand the final risks facing the council, not just from the Covid-19 situation but also from Brexit,” he added.

Cabinet member for finance Cllr Bob Kilmister said that the council’s finance was at huge risk, with all aspects receiving maximum scores on the corporate risk register, a report presented to the audit committee.

Preparing the medium-term financial plan had been made difficult due to a lack of detail about what will happen following Brexit but “it’s looking likely it will be bigger rather than small in terms of risk,” said Cllr Kilmister.

“We are not at risk in my view of 114 notices. In Wales the situation is very much better than in England, fundamentally down to the how we are receiving finance from Welsh Government,” he added.

The extra expenditure and loss of income of the council are currently being met by the Welsh Government with the increase in council tax reduction scheme demand potential also being funded, the meeting heard.

Council tax collection rates are not at the same level at the same time last year – £1.5million down – and rent arrears stand at around £1million, which is higher than last year, but that is not “unexpected,” said director of finance Jon Haswell.

“Section 114 not even under consideration in Pembrokeshire, or to the best of my knowledge, no authority in Wales is anywhere near a Section 114 notice,” he added but warned savings expected to have been made had not which was a further pressure.

“We have a working balance of £7million for situations such as this – to assist, to fund an emergency or crisis – if we had to use some of that this year that would be an acceptable use of it,” said, Mr Haswell.

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