Council "not out of the woods" over its finances

‘Generally it’s good news’ for Northumberland County Council’s finances, chiefs have said – but stressed they are ‘not out of the woods’ yet and work is needed to ensure the council remains sustainable in the longer term.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 8:00 am
Coun Nick Oliver.

It came as senior councillors on Northumberland County Council’s ruling cabinet to discuss the authority’s quarterly financial performance for 2020-2021.

Coun Nick Oliver, cabinet member for Corporate Services, said: “It has been an extraordinary year in every respect, we have been operating council services in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic and it has been very very difficult.

“And I would just like to put on record out thanks as an administration to all service areas who have played their part in delivering those services and actually managing within the budget of the council."

Although some council income streams such as car parking charges have decreased significantly as a result of the drop off in tourism and travel restrictions, the council’s financial report notes the authority had “benefited from significant levels of grant funding”.

The council’s adult and social care department has been allocated grants totalling £4,553,304 for test-and-trace service support and outbreak containment.

In addition, £5million has been granted to support the Northumberland Line rail passenger service reinstatement scheme.

The council did, however, approve setting aside unspent funds in order to mitigate the ongoing economic effects of Covid-19.

Cabinet was told that the financial year 2021-22 “may be a far more challenging year".

Members were informed to expect a collection fund deficit from business rates and tax and in response to this to create a £25,975,000 smoothing fund.

The council will allocate £5million from its own funds to achieve this whilst the central government will fund the remainder.

A £2.3million reserve has been approved to support business during the Covid-19 recovery period.

The council also approved allocating £250,000 to meet repair and maintenance costs at a property the council leases.