Lichfield District Council’s financial future is brighter than most local authorities, the former leader has said.
Cllr Mike Wilcox was speaking at a meeting of the council earlier this week where the mid-term financial strategy was being discussed.
Cllr Rob Strachan, cabinet member for finance, had warned that the council could not afford to dip into reserves due to a projected funding gap over the next five years and uncertainties surrounding the current pandemic.
Former leader Cllr Wilcox said that while there were financial fears facing the local authority, it was in a better position than most.
“Cllr Strachan has alluded to the many challenges we will face culminating in us, like many other local authorities, facing a funding gap in future years.
“I know both he and our head of finance will already be looking at ways to mitigate this position.
“But it’s important to put Lichfield’s position into some context.
“Through my Local Government Association work, I can say this sector has never before seen the level of applications from councils seeking financial support from Government.
“I’m working with two local authorities facing dire financial positions, with reserves having already been utilised to balance their budget.
“For many councils, the consequences of not having Government intervention is unthinkable and ultimately will result in them not surviving.
“Councils will need to be more creative about ways of increasing income or reducing expenditure going forward.
“Thankfully, we have over the years developed initiatives to address our long term funding which has placed us in a better position that most.
“Without doubt this has come as a result of the close monitoring and tight financial controls that are in place.”Cllr Mike Wilcox, Lichfield District Council
Long-term issues linked to the New Homes Bonus, business rates and local authority funding reviews had created uncertainty for councils, Cllr Wilcox said.
And he insisted pressure needed to continue to ensure the Government dealt with the difficulties local authorities were being faced with.
“Adding to this is the volatile position all councils will face as a result of the pandemic.
“There is no doubt that central Government funding to local authorities will come under extreme pressure in the financial years to come and we do need to do all we can to lobby where possible, so that we don’t have to take the brunt of the reduction of funding.”Cllr Mike Wilcox, Lichfield District Council
Cllr Steve Norman, leader of the Labour opposition, said a Freedom of Information request to the council had revealed that not enough was being done to lobby the area’s two MPs on issues facing the local authority.
“I received a reply saying that the only letter or email they had on their records was the one sent to the MPs on 6th November asking them to support the Local Electricity Bill – a proposal made by the Labour group at an October council meeting.
“You have to conclude that the district council Conservatives are either not interested in getting changes to support the council’s finances or that it is more important to shield their MPs from any connection with the legislation and actions taken by their Government.”Cllr Steve Norman, Lichfield District Council