Councils await next year's funding settlements

CASH-strapped local authorities will today (Wednesday, December 19) find out their financial settlement for next year - with one district council already revealing it will have no need to cut services.

Councils’ government funding for 2013/14 will be announced by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

Local authorities have already been told by the Chancellor that they will be exempt from a one per cent cut next year, which most Whitehall departments will face.

Although many councils are still facing massive budget cuts, prompting job losses and service to be axed, Richmondshire District Council leader John Blackie believes the exemption will give authorities some respite next year.

He claims his own authority’s finances are the envy of neighbouring councils as they struggle to balance their books.

Coun Blackie said guidance given by the council’s financial team had led to the authority being in a “very sound position” looking forward to 2013/14.

“Our finances are healthy enough for me to announce that there will be no requirement for the district council to look for cuts in services for 2013/14,” he said.

However, he added that councils had been told to expect a two per cent squeeze in 2014/15, with the extra worry of a comprehensive spending review due to take place next year.

“In short, whilst for next year we can celebrate, there is no room for complacency.”

The council is so confident of its finances that it has proposed a freeze of its car parking charges in a bid to help residents and boost tourism.

In 2010, officers at Richmondshire, which is run by an independent group of councillors, warned that the authority would lose 32 per cent of its central government grant over the next two years.

The council has also seen the unravelling of a shared service agreement with neighbours Hambleton this year.

However, Coun Blackie said this breakdown in the relationship between the councils has actually saved Richmondshire £106,748.

Coun Fleur Butler, leader of the opposition Tory group, said the announcement of no cuts next year was a “little premature”.

She added: “I would hate to see this administration look like children in charge of the sweet jar, but I’m sure they will show more maturity and prepare a balanced budget for the complete time of the independent’s term, as the Conservatives did.”

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