Local councils across the country, including Wokingham Borough, are facing their worst financial pressure for generations; with rampant inflation, reducing income and the increasing need to help residents.
The cost of providing basic services, such as social care for the most vulnerable, is increasing dramatically; with inflation running at about a 40 year high and energy bills (which are uncapped for local authorities) spiralling out of control.
These huge increases in cost cannot be covered by increased income because Council Tax is capped at 1.99 per cent and other revenue generation is reducing because of lifestyle changes caused by Covid-19.
Unprecedented financial challenges
And these unprecedented financial challenges are coming at a time when residents are most in need; with prices rising beyond wages, energy bills skyrocketing and winter approaching.
The council executive member for finance Cllr Imogen Shepherd-DuBey said: “It is almost impossible to overstate the difficulties we are facing and we know our residents are facing these difficulties too, so we are determined to protect those most in need and to maintain sound finances so we can continue to provide services.
“All our services are under pressure due to increasing costs and we are looking very hard at all our spending, as well as how we could try to raise more revenue, so we can protect the most vulnerable in the community.
We are also appealing the Government to recognise the urgent situation local councils are facing and provide realistic support.
“Our income cannot grow to meet these extra costs because it mainly comes from Council Tax, which is capped, and other sources that are reducing.
"This leaves us needing to make changes, some of which can be greater efficiency and sweating our assets but others must be savings and increased charges."
Helping those in need
Leader of the council Cllr Clive Jones said: “This is a national issue, but there are local factors that we are having to deal with. These include significant population increases that have taken place in recent years and some unfunded commitments that had been made in areas such as waste collection and bus subsidies.
"We can only help those in need through sound financial management and so are constantly looking at expenditure to make sure it is targeted only where needed.
“We have seen elsewhere, such as Slough and Thurrock, what happens when councils don’t get their budgets right and we don’t want those things to happen here.”
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