County Hall unclear whether it needs to save £11m or £70m - and Brexit is to blame
PUBLISHED: 17:29 04 June 2019 | UPDATED: 19:56 04 June 2019
The murky political climate has left County Hall finances officers unclear whether they need to save £11m or £70m in the next three years.
Uncertainty over government funding - largely caused by stalling Brexit negotiations - has left Norfolk County Council's financial team having to prepare for best case and worse case scenarios around its position for the coming years.
However council bosses have insisted Norfolk is not on the brink of a Northamptonshire County Council style collapse - which saw it effectively bankrupt and forced to split into two unitary councils.
Simon George, the council's financial director, said: "We are nowhere near the same space as Northamptonshire. We have got some challenges ahead but even in the worst case scenario we will be able to deliver a manageable budget."
The first meeting of the council's new scrutiny committee was told the council's budget gap over the next three financial years could be anything between £11m and around the £70m mark - depending on what funding it receives from central government.
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Much of the uncertainty centres around whether two pending government decision over existing forms of funding - whether a social care grant is continued and whether the revenue supports grant is reduced.
However, Simon George, the council's executive director of finance, told the committee these issues were not expected to be resolved until close to the end of the year.
He said this had left the council needing to look at all possibilities for their finances and prepare for the worse, as delays over Brexit and the Tory leadership race had meant they remain in the dark over central funding.
Mr George added the council had been working hard to lobby the government to ensure it is given all the financial support it can get from Westminster.
The committee though raised concerns that this effort could end up being wasted, with wholesale ministerial changes likely on the way in the government.
It comes after cabinet agreed to set itself a savings target of £40m over the next year.
Andrew Jamieson, cabinet member for finance, said it was important for the council to work alongside district councils to try and squeeze as much money from the government as possible.