The accusation of a budget black hole is simply not true. The council has reserves of about £77 million, and has general reserves of twice the required level.
The truth is, councils always have to set a balanced budget.
That is required by law and that is what we have done every year.
In the last couple of years we have rightly had to use some financial reserves to pay for urgent and long-overdue investment - specifically, fixing the problems in childrens’ services that had been allowed to fester under previous Conservative administrations.
This is what reserves are for - paying for unanticipated expenditure. And what could be more important than investing to ensure that every child has a good future?
As is shown in the official published council papers from 10th February 2023. ‘In line with the council’s policy, this reserve is maintained at a minimum level of between 3% and 5% of the net revenue budget. As at 31 March 2022 the general reserve balance totalled £9.6m, being 6% of the council’s 2021/22 approved net revenue budget’.
The reserves are therefore at twice the minimum required level, and above the expected level. The report also shows that the unallocated reserve is expected to be at the same level at 31 March 2023.
At 31 March 2023 the council is also projected to have £67.5 million in earmarked reserves, meaning that total reserves will be £77.4 million.
So in summary: the council is still absolutely in the black, has reserves of about £77 million, and has general reserves of twice the required level.