Norfolk County Council refutes scaremongering claims reported in the media about finances and budget

09 March 2018

Norfolk County Council refutes scaremongering claims reported in the media about our finances and budget.  We have a robust and prudent strategy, with plans to transform services, cut costs, raise income and set aside additional 2018-19 funding in reserves.  We are challenging today’s media reporting of the financial position of local authorities.

In particular, we have challenged the interpretation that the Council has overspent in each of the past three years.  In fact, overall underspends on the revenue budget have been transferred into reserves in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17.  This is reported in the Council’s Statement of Accounts for each of those years.

Year Underspend
Transferred to
2014-15 1.753 Adult Social Services reserves
2015-16 0.052 General Fund
2016-17 0.048 General Fund

The true position for our forecast reserves was reported to councillors last month in our 2018-19 Budget papers.  These show the following forecast reserves at the end of the current financial year on 31 March:

Earmarked reserves
(including Public Health but excluding Schools)
General Fund 19.301
Total 62.451

Media reports state that Norfolk County Council’s usable reserves have “halved”.  This included a net £19.065m in respect of the termination of the waste contract (the Residual Waste Treatment Contract Reserve in 2014-15 saw transfers into the reserve of £14.639m resulting in a total use of the reserve of £33.704m during that year).  This one-off event means the opening comparator reserves figure is highly distorted.  Without this, the reduction in reserves would have been closer to a third.

Norfolk County Council has set a balanced budget for the year ahead, focusing on protecting vulnerable people and investing in infrastructure that supports our economy and jobs.  We face major challenges, with Government grant reducing, demand for services rising and costs increasing.  But by prudent budgeting, we have focussed our spending on the priorities outlined in our “Caring for our County” plan.

These include:

  • £18.5m of additional spending on children’s services, to support the improvements taking place
  • An additional £40m for adult social care, to support new ways of working and prevention services
  • A capital programme of £429m, funded by grants, capital receipts and borrowing, to support major schemes such as completion of the Norwich Distributor Road, school improvements and the Great Yarmouth Third River Crossing

Overall, the total gross amount spent on adults and children’s social care rises significantly by £48m compared to 2017-18. Alongside this investment in key services, the Council will be making savings in 2018-19 of £30m – however this represents a lower level of savings than was required in 2017-18.  Next year’s budget also sets out a lower reliance on the use of reserves compared to previous years, with plans to use a net £13m of non-schools reserves compared to £18m planned in the 2017-18 Budget.

The planned savings of £30m for 2018-19 amount to 48% of our £62m of non-schools earmarked reserves (including the General Fund) forecast at April 1st.

Our External Auditors have found no issues when reviewing the Council’s achievement of value for money, and have commented that the Council had in place proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources for the 2016-17 financial year.

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