Council warns it faces £35.6m budget shortfall

Wakefield Council says it must plan for an estimated budget gap of £35.6m for 2024/25.

The council adds it is drawing up a financial plan for the next five years to make sure it has a sustainable budget in the years to come.

While it notes the council is currently stable, it also warns the position “is not sustainable”, explaining that it has used reserves to plug the gaps for several years – which cannot continue.

The council says it is contending with rising costs due to inflation impacting the funding available for frontline services. Higher interest rates are also making debt costs more expensive.

Cllr Denise Jeffery, leader of Wakefield Council, said: “Every council in the country is facing huge financial challenges and some have already run out of money.

“We are in a strong position and we know the challenge we need to meet. But we’ve work to do to make sure our budget is sustainable, and the plan we’ve published shows how we can do that if we tackle our big budget issues now.

“We will continue to drive savings and efficiencies across the council. But I am very clear that my Cabinet and I have some difficult decisions to make to deliver a balanced budget next year.

“We remain focused on what matters most to our residents, and that will always come first.

“To do this responsibly we must continue to invest where we can, and be realistic about what we can and can’t do.

“By doing that now, and tackling the big budget challenge we face, we’ll be in a good position in the years to come.”

Members of the council’s Cabinet will meet on Tuesday 10 October at 10.30am to discuss the council’s financial plans.

Initial budget proposals will be set out at a Cabinet meeting on 16 January 2024. If Cabinet accept the initial ideas they will go out for residents and businesses to have their say, via a two-week online survey.

The final budget will go to back to Cabinet on 13 February and to full council for approval on 28 February.