‘Financial cliff’ fears for council

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Bosses warn new deficit could appear despite £3.6m cuts

Council bosses could be facing a “financial cliff” in future years, despite efforts to balance the books.

Budget cuts were announced in February, in an attempt by the authority to save more than £3.6m over the next three financial years.

But leaders warned a new deficit could be appearing at the end of the latest five-year financial forecast.

Speaking at a full council meeting of Preston Council, cabinet member for resources Coun Martyn Rawlinson said: “The cuts are having an impact and we can’t respond to things like we used to.

“Despite these massive efforts to make the savings the government has asked of us, this new forecast shows a new financial cliff towards the end of the forecast.

“It is a worst case scenario and we are planning for the worst as we always do, and hope for the best.

“Most of the risks remain issues outside our control.

“Government policies are still the major risk to our financial future so all we can do is keep an eye on those and plan for the worst.

“We have forecast continuing reductions in government grants, which is what the local government association is forecasting.

“Hopefully we get a Labour government next year who are talking about redistributing funding more fairly.”

Coun Rawlinson said the loss of income from the market car park had been forecast, as it is set to close, although he said the council didn’t know if it would lose all the income from it.

He described the predictions as a “worst case scenario”, and said: “That doesn’t mean we are going to enter into a new round of cuts – we are going through a massive programme of cuts.

“The new deficit is at the end of the forecast, we’ve got time to plan for it, we hope we don’t have to have a new round of cuts but we are preparing it.”

He added that there was “certainly no panic” and told the Evening Post: “We are on top of the savings programme, it’s going very well, but it is very tough.”