A COUNCILLOR has warned that Bradford’s financial reserves may not be enough to balance the books in the near future.
And it will take “a financial miracle” for the new Children’s Trust to reduce pressures on Children’s Service finances enough for Bradford to get back on firm financial footing.
Councillor Mike Pollard (Cons, Baildon) made the claims during a meeting of the Council’s decision making Executive this week, when members were given an update on the authority’s finances.
The annual Quarter 4 Finance report to the Executive revealed there was a £32m overspend in the financial year that has just ended.
High numbers of costly agency social workers, and pricey out of District placements for many children in care, meant Children’s Services was the area of the Council facing the most pressure. There has been a £50.5m overspend in that department in the past 12 months.
Inflation had also added to the authority’s financial woes.
The report revealed £100.3m of reserves have already been drawn upon this financial year, meaning the remaining amount has fallen to £128m.
At the end of the financial year, any overspend – which is currently forecast to be £32m – has to be funded from reserves to balance the books.
Reserves are set aside by Councils for “rainy days” and cases where authorities face financial pressures that cannot be met by their day to day budget.
The report to Executive said Bradford’s current reserves are “reducing at an unsustainable rate.”
A later section of the report detailed the risk levels that Council finances are facing. Referring to financial resilience, the report said: “Reserves are forecast to be adequate for the foreseeable future.”
Cllr Pollard described this claims as “a bit silly” in the light of the spiralling financial pressures.
He said: “When it says the reserve budget is adequate for the foreseeable future, I don’t believe it is attempting to foresee very far.
“Barring some financial miracle from the Children’s Trust in year two, I believe the chances of the Council’s reserves being adequate for the 2024/25 financial year to be somewhere between very slim and nil.”
Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe replied: “Foreseeable is a flexible word.
“It is very difficult for us to predict future finances when the Government don’t follow through on what they say they are going to.
“We need a Government that is consistent and that is governing in the best interests of the country. That will put us on better footing.”