Wirral Council faces 'difficult decisions' over £12m shortfall

Image source, Stephen Richards/Geograph
Image caption,
The council said pressure on services was partly to blame for the cash shortfall

Wirral Council's deputy leader has said "difficult decisions" will have to be made as the authority tries to plug a £12m black hole in its budget.

Councillor Janette Williamson, who is cabinet member for finance, said government cuts and pressure on services had depleted resources.

And Ms Williamson said the council could no longer use reserves, and had no more property to sell off.

She added: "The situation is really dire at the minute."

The council had already used its reserves, which its leader said were "a one off".

Ms Williamson said a range of savings were now being implemented by the council, and that staff would be made aware of the plans in a set of "urgent briefings".

'Difficult decisions'

No further details of what these options could be have been revealed.

Ms Williamson said: "There will be some really difficult decisions that we are going to have to face."

Council leader Pat Hackett said the situation was more severe than in previous years as the council had fewer revenue streams, such as property to sell.

He said for this reason "all discretionary spend is frozen", adding: "Spending restrictions have been put in place to varying degrees in most of the years since the start of the national austerity programme in 2010/11, with varying durations and degrees of enforcement.

"Many of the options and opportunities to balance previous years' budgets are no longer available to us.

"Managers are ensuring that all staff are made aware of the position through urgent briefings and that the expenditure restrictions required are implemented with immediate effect."

Conservative councillor Ian Lewis said bosses of the Labour-led authority had known government funding arrangements were changing for 10 years.

"Other councils have used that time to make the changes needed and to encourage new businesses to set up, to create the revenue the council needs," he said.

"Wirral, instead, has wasted that time and squandered opportunities."

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government declined to comment due to the forthcoming general election, but a spokesman said Wirral Council was able to access £266.2m of government funding over the 2019/20 financial year.

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