Thurrock Council at risk “of emptying reserves”

Thurrock Council Offices

THURROCK Council is among eleven councils highlighted in a report that says councils risk running out of cash reserves if recent spending continues reports the BBC.

Analysis by the BBC has identified 11 authorities the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) said would have “fully exhausted” reserves within four years unless they topped them up.

The BBC analysis of government data follows work by Cipfa, which published a “resilience” index of councils, but stopped short of naming those it warned were depleting reserves the fastest.

The warning was based on the latest data available, comparing reserves as of March 2018 with March 2015.

The analysis reveals which 11 of the 152 major English councils have used so much of their reserves since 2015 that Cipfa said they would run out within four years if spending patterns continued.

Councillor Richard Watts from the Local Government Association said: “Some councils are facing a choice between using reserves to try and plug funding gaps or further cutting back local services in order to balance the books.

“This is unsustainable and does nothing to address the systemic underfunding that they face. Ongoing funding gaps are simply too big to be plugged by reserves.”

The data showed Northamptonshire County Council recorded a 91% drop in reserves. The authority was forced to stop non-essential spending during 2017-18.

Thurrock Council was shown to have spent 58% of its reserves but insisted it was planned and the authority was not running out of money.

Thurrock Council said it was in “one of the strongest financial positions of any unitary authority” in England and had frozen council tax. It said its reserves had stayed stable and it had used “earmarked” reserves as planned. “Earmarked reserves do not represent the council’s financial strength in any way and to use them to suggest otherwise is misleading and incorrect,” said deputy leader Councillor Shane Hebb.

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