FINANCIAL impacts in a post-coronavirus world mean that Thurrock Council will bring forward planned service reforms. Although prudential financial management and the councils investment approach have meant that these changes will be able to happen in a considered and sustainable way, there is a need to perform service reforms quicker than anticipated before COVID struck.
Since 2016 the council has increased its reserves by 131% and the investment approach has brought in an additional £70 million over the last two years. This means that the council has an important financial cushion as it now faces a £33.67 million deficit over the next four years.
Cllr Shane Hebb, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “There are difficult times ahead but the council’s financial approach over the last few years has meant that we are in a position to face this situation and work through the challenge.
“Our reserves and the income our investment strategy continues to generate mean that we have not had to perform in-year emergency budgets, like some other councils. Thurrock Council is able to use reserves slowly over the next few years to close some gaps, while allowing us to reform our service offer at the same time.
“The COVID pandemic has created a once in a generation situation for local authorities. We have seen a vast reduction in our incomes from business rates and Council Tax while at the same time spent extra to make sure that our residents were safe and well looked after. Pausing the investment approach also mean the need to reform services quicker – which would have all been done quickly and damagingly in 2016 without the investment approach. We will now have to be quicker in reforming services; faster than the plan we had hoped to follow over a number of years.
“We had always planned to reform services – and indeed have been – but the global economic fall-out from the pandemic means this will now happen sooner than we expected. Our reserves position, borne from the investment approach, doesn’t make decisions that need to be made any easier – but it does give us more time than other councils have had, to adjust our service offer.”