ST HELENS Borough Council is not seeking “exceptional” financial support from the Government – with Town Hall chiefs confident of managing future funding gaps.

The full scale of the financial challenges faced by local councils across the UK as they emerge from the pandemic can be revealed following a BBC investigation.

The Shared Data Unit’s analysis of 171 upper-tier authorities found 10 struggling councils in England are set to offset or borrow £290 million after being given exceptional permission from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to try to remedy what it called their “unmanageable pressures”.

UK local authorities – hit by falling income and increased costs – are set to make at least £1.7 billion worth of savings in 2021-22, while also using more than £500 million worth of reserves to balance the books.

Despite making those savings, local authorities currently predict a £3 billion shortfall in their budgets by 2023-24.

Labour-run St Helens Council is not among the 10 councils that have asked for “exceptional” financial support.

As stated by the Shared Data Unit, St Helens has a net revenue budget requirement of £172.72 million for this year, 2021-22.

A 4.99 per cent council tax rise was approved for this year. The annual cost of a Band D property in 2020-21 was £1,503.75, with the annual cost for 2021-22 being £1,578.78 – a rise of £75.03.

Meanwhile, the council’s planned savings in 2021-22 total £13.44 million, which includes £4.38 million of adult care savings.

These 2021-22 savings amount to £74.42 per resident. The council has not approved the use of reserves to balance the budget in 2021-22 and its predicted cumulative funding shortfall for 2023-24 is £8.6 million.

Cllr Martin Bond, the council’s cabinet member for finance and governance, said: “Given the financial challenges facing local authorities including St Helens Borough Council, it is critical that our action plans continue to be implemented to ensure that necessary savings are identified, managed and delivered.

St Helens Star: Martin Bond

Cllr Martin Bond, the council’s cabinet member for finance and governance

“Our medium-term financial strategy (MTFS) 2021-24 sets out the framework for delivery of future savings and efficiency programmes to address funding gaps, as well as the resourcing of an ambitious investment and growth agenda for the borough as it recovers from the pandemic.

“However, the uncertainty, volatility and complexity of the current financial landscape and one-year funding settlements from Government makes planning of this scope and timescale particularly difficult.

“Nevertheless, we remain confident in our ability to manage future funding gaps, through the ongoing refinement of forecasts and development of further options within the MTFS reflecting the extent of the financial challenge ahead.”