Kirklees Council: Yorkshire council freezes spending in bid to avoid bankruptcy

Kirklees Council is grappling with its finances in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy after the cabinet approved plans to restrict all non-essential spending.

This week’s cabinet report sets out the severity of the council’s financial predicament, stating “the seriousness of the council’s financial position cannot be understated.”

At the meeting, Coun Paul Davies said the council ‘needs to go further’ in its measures to save cash.

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He said: “This report spells out the reality of our financial situation and the practical steps we need to take to set a balanced budget.

Kirklees Council is on the verge of going bankruptKirklees Council is on the verge of going bankrupt
Kirklees Council is on the verge of going bankrupt

“Extra demand for services that safeguard our most vulnerable residents including child protection and residential placements for children in care have been the main drivers for the increased costs alongside social care for older people and residents with learning disabilities.

“Inflationary pressures on goods such as food for school, catering services and IT equipment are also driving up costs. We had already put measures in place to reduce costs and the report shows that we’re delivering the key savings that we set out in the budget but it is now very clear that we need to go further.”

The measures that will come into force include restricting all non-essential spending, restricting recruitment and reviewing what is defined as essential and speeding up the sale of buildings the council is looking to dispose of.

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Previously, an email sent to council staff by chief executive Jacqui Gedman warned that up to 750 members of council staff could be made redundant with savings of £47m needing to be made to balance the books.

On top of this, a further review of the council’s capital plan will be carried out to “ensure it still represents value for money whilst not jeopardising investment that is vital to the future economic stability of the district.” The capital plan includes major regeneration projects like the Huddersfield and Dewsbury Blueprint and George Hotel.

The council also hopes to make some of the savings that were projected to be made in the next financial year, this year.

Coun Davies added: “We also need to ensure that the public understands where the responsibility for this lies – at the hands of this economically catastrophic Tory government… despite the government losing control of our economy and our public services, we will weather the storm in Kirklees.”

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Earlier in the meeting, the topic of section 114 notices was brought up by Coun John Lawson as he expressed concerns for the future of Cleckheaton town hall, considering the council’s finances. He said: “It’s apparent that we are fast approaching the self-imposition of a de facto section 114 in our spending.”

A section 114 notice restricts all new spending and is issued by a local authority’s Chief Financial Officer. Whilst no answers certainties could be given on the future of the town hall, Coun Graham Turner said: “It is our belief and our desire that we will not need to issue a section 114 if we can deliver the savings that we’re planning to do so…

“This cabinet will do everything it can to avoid issuing a section 114 notice. We will work with our unions, with our staff and residents to deliver the savings to get on a financial footing that’s affordable within the budget envelope we currently have.”