Yorkshire council leader says balancing authorities books has been 'an absolute bloody miracle'

Barnsley Council’s leader said that “balancing the books” has been an “absolute bloody miracle” after a tumultuous year for the aurhority’s finances.

A finance report, introduced by councillor Robin Franklin at today’s (June 16) cabinet meeting, said the council’s operational overspend for the last financial year is £3.1m – far less than anticipated due to austerity and the coronavirus pandemic.

Council leader Sir Steve Houghton told the meeting that “given what the council has been through with austerity, balancing the books is not ordinary – it’s an absolute bloody miracle in some cases. To do the same after 12 months of Covid is an incredible achievement.”

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The report states that although the pandemic has placed a “significant strain” on the council’s resource,s the authority has not had to dip into its emergency reserves.

Sir Steve Houghton
Sir Steve Houghton

“Whilst Government have provided significant emergency funding, the costs incurred far outweigh funding received,” it adds.

Sir Steve added that councils across the country are having to “go to government with their begging bowl” to fund services, but Barnsley has still managed to invest in services such as adult social care.

A breakdown of figures in the report shows that the costs of responding to the pandemic in Barnsley stands at £41.6m – £33.2m in costs and £11.4m in lost income.

Councillor Chris Lamb told the meeting that “contary to popular belief, this hasn’t all been covered by the government.

“That makes this achivement all the more staggering," he said.

Cash has been partly saved through “schemes that no longer need to progress”, council tax rises and a “moratorium on all non-essential expenditure”.