Northumberland County Council leaders deny opposition parties 'kept in the dark' about multi-million pound shortfall.
and live on Freeview channel 276
Earlier this week it emerged the council was facing a £17 million black hole in its finances, blamed on inflationary pressures and the increased cost of fuel.
This led to criticism of the council’s Conservative administration from opposition leaders, with both the Liberal Democrat and Independent group leaders saying they only found out after seeing the news in the media.
However, speaking at Wednesday’s meeting of the council’s cabinet, deputy leader Coun Richard Wearmouth hit out at the comments and pointed out the information had been in a report posted on the council’s website last week.
Coun Wearmouth said: “There have been some really disappointing comments from other leaders. When you look at the report, if they bothered to read it, you would see exactly where the pressure is.
“It is coming from salary requirements, which is something completely out of the control of the county council, and negotiated after the budget. There are also pressures of inflation.
“No one could have forseen the impact of the war in Ukraine.”
Coun Wearmouth also revealed that the council was in a good financial position despite the shortfall, thanks to underspends in previous years that was put away in the council’s reserves.
He continued: “The council has, in a number of previous years, had underspends to make sure we had funding in reserve.
“Because of good financial management of the county council, the Section 151 officers and this administration, we are in a good position to weather the storm.”
Council leader Glen Sanderson added: “It says it clearly there and it was there clearly over a week ago. How anybody who reads meeting papers could miss that – but that’s democracy.”
Earlier, the meeting had heard from the council’s chief finance officer Jan Willis, who had explained the financial situation.
She said: “The council’s revenue budget is coming under significant pressure due to increases in the cost of fuel and general inflation, and in particular the expected pay award for local government staff.
“At the end of June we were expecting an overspend of £17 million. We had a reserve of £5 million set aside at the beginning of the year so we’re looking at a net-overspend of £12 million.”