April 21, 2024

Financial lifeline will ‘weigh heavy on district for years’

On Thursday, the Government agreed to grant Bradford Council “exceptional financial support” – meaning the authority can borrow money and sell properties to help balance its budget.

Last year, the authority had said if such support was not granted, Bradford Council would effectively have to declare itself bankrupt.

Bradford was one of 19 Councils to be granted such support on Thursday.

The support gives the Council the power to use a mixture of borrowing and asset sales to balance its budget.

£80m support has been granted for the current financial year, and £120m for next year.

Council bosses have said that despite the support, they will still have to push ahead with a slew of cuts, closures of facilities and price rises, as well as a 4.99 per cent rise in Council Tax.

Responding to the news that the Council would get support, Councillor Mike Pollard, Conservative Group spokesman for Finance and Projects, said, “Whilst my Conservative Group colleagues and I are clear in our minds that the Council’s financial woes are of the Labour Executive’s making, we are pleased that the Secretary of State has decided to throw them a lifeline, due to the effects upon the residents of Bradford district and the services that they need, if he had not done so.

“Make no mistake, however, yesterday’s press headlines to the effect that Bradford has ‘avoided bankruptcy’ are juggling with semantics.

“There do tend to be additional measures taken by Government when Councils go down the Section 114 Notice route in crying for help, but the massive underlying problems and, indeed, the onerous provisions attaching to the massive loan facilities sought in these cases, whether via Section 114 Notice, or the alternative Exceptional Financial Support that Bradford has been offered, are exactly the same.”

Councillor Brendan Stubbs, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Bradford, said: “The Government response to the Labour-run Councils request for help places Bradford Council very high on the list of financial failure in Local Government and the need for £220 million to balance this years and next year’s accounts will weigh heavy on our district for many years to come.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Councillor Brendan StubbsCouncillor Brendan Stubbs (Image: newsquest)

“This £220 million will need to be borrowed and repaid by the Council and after years of failure both the Labour Council and the Conservative Government. They have chosen to get out credit card to cover their mistakes, a credit card that local taxpayers will have to pay off over 20 years.

“The Emergency Financial Support is only for the first of the five years outlined in the Councils plan to bring things under control.

“It is highly likely Bradford will return with the begging pot to Government again before things are fixed.”

Councillor Matt Edwards, leader of the Greens in Bradford, said: “Whilst it is a relief that we are not going to be filing a 114 notice this is still a very difficult situation for Bradford Council. More importantly residents will be paying more council tax and still be facing big cuts to services – not just in this budget but in future budgets.

“Whilst there are definitely failings in this current Labour administration which have led us down this path, the sheer number of Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem councils up and down the country requesting support this year shows that the real issue here is the chronic underfunding of local services by this Conservative government.

“Given the unwillingness of Keir Starmer to commit to undo this, anyone expecting a Labour government to put this right is going to be very disappointed.”

Referring to the decision to provide 19 Councils with exceptions financial support, Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of the Local Government Information Unit said: “We know how desperate these councils were to receive this exceptional support.

“For them, it is a last-minute reprieve that wards off immediate financial collapse. On that basis it is welcome news. But we should not mistake this for generosity on the part of the Government.

“They are simply allowing councils to borrow and to sell their own assets. We should not mistake today’s announcement for a sustainable long-term solution to local government funding. Increased debt and selling off the family silver will only get us so far.”

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