No ‘black hole’ in Burnley’s budget

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The councillor in charge of Burnley Council’s budget has quashed suggestions there is a “black hole” in the finances.

The exact state of play will be revealed on January 10th, when the borough’s Executive meets. It is also the date when councillors are expected to rubber stamp a decision not to accept cash at council offices in payment for bills, to cut costs.

A debate about the council’s spending plans for the next three years led to the “black hole” suggestion at a recent meeting of the full council. Significant cuts in Government grants have been blamed for a £3.9m. shortfall. Measures to balance next year’s budget have already been approved; the £3.9m. needed in savings for the following two years.

The council’s Executive member for resources, Coun. Margaret Lishman, said: “This figure still represents a significant challenge but is much lower than the amount quoted at the meeting.

“We have already made good progress in working out how we are going to balance the books and have established a fighting fund that will help us to manage the difficult times ahead. We are on target to achieve significant savings this year which will boost our reserves still further.

“We are examining different ways of delivering services to the public but at a lower cost. We will also ensure we secure as much as we can from other sources of Government funding, such as the new homes bonus.”

On the financial update to be given to her fellow councillors, she added: “It’s vital the council keeps a close eye on its finances and if there are any changes to the budget that they’re aware of, as soon as possible. This enables us to properly and effectively manage our resources and deal with any potential issues at an early stage.

“The reports show we are on course to achieve a saving of around £200,000 this year. If we manage to achieve this figure it will be put into our fighting fund to help us deal with budget pressures in future years.

“The Executive and full council regularly receive budget monitoring updates throughout the year, and this is even more important as we come towards the end of a financial year.”

The Executive meeting is expected to formalise the decision not to accept cash payments for council tax and other bills. Cash payments at the council’s Contact Burnley offices in Burnley town centre are set to stop from April. Anyone wanting to use cash will have to use a PayPoint site; there are 49 across Burnley. People will be encouraged to switch to paying by direct debit.