Sheffield's slice of funding cake is bittersweet

Is Sheffield about to get a bigger slice when it comes to money?

Monday, 17th February 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 3:17 pm

Finance chiefs at the council say funding from the government is a piece of cake.

David Phillips, head of strategic finance at Sheffield Council, explained to a scrutiny meeting: “Funding is affected by the size of the cake that central government gives to local councils.

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David Phillips, head of strategic finance

“The bigger risk for Sheffield though is how that cake is divided - that’s the Fair Funding Review. It is a worry so we hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”

For years, politicians have argued that there is a north south divide, claiming the Government treats its Conservative heartlands more favourably.

Surrey is often mentioned in Sheffield Town Hall as being the wealthier rival.

Areas with expensive house prices also bring in more income through council tax as residents are in higher bands so pay more.

Council finance chiefs hope the influx of new Conservative MPs in the north will mean Sheffield gets more money.

Mr Phillips added: “I wonder whether the government can really afford to cut funding from authorities in the north without there being a huge storm?

“Prior to the election, the majority of Conservative MPs were from the Home Counties and they got a lot of traction but now there’s a lot representing northern towns.”

Even if Sheffield gets a good slice of the cake, the future is bittersweet because the government won’t reveal its longer term funding plans.

The Fair Funding Review has been delayed to 2021/22, which the council says is a “key uncertainty” going forward.

Mr Phillips said: “The uncertainty of not knowing a big variable in your budget makes it very difficult to plan. It’s guesswork with a change of Government and new Chancellor.

“There’s a danger funding is disproportionate between wealthier authorities that can set much higher levels of council tax.

“I hope the worst position is we remain cash natural but there’s a danger we could lose money.