Councils could foot bill for discretionary funds, says Sheffield MP

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A Sheffield MP hit out at the government for failing to promise that local authorities will not have to pay for new cost of living crisis support.

Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, said the chancellor refused to guarantee councils would receive ‘pound for pound’ funding from the government to support vulnerable households when asked.

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He said: “Long gone are the days when the Government promised ‘everything it takes’ to support local authorities doing their utmost to help vulnerable individuals and households. Yet again we are looking at a potential situation where the council is losing out by paying discretionary payments from a scheme the Government has ordered them to set up. We want to help those most vulnerable but it is not sustainable to place costs on local authorities who are already struggling having faced huge cuts from austerity.“Of course we welcome that the chancellor is finally doing something to help the poorest households, albeit after months of pressure from Labour to do so, but we are again getting promises for a government that they are not agreeing to fund, leaving it to local authorities to make up the difference.”

Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East.Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East.
Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East.

Huge financial pressures facing councils

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The council is facing a “massive” budget deficit – overspending by £18.7 million in just the first month of the financial year already.

The shocking figure was revealed in a document prepared for the first meeting of the strategy and resources committee next week.

The situation is so serious that officers are moving the medium term financial analysis – which estimates the council’s overall position for the next few years – forward by months, aiming to publish it in July rather than autumn.

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Council officers said in the report the overspend was due to a combination of agreed budget implementation plans not being fully implemented and ongoing pressures.

Looking ahead to the future, they said there is likely to be a potential budget gap of £68 million for the 2023/24 financial year – several million more than this year.