Wirral Council facing £80m budget deficit

RESIDENTS in Wirral face council tax increases and service cuts to cover a budget deficit of almost £80m over the next four years, according to estimates revealed in council documents.

Even assuming a council tax increase of 4% a year from 2010 onwards, the deficit still stands at around £55m – to be achieved through “efficiency savings” according to the report to be presented to councillors next week.

On Monday deputy leader of the council, Simon Holbrook, said financial conditions were likely to “get really tough” in the coming years.

Leader of the authority, Steve Foulkes added that “all political parties nationally are talking about austerity” but said: “The Tories are talking about a 10% cut in council finances which would add £35m to the bill for Wirral Council.”

A report by Wirral Council’s director of finance, Ian Coleman, said: “The gap between projected expenditure and anticipated resources will need to be bridged by a combination of savings and/or increased council tax.”

The council’s projected budget for 2010-11 estimates a shortfall of £10.7m, falling to £5.5m if council tax increases by 4%.

The following three years show budget deficits on current figures of £23m, £21.4m and £22.6m over the following three years – a total of £77.7m between 2010-2014.

And even assuming a council tax increase of 4% over those years – the maximum before the Government steps in and caps council tax is 5% – this only reduces to £17.6m, £15.8m and £16.8m for the years 2011-14 respectively.

Cllr Holbrook said difficult decisions had already been taken “which led us into the controversial measures such as the Strategic Asset Review”– which included the controversial decision to close libraries.