‘We should all be worried’: York council’s chief financial officer warns of ‘difficult times’

Council department bosses and managers are urged to find savings – as one finance boss warned of ‘difficult times’.

Rising interest rates, soaring inflation and growing pressures in adult and children’s social services mean the council must find £6.7million to balance the books.

The authority’s budget was set in February, but since then the cost of living crisis has only gotten worse.

A 2% wage settlement has been considered for 2022/2023 for council staff, but is likely to be significantly higher once negotiated.

Asked about the situation by Oversight Committee Chairman Cllr Jonny Crawshaw, Council Finance Director Patrick Looker said: ‘We should all be worried.

He added: “That’s why we’re talking to all the directors and our department managers and looking at what we can stop doing.

“There are services that we currently provide that we will probably have to reduce within our means.

“I’m not going to turn around and say everything will be fine because it’s a difficult time.”

Only so much money

A council financial report said tough decisions would have to be made to protect frontline services, but Cllr Crawshaw said more or less everything the council did could be considered frontline service.

Mr Looker replied: ‘There is only so much money the council can bring in and they have to spend it on the services they provide.

“We are going to see the elected officials to tell them ‘what are your priorities? Which vulnerable residents are most important to support? What services can we afford to provide and what services can we not afford to provide? »

Without any changes, the current £6.7million overrun on the board’s forecast would decimate its reserves, leaving it in a “very, very difficult position” for 2023/24, Mr Looker added.

Out-of-town placements and the continued use of agency staff in children’s social services and the cost of care beds and the use of agency staff in adult social services are two of the major areas of overspending. expenses.

“We cannot afford to continue to overspend at the rate we are in these particular service areas,” Mr. Looker said.

Cllr Crawshaw closed the debate by calling on councilors not to over-politicize the predicament regarding the council’s financial situation in the run-up to the May 2023 municipal election.

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