Cheshire East Council is set to discuss its end of year financial performance at a meeting of its finance sub-committee on 22 September. The financial outturn – which shows the council’s balance for the end of the financial year – was calculated by looking at how much money was spent and received between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.
It reflects an unprecedented year of pressures and challenges due to Covid-19. There was a high degree of uncertainty throughout the year. This included government Covid funding, that effectively doubled the council’s agreed budget, being received at various points throughout the year. The council took on responsibility for an entirely new set of Covid-19 related services such as shielding, business grants and care home infection control. Many council services had to be delivered in different ways to ensure that essential services continued while others were closed and then reopened as government restrictions changed.
Despite these challenges, the council has managed its finances carefully to avoid an overspend as well as adding £1.2m to its reserves to progress council priorities.
The council has received around £280m of additional government grants due to Covid-19, most of which were then allocated to support business, individuals and local service providers to cope with lockdowns and other national restrictions.
As the pandemic continues, financial pressures on the council also continue as it works to deliver essential services and the ambitions set out in its corporate plan.
Councillor Amanda Stott, chair of the finance sub-committee, said: “There has never been a more challenging year to forecast and control financial budgets. Covid-19 has had a significant effect on our community and the services we provide and also the funding for those services.
“While we are putting in place a sustainable financial plan, our medium-term financial strategy (MTFS) shows that we have significant continued pressures and challenges ahead, particularly in relation to social care and health funding.
“We have a responsibility to be financially prudent. Considering the many uncertainties faced throughout the year, the fact that our overall end of year balance is within 0.4 per cent of the initial budget is remarkable.
"While we have not been able to complete all the projects we planned at the start of the year because of the various Covid restrictions and additional responsibilities, we have only had to carry over 4 per cent of our planned spend. This shows that we have planned and re-prioritised well. It is positive that we are in this financial position.
“Financial figures such as underspends and reserves show we have improved the financial control that the council has over its finances. The figures shown in the council’s outturn are from a point in time and, while it shows a ‘surplus’ of funds for the year, much of this money is already committed to various council priorities and projects that were not able to progress due to the pandemic.
“Careful management has meant that the council has not overspent its budgets, which is helpful. However, we are in unprecedented times and the financial challenges ahead mean we must continue to be prudent, particularly as we wait for more detail on the government’s social care and local government funding plans.”
The council will now consider the ongoing impact of the pandemic as they review current spending against the current year budget (2021/22) and update proposals in the MTFS which sets out the council’s planned income and expenditure over the next four years. This includes proposals for investment, savings and efficiencies, the level of council tax payable by residents, grants and other income.
The finance sub-committee meeting is on 22 September at 2pm and the agenda along with the outturn, can be found on the council’s website on the finance sub-committee pages.