MP says Herefordshire Council is "running out of options" over its cashflow woes (From Hereford Times)
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MP says Herefordshire Council is "running out of options" over its cashflow woes
3:00pm Wednesday 27th February 2013 in News
HEREFORDSHIRE Council’s cashflow woes have been put before parliament with MP Bill Wiggin saying the authority is “running out of options.”
Moving a Commons adjournment debate on local government finance in Herefordshire, the member for North Herefordshire Wiggin criticised the council for putting council tax up by just short of the two per cent that would trigger a referendum.
Herefordshire and South Herefordshire MP Jesse Norman joined the debate to tell the Commons that - compared to other authorities - the county had suffered a cumulative underfunding of £174m between 2005-10 alone, which amounted to around £35m a year.
Mr Wiggin told the Commons that the council feared freezing council tax again when faced with the risk of falling “further and further behind” over time when its formula grant funding was already 13 per cent below the national average of £358 per capita.
Mr Wiggin said he supported a council tax freeze but couldn’t back an increase given its “real impact” on already stretched household budgets.
The council, the Commons heard, had secured some £21m of efficiency savings since 2011, with a further £9.1 million due to be delivered this year.
“Once the fat has been trimmed the pickings are lean. Factor in a below-average level of council tax, alongside a relatively low base, and it is clear that Herefordshire is running out of options,” said Mr Wiggin.
The debate heard confirmation of £531,374 coming the county’s way in sparse areas grant as “efficiency support” for services, over 2013-14 only.
“A one-off grant cannot be budgeted for in rising to the challenges that rural authorities face when delivering services in geographically sprawling areas. Those are permanent challenges that can, and will, never be completely overcome. It is time to give serious thought to our long-term future,” said Mr Wiggin.
“I am not calling for more spending, only a fairer allocation,” he said.