COUNCILLORS in Calderdale are facing stiff budget challenges next year and in the years ahead as they battle to balance the books, despite some extra Government cash for some areas of the council’s work.

It means savings or service cuts will have to be found to a collective £21 million or so over the next five years, estimates indicate.

They also face pressures in the last three months of this financial year to balance the books, largely due to areas that are not in their control, papers Cabinet will consider when it meets at Halifax Town Hall on Monday, January 13 (from 6pm) show.

In the run up to December’s General Election councils were waiting on a number of Government spending announcements and these will result in an estimated £12.1 million worth of funding coming Calderdale’s way.

Head of Finance Nigel Broadbent sets out pros and cons for councillors to consider, with a 4.3 per cent increase in core spending the largest year on year increase in a decade and including extra cash for children’s and adults’ social care.

This may be around £5.7 million in Calderdale’s case, although around £1.9 million of this would be realised by an additional two per cent rise in Council Tax on top of a regular two per cent rise which is allowed without councils having to put their proposals to a local referendum.

Social care, which is a statutory duty for councils to provide, support which includes care packages for older people and care places for looked-after children, is the major factor in budget deficits the Council is trying to eliminate in the current year’s budget because costs can rise unexpectedly if support is needed by vulnerable people.

But, says Mr Broadbent, a retained rates scheme which was allowing councils to retain 75 per cent of money raised to help fund their budgets will not continue according to Government and Council Tax increases will be limited to that two per cent figure.

Estimates indicate that although “standstill” budget shortfalls predicted for the years to 2024-25, covered by the council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy are not as high, savings will still have to be found.

Mr Broadbent’s briefing paper says the bottom line position shows budget deficits of £700,000, £2.8 million, £3.6 million, £6.4 million and £7.7 million for the years 2020-21 to 2024-25 respectively.

A separate paper Cabinet will consider the current year’s budget where the third monitoring report of the year shows directorates still looking to deal with an overspend estimated to be around £4.6 million without further action and with only very limited options to use money from balances .

The bulk of this is overspends on services which the council has to legally provide, for adults’ (£2.7 million overspend) and children’s (£1.6 million overspend) social care, which are outside the control of the council.

Cabinet is also expected to table budget proposals at the meeting, and a number of financial items which have to be approved before budgets can be formulated, for example calculating the Council Tax base, will also be considered.