Nottingham City Council making improvements in how it manages money

Loxley House In Nottingham, where the City Council is based
-Credit: (Image: LDRS)

Nottingham City Council’s financial officers say improvements are progressing as part of widespread change in how it manages money. The Government brought in commissioners last year to oversee the council’s finances after it declared effective bankruptcy in November.

Councillors at the Audit Committee received an update today (Friday, June 28) about the authority’s financial improvement plan. It was put in place after an investigation found millions of pounds from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) had been misspent.

As of the end of last month, 85 per cent of the council’s financial goals identified in the plan have either been completed, or are in progress. But some councillors expressed their worries about the management and monitoring of the plan.

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Cllr Sajid Mohammed (Lab) expressed his ‘anxiety’ around the financial predictions and said: “If we are not getting the budget forecast bang on at the beginning, we are always going to be playing catch up.”

Staff have received specialised financial training to help the council’s financial improvement, the meeting was told. Cllr Mohammed added: “You don’t want [staff] to see this as just a one-off set of training but them to really understand the cultural embedment that it’s going to be a continuous part of their role.”

Cllr Michael Edwards (Lab) said: “What have you got in this framework that gets staff to read this on a monthly basis to say yeah, ‘things are on track’ or actually ‘no something’s happened’?

“I was asking you to reflect on whether you’ve got management at all levels regularly reviewing the requirements.”

Shabana Kausar, Director of Finance, responded: “We rolled out financial accountability statements this year, which requires that all budget managers signed their budget accountability statement, what their responsible for and what they should be doing.”

While the council has managed to bring its 2023/24 budget gap down from £19.3m to £17.6m, it is still facing significant overspends in areas such as adult and children’s social care and homelessness support.

In adult social care the overspend has risen to £8.5m due to costly external placements, while there is a £15m overspend in children’s social care.

Rising homelessness has further brought the overspend in this area to £2m. The overall budget gap for the next three years is still estimated to be £172m.