Sparks fly over £8m Solihull Council overspend

Solihull Council house
-Credit: (Image: Sam Greenway LDR)

Solihull Council's overspend of nearly £8million was debated at the latest meeting of senior councillors. The leader of the largest opposition group raised concerns about the financial position of the council and said the government should be doing more.

At the start of the meeting Solihull Council ’s director of finance, Andrew Felton, gave an update on the medium-term financial strategy - the financial planning framework for Solihull Council. He highlighted it showed, in the period 2023 to 2024, there had been an overspend of £8.149m with just under £7m of that attributed to pressures within the children and education portfolio.

Councillors heard the remaining overspend of £1.56m related mainly to corporate pressures rising from business rates. It was explained the £8.149 million had been addressed through various methods including use of council reserves to balance the budget.

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Coun Max McLoughlin, leader of the Green Party group, said he recognised a lot of the issues, such as inflationary and demand pressures, were not faced by Solihull alone. “Part of the challenge is the funding has not been there from central government to meet the increasing costs and increasing demand that have been faced," Coun McLoughlin said.

“I’m very concerned around how the finances look overall. Some of what this (report) talks about is the need for savings to be able to maintain a balanced position - they are not detailed as yet. That is a political decision.

Solihull Council House
Solihull Council House -Credit:Sam Greenway LDR

“I wanted to thank officers for the work that goes into just keeping the lights on.” Coun Karen Grinsell, deputy leader of the Conservative-run council, who chaired the meeting, said: “I would state we are not about to turn any lights off, so don’t suggest that please.”

Coun Bob Sleigh, the cabinet holder for resources, said: “I think we have done quite well. In fact we have done very well when one considers other local authorities and what their position is.” Coun Sleigh described it as a “commendable position” adding this was on the basis of local government finance which was an issue that should be addressed by "whoever is the next government".

Coun McLoughlin then asked the portfolio holder: “You are lobbying the government (for financial support). We have seen a reduction year-on-year in real terms to local government - how successfully has your lobbying been?

“We are seeing there isn’t really a political direction from your party (in the Conservative Party's manifesto) in terms of changing that.” Coun Sleigh replied: “You have read our manifesto, I’m sure we could read yours and pick pieces out of that - I don’t intend to do that.”

The meeting took place at the Civic Suite on Thursday, June 20.

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