Brent’s budget is annually assessed by the Government’s Audit Commission. The Audit Commission has now reported back to the Council about their findings from the 2010 / 2011 Audit. The Audit Commission has confirmed that “the Council has proper arrangement to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of its resources.”
It says that “significant changes are required over the next few years and tough decisions will be required to make them…. The Council’s transformation programme is helping it prepare and make the savings required for future financial stability”.
The report reminded me of the context of the cuts that Brent is making and said “Following the announcement of reductions in grant funding by government in May 2010, the Council approved an in-year savings plan of £15 million.
The medium term financial strategy (MTFS) was updated to include £106.7 million savings over the next four years to 2014/15. £41.7 million of savings have been included in the budget setting strategy for 2011/12. The Council is currently reviewing its approach to deliver the residual savings of £65 million between 2012/13 and 2014/15….. These substantial savings will have to be delivered against a background of increasing demand for council services and reduced management capacity…. The Council’s general reserves are low and earmarked reserves are falling while pressure on the Council’s resources in the coming years is significant and unprecedented. The maintenance of strong financial control will be essential if the Council is to achieve its plans. When setting its budget for 2012/13, the Council must continue to have regard to the increasing level of risk in setting its reserves.”
So with the £41 million plus cuts that the Council has already identified, a further £65 million has to be cut from Brent’s budget within this spending review period.
The Audit Commission acknowledges that “the achievement of such a significant savings plan whilst continuing to deliver quality services will remain challenging.”
Areas of improvement identified by the audit are to do with producing quality financial monitoring systems. Although there is acknowledgement that “It has been a particularly difficult year for the Council, implementing new financial systems and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) whilst also dealing with structural change, staff losses, and a highly challenging budget settlement. This has stretched finance resources and impacted on the Council’s ability to produce good quality financial statements and working papers.”