County Hall gates

Financial outlook remains optimistic despite challenging times ahead

The financial outlook at Lancashire County Council remains optimistic despite huge challenges facing local government across the country.

Thanks to a better than expected Provisional Financial Settlement from central government and significant work to review opportunities for improved productivity and value for money, the forecast funding gap for 2023/24 has improved by nearly £26m and is now forecast to be £7.7m, rising to £15.5m by 2026/27.

The Provisional Financial Settlement, which provides local authorities with detailed allocations of funding for the next financial year, was announced on 19 December 2022. The final position will be confirmed in February although we would not expect any significant changes.

Despite the improved outlook, there remains great uncertainty with regard to both the financial position and particularly funding levels from 2025/26 onwards. This means the council must continue to act prudently and manage its resources effectively.

County Councillor Alan Vincent, deputy leader of the council, said: "While there will undoubtedly be some difficult decisions ahead, we are in a good position to meet future challenges.

"This is largely due to careful management of the council's finances over recent years and our relatively healthy reserves. However, our reserves will only stretch so far, which is why we have a number of planned savings to ensure our strong financial footing continues.

"By identifying further savings and delivering savings earlier than currently planned we can close the financial gap sooner, creating the opportunity to consider further investment in priority services."

Councillors will discuss the authority's financial position at the next meeting of cabinet on Thursday 19 January.

The updated position will form the basis of the next Money Matters reports, which also include the budget recommendations for the 2023/24. This will be considered by cabinet at its meeting in February, who will be asked to give their recommendation to Full Council.