The announcement that Bradford Council faces a £68 million gap in its budget has been described as "bad news for Taxpayers".
On Monday, Bradford Council announced its second quarter finances – revealing that the authority faces an eye watering overspend this year.
Officers are currently drawing up plans on how to balance the budget, with announcements expected before the end of the year.
A report on the finances, going to the Council’s Executive on Tuesday, says measures that could be taken to balance the budget include a freeze on non-essential recruitment, increasing fees and charges, reviewing capital projects and selling “surplus assets.”
It says: “Further urgent action will be needed including the development of a robust improvement plan across all service areas, a support to Children’s Trust to help them to drive down costs and deliver on their business plan; the disposal of land and property and new savings proposals for the 2024-25 budget that will require difficult decisions to be made.
“Should the Council be overspent at the end of the financial year then the use of reserves would be required to balance the budget. However, this could potentially see the Council effectively run out of usable reserves at the end of this financial year.
“Bradford faces a financial emergency resulting from a complex combination of factors and will need extraordinary support from Government in addition to urgent local action and difficult decisions if it is to achieve a balanced and sustainable position.”
The report has raised concern among political leaders in Bradford. Councillor Mike Pollard, Conservative spokesman for finance issues, said: “I can just about, using a series of heroically optimistic assumptions, model a scenario in which the Council’s Budget could be technically balanced to the end of the current 2023/24 Financial Year. However, barring an implausibly generous Autumn Statement by the Chancellor in November and likewise implausible Provisional Local Government Settlement in December, it will be impossible for the Labour Executive to present a balanced Budget for 2024/25.”
Councillor Matt Edwards, Leader of the Greens on Bradford Council, said: “We can’t get around the fact this announcement is bad news for taxpayers in Bradford. We have had many years of significant Council Tax rises whilst every day services many of us use have been significantly cut. This announcement is going to mean even more cuts to service.
“Last year, in his pitch to Conservative Party members, this Prime Minister bragged about diverting funds from Northern Councils – like Bradford – to wealthy, mostly Conservative-controlled council’s down South. The announcement today really needs to be seen in that context.
“Whilst poor decisions have been made over the last twelve years by the current Labour administration, Bradford is not alone in facing this financial pressure. We really need the government needs to lift its head out of the sand and deliver a funding settlement for local councils that allows us to provide the services tax payers need – and deserve.
“The finances of the Council are in a dire state. I, like many in Bradford, am really worried about the tough choices that will have to be made to try and balance the books following the revelation that the Council is on course to be £68m over its budget by next spring.”
Councillor Brendan Stubbs, Leader of the Lib Dems in Bradford, said: “Many residents will be personally feeling the cost of living crisis in Bradford through no fault of their own. We also know that the shocking figures in the council finances are caused by the mismanagement of two groups a conservative government and the Council’s Labour Executive. They have both had their hands on the wheel and they have both spectacularly failed Bradford.
“Years of Conservative Government cuts have placed Councils across the country under huge pressure with increasing demand for our services and ever-shrinking budgets and support from Westminster to deliver them.
“However, like Birmingham, Woking, and Northamptonshire it is the failure at a local level that has compounded the problem in Bradford.
The report says the face Bradford has more properties in lower Council Tax bands than many areas was one issue.
It says: ”A 5 per cent increase in the Bradford district per dwelling raises only half the amount raised in Elmbridge in Surrey relative to size. So indicatively, if 5 per cent raises £11m in Bradford, it would raise £22m in Elmbridge pro rata. That risks a postcode lottery.”