Ho! Ho! Ho! The countdown to Christmas at the council’s Fisher Folly offices began in earnest this morning with the issuing of a Section 114 notice – another one – signalling that officials are still unable to deliver a balanced budget this financial year.
And there’s very likely going to be another S114 issued on December 23, just in time to be unwrapped for the seasonal festivities.
After the seismic shock of the first Section 114 notice on November 11, when council chiefs finally admitted that they had failed to manage the borough’s finances properly, today’s announcement and future such notices become matters of administrative nicety, as required under Section 114(3) of the Local Government Finance Act1988.
Croydon is only the second local authority in England in 20 years to have been forced to issue a S114 notice, and just like Northamptonshire County Council in 2018, it will issue a renewed notice every 21 days until the gaping hole in the authority’s finances is filled.
In Croydon’s case, that will require the agreement to a multi-million-pound bail-out from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, who last night had officials watching the latest council emergency meeting, where Lisa Taylor, the chief finance officer, warned that the situation may not be resolved this side of the New Year.
Taylor told the meeting that since the first S114 notice was issued, £5million of council spending had been blocked – but with the council still a long way short of finding all the £66million savings required to balance the books.
In a statement issued by the Fisher’s Folly propaganda department at lunchtime today, the council said, “Croydon has been clear that it will need financial support from government if it is to balance the budget this year and to help it rebuild a financially sustainable council by 2024.
“Positive talks with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government are ongoing, with the council planning to formally submit its request for help later this month.”
Inside Croydon understands that the MHCLG’s “rapid review” team submitted their report to Secretary of State Robert Jenrick yesterday. The report will need to reassure government that the council will be capable of delivering well-managed budgets in future years if it is allowed the borrow to see it through to the end of 2020-2021.
Labour-controlled Croydon is expected to finally deliver their submission to MHCLG on December 15 – leaving precious little time before the New Year for a response from the Conservative government. “It really depends how political Jenrick intends to be,” a Katharine Street source told Inside Croydon.
And which also means that there will probably be another S114 notice issued before the end of this month.
“The council will continue to deliver key services, protect and help vulnerable residents and honour its existing contracts,” the council said today.
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