Portsmouth faces £23m drop in funding from government over the next four years, finance boss warns

Portsmouth City Council's civic offices

Portsmouth City Council's civic offices

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PORTSMOUTH will see a £23m cut in funding from the government over the next four years, the city council’s director of finance has warned.

Chris Ward says the authority is still awaiting a decision over how much cash it will get up to 2020 – but knows it will be £23m worse off regardless of how much it gets.

The difficult part of that at the moment is, we have a rough idea of how much we’ll get if we say yes, but we have no idea if we say no. So we have got a one-sided offer at this stage.

Chris Ward, Portsmouth City Council’s director of finance

And he criticised the government for putting on the table a ‘one-sided offer’ – as the council has been told it may only get a lump sum to spend on public services and no alternative has been offered.

Ministers are expected to announce within days how much the city, and other councils across the region, could receive towards future revenue budgets – covering day-to-day running costs.

Addressing members of a council scrutiny panel during a presentation of the authority’s spending position yesterday, Mr Ward said: ‘We’ve been given an offer from government of a four-year settlement.

‘The difficult part of that at the moment is, we have a rough idea of how much we’ll get if we say yes, but we have no idea if we say no.

‘So we have got a one-sided offer at this stage.’

He added: ‘It seemed the government was expecting local authorities to snap their hands off, and were surprised when local authorities asked what the alternatives are. So I think they are thinking about that now.’

But the council’s budget could come out underspent by £5.7m by the end of the 2015/2016 financial year.

That’s despite a report revealing the children’s and adult social care services departments were spending £3.7m more than they should have been.

A proposal is to be considered by the Tory cabinet to put £1.5m of the £5.7m underspend into capital projects – money used to fund schools, buildings and roads.

Another £1m could be set aside for general spending, reserves could be increased by £1.5m and £1.7m set aside to cover savings in the next financial year.

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