Council well placed to meet financial challenges

Uttlesford District Council is in good financial health and will plan for any possible financial impact ahead of potential changes to national rules on how councils borrow and invest money.

Over the last three years, the council has built up a £275 million commercial property portfolio, with assets both within the district and further afield. The rental income generated from these investments is used to fund a significant part of the council's £16.2 million spending on public services, as well as key priority areas such as climate change projects, economy recovery and sports provision. By 2023/24, the investments are forecast to bring in £7.1m annual income to support council services.

However, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), the accountancy body for local government, is currently consulting on draft changes to the financial guidance which would likely affect how much councils can invest and borrow. The government is also considering making a number of changes to tighten up on councils that undertake commercial investments.

It is likely that with any rules changes, the council, and all other local authorities, may be forced to take a different approach to the way in which they generate income to pay for services.

Cllr John Lodge, Leader of the Council, said: "Unlike some other councils, Uttlesford's current finances are in good financial health thanks to our prudent property investment and effective management of taxpayers' money - but our future assumptions and plans are going to need to be different because of the CIPFA and government changes being considered.

"Councils have managed their way through many years of financial planning, management and austerity, so this kind of challenge isn't new to us or other authorities.

"Whilst the scale and nature of the changes are not completely clear or finalised, it is important that we plan properly for any possible financial impact. I would reassure residents that, irrespective of any changes coming our way, we will continue to live within our means and to deliver the high quality public services that they value and need."

The council's proposed response to the CIPFA consultation, as well as the current financial position and potential implications of any CIPFA and government rule changes on borrowing and investing, will be considered by councillors at a meeting of the Investment Board on 11 November and then by the Cabinet on 15 November.

A summary briefing note and additional FAQs are available to read on the finance and accounts webpages.

8 November 2021