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Dudley Council leader admits authority’s finances are in ‘perilous’ situation

The leader of Dudley Council has admitted the authority’s finances are in a ‘perilous’ situation.

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Councillor Patrick Harley speaking at the council meeting

Responding to a question at a meeting of the full council on Monday(4), Councillor Patrick Harley conceded cash was short and there were tough choices ahead.

In a lively question and answer session, Labour group leader Councillor Pete Lowe asked the Conservative council leader if he agreed the current financial position was perilous.

Councillor Harley replied: “Yes I do. It’s not a Dudley-alone issue, this is an issue that every council up and down the country faces.

“We have got choices, I believe they will be tough choices. In our situation 75 per cent of the issues we are facing is down to adult social care and children’s social care, so social care between adults and children is probably approaching 80 to 85 percent of our additional spend; that is the same in every other local authority.

“Government has got to get a grip on the nettle that is social care, councils all over the country will continue to go to the wall.”

Councillor Harley went on to call for governments from all parties to reveal how much cash they will give to councils in their grant earlier in the year and for a full three years.

He said: “You would not run a business the way you run a local authority, you need stability to know you can make long-term decisions.”

The council’s finance chief, Councillor Steve Clark,  then came under scrutiny from Labour’s Councillor Shaukat Ali.

Councillor Ali asked: “We know there is a forecast of a £15m deficit, can Councillor Clark tell us as of today and in view of the council’s financial position, does he see the council going bankrupt in 12 months time?”

Councillor Clarke told the meeting: “We have challenging times in front of us, the increase in costs of adult social care of £7m has kicked us in the guts.

“We do have a reserve at this point which enables us to deal with this issue.”

Councillor Ali hit back, claiming auditors and the level of reserves tell a different story.

Councillor Clark responded with an attack on the Labour front bench with a look towards the next round of local elections.

He said: “We are hoping to not cut services but we have a finite budget. I am confident we won’t be bankrupt in 12 months time biding we keep control in May and goodness help the borough if you guys take over.”

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