Thurrock Council's ambition of eliminating its reliance on national funding grants is on track, councillors have heard. For the first time in many years, Thurrock Council is on track to not only deliver a balanced budget for next year but to have already identified a balanced budget for the following year.
Furthermore it is anticipated that both this year and next will see extra funding available to fund one-off investments on council priorities – again, a first for the borough in many years.
During the Cabinet meeting on 13 December 2017, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Cllr Shane Hebb, told the meeting that Thurrock's investment approach agreed at Full Council in October 2017 is in full progress. He also announced that he will be increasing the council's general reserve by 38% by March 2018, to £11million.
After the meeting, Cllr Hebb said: "Public bodies across the land have had to take charge of their own duties to help reduce the national deficit. The council's finances are now on a more secure footing and it means we are as independent as we can be from funding reductions – meaning the services which residents use and depend on are now more protected from market volatility than they have been in years. The new income generated means we break-even, even with the reductions we will see come through.
"There are some pressures on departmental budgets this year which will be met in the usual way, through sound budget management. The investments we have made will, however, be paying dividends this year.
"I am the first portfolio holder from a top tier authority to be able to forecast for the next two years, and by also running a surplus, this means we can fund one-off investments in the coming months. In January, the Cabinet will announce what we will do with the surplus. It is high time this borough began to enjoy the benefits of a council which is now more stable.
"As I said during the meeting, the details of these investments are commercially sensitive at present – but I will provide more details at the earliest opportunity.
"This council is on its way to becoming the first unitary authority which is self-sufficient in the whole United Kingdom; and we will ensure that the residents we represent see the benefits come through."