Merton’s Finances on track, but facing tough challenges

Merton Council’s Cabinet has heard that the authority is on track to beat its annual savings target and has reconfirmed its commitment to providing value for money to the tax payer.

The Cabinet was updated on the state of the council’s finances at a meeting held in the Civic Centre on September 10. The meeting included a review of the Annual Efficiency Statement and the council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy.

For the period up to March 2008, the council has identified efficiency savings worth £12m over a three year period, or almost 9%, easily beating its £10m target. The savings have been achieved by a cross council review of the way Merton works, identifying areas such as procurement where improved joined up working has resulted in delivering efficiency savings. These are only part of the council’s savings for each financial year which in 2006/07, totalled £9.5 million.

However, the Cabinet also heard that due to increasing financial pressure, the Council may have to identify further savings of £14.4m next year. This is due to an expected freeze in the amount of government grant that the borough receives, alongside growing pressures caused by a reduction in income, increased landfill charges and additional demands on core services.

A report will now be prepared for October’s Cabinet with the first draft of the council’s budget proposals for next year’s budget. This will then be looked at by Scrutiny Panels prior to a vote at full Council in March 2008.

Councillor Samantha George, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services, said: “These reports show that the Council is ahead of the game in getting to grips with its finances. The cabinet has looked very hard at the way it does business, allowing to focus upon maintaining quality front line services. This was recently recognised by the Audit Commission who now rate this a `good’ council’.

“But the Council is potentially facing an even bigger challenge next year as the Government expects all councils to do more for local residents, but with less money in real terms. Merton is in the middle of a thorough review of everything it does, to ensure tax payers money goes as far as it can, and into front line services.’

Notes for Editors

To read the Cabinet reports in full, please go to http://www.merton.gov.uk

The budget setting process is as follows:

On December 10, Cabinet will approve the draft budget package.
On January 31, The Overview and Scrutiny Commission will receive a package of comments about the proposed budget from Scrutiny Panels
On February 11, Cabinet will r