HALTON Council is facing a funding black hole of almost £19 million over the next three years, with a warning that ‘significant savings’ will have to be made to balance the books.

A medium term financial strategy will be presented to the borough’s ruling executive board this week, outlining the authority’s continuing difficult financial situation.

The report said that a total of £18.8 million has been removed from the council’s budget, with the majority of savings to cover the shortfall having to be made next year. The figure represents the equivalent of almost 17% of its current annual budget.

Like other councils, Halton receives a grant from central government, having to make up the rest of its income via council tax, business rates and paid for services. It is not expected to get the exact government figures – which will cover the next three years – until January.

In the meantime, the council’s finance team has drawn up a list of projections about how its balance sheet could look. It said the figures ‘should be treated with caution’, and factored in council tax rises of 2.99% each year – which includes 1% annual hike for social care costs. Increasing basic council tax by any more than 2% would trigger a local referendum, according to government rules.

While projected rises are not set in stone, the document warns that if they are lower then more savings will have to be found.

The report said various reforms to local government financing had been delayed, causing further funding uncertainty, while Covid had also continued to have a significant impact on council services and income.

It said: “Costs within adult and children’s social care, and waste management remain higher than pre-Covid levels, and Government restrictions caused the temporary closure of many services within the community and environment department, leading to significant income losses.

“It is likely that some of these costs will continue into the medium and long term.”

The strategy will be discussed at an executive board meeting tomorrow (Thursday).