Bury Council faces 'going bust' by 2022 unless it makes cuts to plug a massive funding gap, councillors have heard.

During a cabinet meeting discussing the development of the 2021/22 budget, Bury Council leader Eamonn O’Brien told of the 'dire situation that Covid had had on our finances', saying that the council had gone from a 'robust position' to one of 'being thrown off the rails' by the pandemic.

Conservative Leader Nick Jones told the meeting that his reading of the documents showed that if the present trajectory continued the council 'would go bust in 2022' and said the current Labour administration had 'missed every one of its targets'.

Coun O’Brien said: "We started in this financial year in a position of needing to find £27 million in savings over next four years, starting with this year’s savings of £4 million.

"Quite clearly this has transformed into a far greater challenge this year with the pressure of a £4.3 million projected overspend on top of the other cuts.

"We’re now projecting a £68 million gap rather than a £27 million gap.

"This report sets out of cost of not doing anything both from the council and central government.

"We are not in position to rely on cash reserves to plug gaps. We can’t hope this goes away and it’s also clear that this will require very difficult decisions for this council if were not given the resources we were promised by government.

"The plans we had were robust and deliverable but we’ve had that totally thrown off rails by Covid. Our next steps will clearly be to deal with overspend this year but we also need to think about years to come."

The budget report revealed the scale of the challenge to the council.

It stated: "It is a statutory requirement that councils are able to deliver a balanced budget each financial year and based on the current information this may not be possible beyond the 2022/23 financial year or earlier if ongoing cashable savings are not delivered."

Coun O’Brien said he would present 'a more detailed picture on how to deal with challenge' next month.

Coun Eamonn O'Brien
Coun Eamonn O'Brien

He added: "My very real worry is the impact on the services getting through this current crisis.

"We may be in the perverse situation of asking our key workers to do more, step up and put themselves in harm’s way while also reviewing their jobs, terms and conditions and pay.

"That is unacceptable but it becomes the inescapable reality if the financial situation remains the same as in this overview.

“I think the government should step up, they need to give us long term assurances about funding. These people were heroes so it would be totally wrong to cast them out because of the financial realities."

Conservative Leader Nick Jones challenged Labour’s leadership on the issues of controlling finances.

He said: "I’ve spoken to both MPs for Bury and ministers in Whitehall and if the council can provide a detailed list what these extra costs are then the government will repay them.

"The council has not provided any kind of breakdown. This is not a financial plan but more a spending until it’s broke.

"This document shows the council will go bust in 2022. What confidence can the people of Bury have. You’ve missed every one of your targets."