Comments made by the Council’s Leader, addressing a meeting of the authority’s Performance and Overview Committee have raised concerns about the possibility of the council becoming insolvent in the next three years.
Cllr Mary Ann Brocklesby, was being scrutinised by the Chair of the committee, Conservative Cllr Alistair Neill, on the performance of the authority over the previous 12 months but faced questions about the financial forecast for the next three years.
Cllr Neill asked the Leader if she agreed that the forecast for 2026/27 of a £23 million budget deficit and just £22.7million amounted to the very definition of insolvency, “a lack of funds and savings combined to be able to cover running costs.”
In response, Cllr Mary Ann Brocklesby said, “I can only agree with you on that point. I think it’s something we all as a council need to be well aware of and will be in the coming months, undoubtedly. The Cabinet is clearly aware of it.”
Just 48 hours after this exchange, it was announced that the cabinet member with responsibility for resources is going part time and entering a job share which passes all responsibility for finance to a new cabinet member.
The new arrangement means that Cllr Rachel Garrick will have responsibility for council property, HR and engaging with trade unions, while Cllr Ben Callard will be responsible for financial strategy, council tax and the council’s overall budget.
Cllr Richard John, Leader of the Opposition, said: “Monmouthshire has been the lowest funded council by the Welsh Government for a long time and we know that money has been tight. However, it’s extremely sobering to see these figures and hear the council’s Leader agree that the authority is facing the very definition of insolvency in three years’ time.
“It’s an extraordinary situation for the council to be forecasting that in 2026-27 its budget shortfall will be greater than the council has in its reserves. In this situation the authority would have to issue a section 114 notice declaring bankruptcy.
“It’s an astonishing prediction and one that councillors in the administration must work hard to avoid, but at the moment I don’t get the sense that the Cabinet are on top of this.
“It seems a strange time to hand over control of the council’s finances to a new councillor and the changes mean that now half of the eight original cabinet members appointed when Labour took control of the authority just 16 months ago have quit, been sacked or had their portfolio cut in half.”