The reserves row between central and local government resurfaces each year with the release of annual revenue expenditure statistics. And each year, as the use of reserves increases, the debate grows more severe.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) figures this year, published at the back end of last month, are emblematic of a sector at the butt end of their savings capabilities – despite many section 151 officers frantically searching for more.
Councils funded 2.1% of revenue expenditure in 2016/17 with reserves and collection fund surpluses – up from 0.9% in 2015/16. They used £1.5bn (6.2%) of the £24.6bn reserves balance held at the start of 2016/17, leaving £23.1bn at the end of March this year.