IN his latest column for the Warrington Guardian, Russ Bowden talks about financing the Town Hall

MONDAY sees the council’s 2019/20 budget being presented to the executive board.

We have been saying for some time now about the financial pressures we are faced with and austerity still has no end in sight.

We’ve had more than £130m cut since the turn of the decade – that’s about 60p in every £1.

These cuts are hugely damaging – they threaten the services that we all rely upon, many of which are already stretched to the limit. We simply can’t carry on doing the same, or more, with less.

This year sees us having to cut another £22m – and will see us having to make the most difficult decisions we’ve faced so far.

Our priority will always be to protect our most vulnerable residents and vital frontline services, which is why our approach to finance, innovation and investment is so crucial. Any income that we generate helps to protect services and we will continue to identify these opportunities under our ‘invest to save’ programme.

I’m often asked ‘how can you afford to spend millions on investments and projects, but then cut services?’.

The difference is in the two ‘pots’ that we spend money from: revenue and capital.

Revenue funding is the money that we use on day-to-day spending, like running services and paying care and support staff. This is like your weekly household bills, and it’s this pot that has been so drastically cut.

Capital funding, however, is money that we borrow to invest in our town.

It can’t be used to fund services – it can only be used to buy or improve assets, such as parks and property, or building Time Square. It is like a mortgage, we borrow the money and pay it back over time. This capital programme is driving the regeneration of Warrington but is also generating income – around £30m this year – all of which goes into our revenue budget to help fund council services.

So, some difficult decisions lie ahead this year but I can promise that where services may be impacted, we will be open and explain them. We will always strive to be ambitious for our borough, so that we can all enjoy Warrington as a place to live, work and do business.

Finally, I’m delighted that we have been successful in our bid for the Rugby League World Cup 2021. We’ve got three men’s games and, in a world first, a Physical Disability Rugby League tournament as part of a festival of rugby league. Bring on 2021 – it’ll be another brilliant opportunity for us to showcase the very best of our town.