Cotswold District Council could go bust like Birmingham unless some “very tough” decisions are taken in the next few years.

Council leader Joe Harris (LD, St Michael’s) painted a sobering picture last night (September 20) as he spoke of the financial challenges the authority faces.

He told the full council meeting that no council is immune to the huge financial challenges currently affecting local government and which recently led to Birmingham Council effectively going bankrupt.

Every local authority in the UK has felt the impact of more than a decade of austerity, high energy costs and the recent uncertainty in politics, Cllr Harris added.

He explained that Cotswold District Council is in a relatively good position financially but very tough decisions over the services it provides will have to be taken otherwise they may have to issue a section 114 notice by 2026/27.

This notice is declared when a council has judged itself to be in financial distress and can no longer balance its budget.

It restricts all new spending with the exception of protecting vulnerable people and statutory services and pre-existing commitments.

“It has left many councils financially on the brink,” Cllr Harris said.

“The good news is that here at Cotswold for the time being we are in a relatively sound position, thanks to the tough decisions the deputy leader has made on the finances and this council have supported.

“But I think it is only right to be honest with residents now, particularly with the news of Birmingham that we face very, very difficult challenges ahead.

“The choice is clear. If we do nothing, if we don’t take the tough decisions and push those tough decisions down the road then by 2026/27 it will be this council potentially issuing a section 114 notice and filing for bankruptcy.

“We have to use that knowledge to focus the mind. My message to residents and to all of you this evening is clear. There are going to be tough decisions ahead over the next few years.

“There are going to be services that don’t look like they currently do, they might be reduced. There might be services that are no longer provided. There will be services that we need to look at how we change and adapt and transform.

“If we want to avoid what Birmingham is about to go through, what Woking has gone through, what Thanet has gone through, then we have to be absolutely tough and make those really difficult decisions.

“There are going to be some very fraught political debates over the next few years, the like of which we probably haven’t seen at this council.

“I don’t want to be bleak as with tough times comes innovation, it focuses the mind but we have to plan for the worst case scenario.

“While the Government continues to underfund local government and continues to cap the amount we raise in council tax and restrain us on what we can do with borrowing and investment we are going to have to look at what we can do to transform our services.”