Lorna Baxter is chief finance officer at Oxfordshire CC
The beginning of a new normal
In her final column as Society of County Treasurers president, Lorna Baxter reflects on local government finance departments' achievements over the past year.
Council tax urgently needs updating
Lorna Baxter says that while council tax is not a broken tax it is one that 'urgently needs updating with extensions and flexibilities before it becomes so obsolete that it loses its credibility'.
If past Government 'levelling up' interventions haven’t worked, what will?
Lorna Baxter says levelling up is about inequalities in pay, housing, health, employment and skills. Infrastructure and digital inclusion also play a part. 'It needs dedicated and targeted revenue funding at a local level', she adds.
Where did it all go wrong on audit?
Lorna Baxter says we need to be able to show taxpayers how we have spent their money and that provided by Government. 'But do our residents need to understand the fair value of financial instruments and what category they are?'
Tackle high needs before it is too late
Lorna Baxter says the statutory override in place until March 2023, which allows for a negative high needs reserve is 'not even a sticking plaster - frankly, it’s bonkers. The money has been spent'.
Let's see what happens on longer-term funding
Lorna Baxter gave evidence at the Public Accounts Committee in response to the NAO report on local government finance during COVID. She says there is acknowledgement that the longer-term funding and distribution mechanism needs to be addressed.