Bexley Council has scrapped its Government financial safety net after an auditor branded its latest position a "good news story" following a turbulent year.

The leader of Bexley Council has officially announced that the local authority has withdrawn their capitalisation request to Government for the 2021/22 financial year, removing the safety net.

This signals the council's emergence from a large financial black hole which has threatened services and jobs and has only worsened thanks to the pandemic.

With a gap in the budget of several million pounds, in November last year the council proposed cutting 150 more jobs from their books among other cuts, whilst cuts to children centres were delayed for further discussion after uproar.

But in February, the local cabinet managed to "steer through a storm" and approve its latest budget.

Whilst savings were necessary, the council was also one of four in the country to secure a capitalisation order from the Government, which was seen as an effective £9 million bailout.

The order was to allow extra financial flexibility if it is needed 'to manage the significant financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic.'

But in a statement, Cllr O'Neill and the council said the capitalisation order was "only ever to be used if absolutely necessary."

"Thanks to our sound financial planning, the hard work of Members and Officers we did not utilise the capitalisation request in 2020/21 and will not do so in 2021/22. We have formally withdrawn our request.

"We will continue to make our case for fair funding to Government. It is vital that those discussions continue."

She added: "The uncertainty around local government funding, the growing pressures on local authorities and the short term and long term effect of the pandemic, mean there is no room for complacency and that the hard work must continue.”

The move follows a financial audit and value for money report by external auditors Ernst & Young LLP which called the council's financial position a 'good news story'.

The update highlighted that savings had been successfully delivered, services invested in and that the local authority had maintained financial resilience at a time of uncertainty.

The good news was welcomed by fellow Members at this week’s (12 October) Public Cabinet meeting.

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr David Leaf said: "We never forget that it is our Council Taxpayers hard-earned money that we invest back into the services they use.

"When we took the decision to make the capitalisation request we wanted to make sure that we were prepared for the worst.

"Prudent and sometimes difficult decisions and enhanced financial controls that continue today have meant that we no longer need to retain the option of this additional support."

He continued: "While this is great news we know that, along with Councils up and down the country, we must do all we can to continue to keep our finances stable.

"We will continue to lobby Government on funding issues to help make sure that our borough gets what we need to run the local services that our residents deserve.”