Reserves Policy

Reserves Policy

This policy was adopted by the Council at its Zoom meeting on 23/09/20,

For review – Annually

1.     Introduction


West Bergholt Parish Council is required to maintain adequate financial reserves to meet the needs of the organisation. The purpose of this policy is to set out how the Council will determine and review the level of reserves.


Sections 32 and 43 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 require local authorities to have regard to the level of reserves needed for meeting estimated future expenditure when calculating the budget requirement. However, there is no specified minimum level of reserves that an authority should hold and it is the responsibility of the Responsible Financial Officer to advise the Council about the level of reserves and to ensure that there are procedures for their establishment and use.

2.     Types of Reserves


Reserves can be categorised as general, ringfenced or earmarked.


Earmarked reserves can be held for several reasons:

  • Renewals – to enable services to plan and finance an effective programme of vehicle, equipment and infrastructure replacement and planned property maintenance. These reserves are a mechanism to smooth expenditure so that a sensible replacement programme can be achieved without the need to vary budgets.
  • Insurance reserve – to enable the Council to meet the excesses of claims not covered by insurance.
  • Other earmarked reserves may be set up from time to time to meet known or predicted liabilities.


Ringfenced reserves are money or grants allocated for a specific project only. These reserves can be used to carry forward an underspend – some services commit expenditure to projects, but cannot spend the budget in year. Reserves are used as a mechanism to carry forward these resources.


General reserves are funds which do not have any restrictions as to their use. These reserves can be used to smooth the impact of uneven cash flows, offset the budget requirement if necessary or can be held in case of unexpected events or emergencies.

3.     Earmarked and Ringfenced Reserves


Earmarked reserves will be established on a “needs” basis, in line with anticipated requirements.


Any decision to set up a reserve must be made by the Council.


Expenditure from reserves can only be authorised by the Council.


Reserves should not be held to fund on-going expenditure. This would be unsustainable as, at some point, the reserves would be exhausted. To the extent that reserves are used to meet short term funding gaps, they must be replenished in the following year. However, reserves that have been used to meet a specific liability would not need to be replenished, having served the purpose for which they were originally established. All Earmarked and Ringfenced Reserves are recorded on a central schedule held by the Responsible Financial Officer which lists the various reserves and the purpose for which they are held.


Reviewing the Council’s Financial Risk Management Scheme is part of the budgeting and year end accounting procedures and identifies planned and unplanned expenditure items and thereby indicates an appropriate level of reserves.

4.     General Reserves


The level of General Reserves is a matter of judgement and so this policy does not attempt to prescribe a blanket level. The primary means of building general reserves will be through an allocation from the annual budget. This will be in addition to any amounts needed to replenish reserves that have been consumed in the previous year.


Setting the level of General Reserves is one of several related decisions in the formulation of the medium-term financial strategy and the annual budget. The Council must build and maintain sufficient working balances to cover the key risks it faces, as expressed in its Risk Management Scheme.


If in extreme circumstances General Reserves were exhausted due to major unforeseen spending pressures within a particular financial year, the Council would be able to draw down from its earmarked reserves to provide short term resources.


Even at times when extreme pressure is put on the Council’s finances the Council must keep a minimum balance sufficient to pay one month’s salaries to staff in General Reserves at all times.

5.     Current level of financial reserves


The level of financial reserves held by the council will be agreed by the Parish Council during the discussions held regarding the setting of the budget for the next financial year.


The current level of general reserves to be held by the Council is three twelfths of the annual precepted figure, i.e. to fully cover three months’ expenditure. The figure of three twelfths of the precept is to be held rather than the three months’ expenditure costs suggested.

This figure, three twelfths of the precept in 2023/24, is £28,966.75. In January 2023 the Council agreed to the following levels of reserves:

Earmarked MUGA 2013-23 + Profits 2022-23834.35
Earmarked inclusive play equipment377.00
Earmarked Parish Council office project18’583.00
Ringfenced historical honour board1,500.00
Ringfenced CBC Locality Budget grant (feasibility study)400.00
Ringfenced Special Constable2,000.00
Ringfenced office equipment4,000.00
Ringfenced Orpen Memorial Hall projects  4,990.92
Ringfenced External WC/Solar Panels/SC Refurb project1,566.40
Ringfenced Neigh Plan implementation projects3,506.99
Ringfenced Environment Committee projects  1,865.00
Ringfenced Climate Change initiative    3,342.81
Ringfenced village sign/beacon623.63
Ringfenced for long term capital item replacement5,000.00
General Reserves (3 months running, no projects) max shown  28,966.75
Total Earmarked£74,214.04

The levels of reserves were agreed, and this document adopted by the Parish Council at the meeting on the 25th January 2023, to be reviewed again in January 2024 when setting the budget for the financial year 2024/25. Figures updated at end of financial year 31/03/23.

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