UNCERTAINTY over Brexit, business rates and central government funding is making financial planning for the future “extremely difficult” at the town hall.

Delays to a local government funding review and changes to business rates have created a challenge for the council’s financial forecasting, the borough treasurer has said.

Meanwhile, the extra time in parliament devoted to the Brexit debate has pushed back other policy decisions, according to a report.

However, the impact of the UK’s departure from the European Union and cannot as yet be measured, the council report said.

This comes as Bolton Council’s accounts for the last financial year got the green light from external auditors.

Borough treasurer Sue Johnson and her team were praised for having “proper arrangements” in place to prepare for the worst.

She said: “While Brexit is a huge national issue, local authorities need some certainty.”

Last year, the local authority received £115m less in general government funding than it did seven years ago. Bolton Council received £32m from the government last year, down from £147m in 2011/12.

The town hall had to use £14m of the council’s reserves to balance last year’s budget.

Over the next two years, it will have to make cuts of £24m to balance the budget as well as using an additional £8m of reserves.

This is the last year that Bolton will retain all of the business rates payments it collects as a government pilot comes to an end.

Next year, the retention level will fall to 75 per cent but a potential business rates re-set is makes financial forecasting “extremely difficult”, Miss Johnson wrote in the statement of accounts.

The re-set means that any business rates growth the council achieves over and above a baseline may either be fully taken or partially taken off the council.

This money would then be re-distributed to councils, although it is not possible to project how much Bolton would receive from the potential £2bn available.

Miss Johnson added: “While the 100 per cent business rates pilot has given us an opportunity to maximise the benefits of growth in our business rates within the borough, we still suffer from the impact of the already announced cuts in central government funding.”

Cllr Linda Thomas, who chairs the audit committee, said it was "reassuring" to hear the external auditor's praise for council despite the "ravages" of austerity.

Cuts to the council cumulatively add up to £1bn of spending power lost, according to the Labour leader.

She said: "The burden of paying for services now relies on council tax and business rates payers predominantly.

"Reserves have had to be used to prop up our services and after all the money already earmarked is subtracted we are left with £25m in departments’ budgets to reallocate for priorities and deal with the massive demand on our services for our most vulnerable children and older people.

"The uncertainty of Brexit and whether the new to be announced government formula, to assess what we need to spend on local government services in Bolton, contains the much needed social deprivation factor is still in the balance.

"Failure to allow this will hit northern towns like Bolton badly and reap more cuts on top of the existing £24m over the next two years the new Tory alliance will have to find."