COLCHESTER Council topped up its reserves by more than £1 million last year in preparation for potential financial shocks caused by things like Brexit, new figures have revealed.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government figures show the authority put a net £1.5 million into its reserves in 2018-19.

Councils hold money in unallocated and earmarked reserves, neither of which are ring-fenced or controlled by the Government.

Last year, Colchester Council put £2,348,000 into unallocated reserves, which are are used to help cushion the impact of any unexpected events, emergencies, or unforeseen budget difficulties.

However, it withdrew £883,000 from its earmarked reserves, which includes money set aside for things like building projects.

A spokesman for Colchester Council said it was in a better place financially than many councils.

He said: “The council is committed to balancing its books, paying its bills, whilst investing in services and improvements. As a result of its sound management, the council has been able to maintain and strengthen its reserves by a further £1.5m.

“Unlike central government, local authorities cannot borrow money over the medium-term – other than for investment in assets – and therefore we need to hold an adequate level of reserves to ensure financial resilience, plan for future spending commitments and respond to uncertainty, for example around local government funding and unexpected events.”

Tendring Council put £3.6 million into its earmarked reserves last year. These funds are often held against budget risk, such as insurance excesses. The council left its unallocated reserves unchanged.

Across England, councils added more than £1 billion net to their reserves in 2018-19, an increase of seven per cent on the year before.

A cross-party group of campaigners presented Colchester’s MP with a petition condemning the shutdown of Parliament.

Activists delivered the petition, which was signed by 18 councillors, MEPs and Colchester parliamentary candidates, as well as 150 members of the public, to Will Quince’s constituency office.

Members of the group fixed the petition to the office, in Layer Road, whilst activists put the case against prorogation to Mr Quince.