West Suffolk Council expecting £10m hit to finances from coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 08:17 15 July 2020
West Suffolk Council has reported a £10million hit on its finances as a result of coronavirus – but bosses say the authority is in a good position to overcome the challenge.
Papers published ahead of the authority’s cabinet meeting next week revealed an estimated £10.2m impact responding to coronavirus, including around £8m in lost income.
The council has received £1.8m from central government in combating the crisis – £1.5m for this financial year – meaning an £8.7m gap has to be found.
According to the report, it plans to use the full £4.9m of its general fund reserves, with the remaining £3.8m being addressed from “in-year savings and potential use of earmarked reserve balances”.
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West Suffolk Council leader John Griffiths said: “We have taken a leading role in the response to Covid-19 but this has an effect on our budget.
“Our work with partners has meant the most vulnerable have been able to get medicine, food and support while businesses have been able to get millions of pounds in grants. Equally we continued to deliver services despite a severe loss of income and capacity.
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“But this comes at a cost and even with Government funding this year we have a £8.7m gap in our budget to meet. We believe we will be able to meet this challenge this year but it will of course have consequences for what we can afford in following years.
“By creating West Suffolk Council, making prudent strategic financial decisions and protecting savings we are in a much better position than many [councils].
“We never wanted to be in this position but our strategic framework, vision and aims still hold true. They also put us in good stead in the swiftness and effectiveness of our response to the pandemic and will help us move forward as part of the recovery phase. That said, we have to face the financial situation and reality now so we can progress things for our residents in the best possible way in the future. We are pushing hard for further funding and certainty over our future funding from Government.”
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Additional costs the council has faced include temporary accommodation for the homeless during lockdown, support for leisure centre providers, and purchasing PPE.
Meanwhile, income streams took a dramatic hit including car park income, events from The Apex in Bury St Edmunds and suspending the paid-for garden waste collections.
With the council planning to use reserves to cover some of the costs, measures over future years to replenish the level of reserves will be needed.
Cabinet will discuss the matter at its meeting on Tuesday.
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