Council estimates £23m shortfall due to coronavirus pandemic

PUBLISHED: 06:55 18 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:42 18 June 2020

The council has estimated a budget shortfall of £23million. Picture: Dominic Lipinski

The council has estimated a budget shortfall of £23million. Picture: Dominic Lipinski

PA Wire/PA Images

North Somerset Council is estimating a shortfall of almost £23million this financial year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Income from car parks, leisure centres, theatres, events and rent has been severely hit and the impact on its budget, coupled with extra spending, has left the council with a £22.8million gap on its budget.

During the pandemic, income-generating facilities have been largely closed, contributing to a significant budget shortfall.

Despite £11.85million of emergency funding the government has provided to support the council, it leaves a gap in funding which could force the authority to make service cuts.

Weston’s MP John Penrose said the government funding is ‘sorely needed’.

He said: “It isn’t just costing the government a lot to fight coronavirus, local councils like North Somerset are facing big extra financial pressures too.

“The extra cash is supposed to tide them through and I’m glad ministers have recognised that – as a seaside area with plenty of elderly and vulnerable people – we ought to qualify for more cash than most. It will be sorely needed.”

The council has provided a temporary fee uplift to care homes and domiciliary care providers at least until the end of June to cover their additional costs and responsibilities, which is expected to cost in the region of £1.7million extra.

Costs have also been rising and around £350,000 extra has been spent on PPE and around £85,000 more on housing rough sleepers, while nearly £50,000 was shelled out on emergency support, including setting up a community hub to support vulnerable people.

There will be an offset of increased costs through reduced running costs in the council’s main buildings.

Deputy leader of the council, Mike Bell, said: “It is clear that economic recovery and redesign of services will require significant investment, and this is not currently included in our modelling.

“It is too early to quantify those costs at this stage, but at the very least we’d want the Government to enable us to fast-track some capital projects, have access to a fund to support high streets and town centres, and additional support for our leisure and hospitality sector, including tourism.

“Local government is the lifeblood of essential services for the community and many people take it for granted.””

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