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Impact of COVID-19 to be discussed by Cabinet

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WILTSHIRE Council’s Cabinet will meet on 19 May to receive a formal update on the council’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The financial position of the council will also be outlined including the forecast impact of COVID-19. Having set a balanced budget in February 2020, it is now estimated that the impact of COVID-19, taking into account the £28.8m already received from Government, will still leave a budget shortfall of between £18.8m and £51.5m. The council also has General Fund reserves of £15.1m.

The financial impact of COVID-19 on the council’s budget has been significant. It includes:

  • Lost income from suspension of car parking charges, closure of leisure centres and other commercial services
  • Lower income from business rates and council tax than forecast in the council’s budget
  • Increase in residents claiming council tax support
  • Additional expenditure on social care, providing staff and care agencies with extra PPE
  • Preparations for potential excess deaths
  • Planned savings through transformation projects which can no longer be delivered

The council has worked with the Local Government Association, The County Councils Network, and South West Chief Executives to lobby central government, outlining its financial position in detail and made strong representation for additional funding. We are also making plans for if the Government does not allocate any further funding to local government. This includes potential cuts to service provision due to the current forecast budget position.

Cllr Philip Whitehead, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “We are grateful for the government funding we have received but it is clear from these budget forecasts that additional support is required. Our priority is to support our residents and businesses through these challenging times and staff have done a tremendous job to deliver critical services with many carrying out roles outside of their normal day jobs.

“However, the size of the budget gap emerging means that we will need to make some really difficult decisions around our service provision at a time when the council will also need to lead the recovery process to get Wiltshire back on its feet when social distancing begins to relax.

“At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government promised ‘whatever it takes’ and they must keep this promise and continue to provide much needed funding for local authorities across the country.”

Since March, Wiltshire Council has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. With our responsibilities regarding social care, public health, the economy, and our communities and schools, behind the NHS, the council has been, and continues to be, the second main responder in the county to COVID-19.

The report also updates members on the tremendous efforts of staff to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Establishing the Wiltshire Wellbeing hub which is working to support over 20,000 of Wiltshire’s most vulnerable residents
  • Designing and delivering a £100m grant process for 8500 eligible businesses
  • Managing the construction of two temporary mortuaries capable of holding a total of 1000 bodies across Wiltshire and Swindon
  • Redeploying over 375 staff to business critical roles to support the COVID-19 response

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