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QUESTIONS have been raised about the future of the Melksham Community Campus project, with some town councillors asking how the project can go ahead as Wiltshire Council could be facing a debt of £50million.
Leader of Melksham Town Council, cllr Vanessa Fiorelli, told Melksham News, “We understand that Covid-19 has put a strain on Wiltshire Council’s resources. You can see in their cabinet papers that £12million has been deferred from Health and Wellbeing projects.
“It’s only fair to the wider Melksham community that Wiltshire Council keep their residents informed as to what is happening and how this deferral will impact on the Melksham Campus Project.”
In response to concerns, Wiltshire Council said that whilst some projects have been deferred into 2021/22, ‘no project or scheme within the programme has been stopped or removed.’ However Wiltshire Council was unable to comment on whether the Melksham Community Campus project is one of those that has been deferred.
Wiltshire Councillor, Jon Hubbard, who is also a Melksham town councillor said, “My understanding is that there are no plans to shelve the campus. There is still a commitment to deliver the campus – but there has obviously been a time-lag caused by the Covid pandemic.”
Wiltshire Council leader, cllr Philip Whitehead said, “Our focus as an organisation has been to firstly respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and now begin to move in to leading on Wiltshire’s recovery from the crisis we have all been facing since March.
“It is still too early to say for certain what the true financial impact to the council will be. However, with the level of funding support from central Government currently estimated at £29.8million, of which £0.4million has been allocated to cover costs incurred in the last financial year, a shortfall in our finances is forecast to be in the region of £50million, which is the equivalent to 15% of our net budget.
“Cabinet recently agreed to revise our capital programme, originally agreed in February 2020, so that we focus our capital resources on the key investment projects during 2020/21 and align them with the upcoming recovery. Although there have been projects deferred into 2021/22, no project or scheme within the programme has been stopped or removed.
“We continue to speak to Government regularly about the council’s finances and the possibility of them allocating extra funding, and if any more does come to pass, then we will reassess our position. We have had internal discussions around the uncertainty and the triggers, implications and timing of a section 114 notice and are aware that this is a possibility, but at this stage we have not considered this course of action to be appropriate. Our expectation is that the Government will provide additional funding to us in respect of Covid-19.
“Due to the current lack of income generated from services and the additional money spent on Covid-19 so far, we are facing significant challenges ahead, but officers are working round the clock to mitigate the impact as much as possible.”