Impact of COVID-19 on council budget discussed at Cabinet

Posted on Monday 26 October 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on BCP Council’s budget for this year and the future will be discussed at Cabinet on 11 November.

Pressures due to the pandemic have continued to grow, despite government funding being made available.

Council last considered the financial implications in June, when a £52.3million total impact of covid-19 was forecast, reduced by a predicted government grant of £22m to a £30.3m funding gap for 2020/21. Measures agreed then to tackle the predicted deficit included delaying the start of new projects to next year, bringing forward the transformation and alignment of services agreed in November 2019, and identifying £13+ million of new savings.

Cllr Drew Mellor, Leader of the Council, said:

“Despite a total impact of covid-19 of £57.3million at this time, I am pleased we are able to predict a balanced budget at the end of this financial year. This is testament to the extremely hard work of officers as well as a welcomed total contribution from government of estimated at £37.3million so far. I remain confident that we can meet this challenge head on whilst retaining ambition for investment in the council’s priorities.”

Looking to the 2021/22 budget, the position has improved from a previously predicted deficits of £49million to a revised budget gap of £13.4 million. This is net of £8.8m of savings and efficiencies already programmed and assumed for 2021/22 and a previously-agreed £15m target set for the council’s transformation programme in that year. The scale of the challenge is best understood by recognising that the current 2021/22 funding gap represents 4.7 per cent of the council’s 2020/21 net revenue budget.

Cllr Mellor added, “The council had already agreed to an extensive and ambitious transformation programme, achieving a modern, digitally-enabled and flexible organisation whilst delivering £33million of annual savings, with £15million agreed by Cabinet in June as the first tranche savings to be achieved in 2021/22. Work has continued throughout the pandemic, and homeworking has created an opportunity to fast-track creation of a single civic hub, but this is not enough to deliver the agreed £15million in transformation savings next year. Therefore, Cabinet in December will receive a report outlining the scope for accelerating other aspects of the agreed programme to help the council meet the projected budget gap for 2021/22, whilst protecting frontline services for our residents in the wake of the pandemic.”

Monthly reports are continuing to be submitted to government and cover:

  • Pandemic costs – including PPE, Together We Can, supporting test and trace, bereavement services and homelessness support, social distancing signage and other measures, resort management post-lockdown
  • Impact on income streams – including lost parking revenue, seafront trading and in cultural venues, reduced fixed penalty notices
  • New government legislation – requiring additional trading standards, environmental health and noise inspections and enforcement, plus addition advice to businesses and premises on covid-compliance.
  • Changes in demand for services - including adult social care, support for vulnerable children, rises in domestic waste

The report will be considered by Overview and Scrutiny on 2 November and Cabinet on 11 November, and can be found here (scroll to Item 9).

Through its corporate plan, BCP Council is committed to identifying and delivering efficiencies that will meet the demands of the Medium-Term Financial Plan and protect vital front-line services.