Councillors have cautiously welcomed the government’s announcement of a further funding package for local authorities, but have warned that it will not fully meet B&NES Council’s losses.
The Lib Dems have said that “the devil will be in the detail” regarding the application of the proposed compensation scheme.
The B&NES Cabinet met yesterday afternoon, Thursday 2nd July, to adopt the Council’s Financial Recovery Plan addressing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Councillor Richard Samuel, B&NES Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “The Covid-19 crisis has wreaked havoc across our economy and throughout our populations in the UK and the impacts on this Council are no exception.
“Just as businesses and households will have to repair the damage to their finances so we also have to do the same to ensure the council remains financially viable today, and in the years ahead.
“We have taken decisive action to gain control of the situation and of our finances, thus ensuring a quicker return to stability.
“Our budget is one of the most exposed to reductions in that income and is why we have a particularly difficult financial position to deal with. Those income reductions can be exactly traced to the lockdown.
“Pressure has been building on the government to honour the commitments given at the start of the pandemic.
“We have consistently called on government to fully fund Councils’ costs and losses, as promised, and we have played our part in lobbying our special case for additional assistance.
“The detailed work we have carried out finally appears to have paid off with this morning’s announcement of a grant support package that recognises authorities’ income losses, as we have argued from the beginning.
“It is too early to interpret exactly what the additional funding announcement means for the Council and the detail is yet to be published.
“It is not clear whether losses from commercial estate income are covered by the government announcement nor whether the compensation scheme is for one year only or will continue into future years.
“The Council is not out of the woods yet. It remains unlikely that all losses will be covered and there will still be a need to reduce expenditure this year.
“However, the Cabinet will reassess the position when fuller details are known and will make any necessary adjustments to our plans.
Councillor Dine Romero, Leader of B&NES Council, added: “We appreciate today’s announcement but, as with everything, the devil will be in the detail.
“We will need to analyse carefully this new announcement and then consider the impact it will have. We still need certainty and the Financial Recovery Plan gives a framework which is flexible enough to ensure delivery of services to our residents while we take time to assess the government package.”
Bath’s MP, Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse, commented: “While I welcome the additional funding from the Government, I share my Liberal Democrat colleagues’ caution as to the terms and conditions attached to it.
“Central government has been starving local authorities of funding for years and has made it much more challenging for our council to support the quality services that our community deserves.
“I have been working hard over the last few months to ensure that everyone in Bath gets the support they need during this crisis.
“I hope that central Government will continue to work with us to support our community, mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on our wonderful city.”