Bath and North East Somerset residents are being invited to “join the conversation” about how to address the financial challenges facing the council as a result of COVID-19.
Council leader Dine Romero and Deputy Leader Richard Samuel will join Chief Executive Will Godfrey at a webinar, streamed live on Youtube, to discuss financial recovery plans and how best to work with communities, partners and central government to minimise the impact of coronavirus on essential local services.
A report prepared for the council’s cabinet has set out the scale of the impact on its finances.
In April and May of this year, income from the council’s Heritage Services, including the Roman Baths Museum, fell by more than £4 million compared with the same period last year.
Parking revenue dropped by £1.6million. Bath & North East Somerset Council says it has been losing £91,000 a day in parking and heritage income.
At the same time, the council is forecasting new cost pressures of around £10 million as a result of responding to COVID-19, including supporting the most vulnerable and supplying vital PPE.
As a result of this ‘double whammy’ of lost income and extra spend, the council had identified a potential £42m deficit this year.
However, the report highlights that the council had addressed these pressures at an early stage.
As a result, a financial recovery ‘roadmap’ has now been drawn up so its finances can be put back on track, protecting key local services and supporting the recovery and renewal of the area.
Councillor Dine Romero, Leader of the council said: “When I wrote to all our residents in April it was already clear that COVID-19 would bring with it huge financial challenges.
“The position we now find ourselves in is not of our making, but we must play our part in putting it right.
“Solving the budget shortfall will not be easy and will require a shared endeavour between the council, our communities and central government.
“Where we can defer things that aren’t priorities right now, we’ll be doing so and we’ll be reshaping the council to prepare for the future.
“As a result, I’m confident we now have a plan for financial recovery that will put us back on track.”
The report identifies more than £22m of changes which will be made to meet the projected shortfall in 2020/21, including reviewing the timetable of delivery of capital projects and reducing the council’s salary budget by leaving vacancies unfilled and offering reduced hours.
The council has also received a £10m grant from the government and is hopeful further funding from national government will be announced in the coming weeks.
Any remaining shortfall in the budget will be plugged by drawing on the council’s reserves which are set aside for emergencies.
Councillor Richard Samuel, cabinet member for Resources, said: “It is important we deal with the deficit now but we don’t yet know the longer-term impact COVID-19 will have on our finances.
“We have taken decisive action to ensure a balanced budget for this year. What has become clear though is that the council needs to review its reliance on the visitor economy and its commercial estate as funding sources for core council services.
“However, we also want to hear from local communities about what they think about our proposals. This will help in our conversations with central government about the investment our area needs to recover from this crisis, renew our local economy and tackle the climate emergency”
Residents will be able to hear more details and comment on the recovery plans at the webinar and Youtube stream.
A detailed report will go before councillors at the Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel on Tuesday 30th June and cabinet on Thursday 2nd July.
You can register in advance as an attendee at the webinar by clicking here.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about how to join.
The webinar will also be live-streamed on the council’s YouTube Channel and will also be available afterwards for viewing.