Cabinet receives budget update on coronavirus impact

The Cabinet of Bridgend County Borough Council has received an update on how its 2020-21 budget is faring beneath the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Approved shortly before the UK entered pandemic lockdown earlier in the year, the council’s net revenue budget of £286.885m has been subject to regular review and monitoring.

As part of an update for quarter two, Cabinet members heard that while the majority of one-off additional cost pressures for expenditure on essential items such as PPE supplies have been submitted to the Welsh Government Hardship Fund for reimbursement, it remains uncertain that recurrent pressures will be met in the medium term.

As a direct result of the pandemic, there was a £2.5m loss in income in the first quarter alone across areas such as car parking, planning and school meals, while some savings identified as being necessary under the medium term financial plan may not be achieved this year.

While some unanticipated savings have been made in areas such as transport, fuel and running costs for premises, a shortfall in council tax has also been predicted along with an increase in council tax benefits.

Deputy Leader Councillor Hywel Williams said: “Meeting local needs caused by the pandemic while trying to ensure that essential services can continue and that vulnerable people remain protected has not been easy, and councils across Wales are finding themselves in similar circumstances.

“To counter the impact of the pandemic, the council established a Covid-19 Earmarked Reserve, of which £2.5m is left, along with a £1m recovery fund to cover decisions unlikely to be funded by Welsh Government, and developed plans for ensuring that essential services can continue to be delivered.

“While Welsh Government has offered a range of support throughout the crisis, decisions such as the one to fund only half of the cost for providing staff with ICT so they can work from home or disallowing £106,000 of the delivery costs for food parcels inevitably builds up and results in a series of shortfalls.

“To date, we have been reimbursed for £4.9m of an additional £6.3m spend in areas such as adult social services, free school meals, homelessness, school hubs and more, but as we prepare to move into a second period of lockdown, this does of course remain an area of high concern, and we shall continue to monitor it carefully.”

Cabinet approved the report and agreed a number of virement proposals that will enable funds to be transferred within the 2020-21 budget to cover priority areas.