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£11 MILLION: The cost of the fallout from Covid for one Suffolk council

Fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has cost West Suffolk Council more than £11million to date, according to latest figures.

Data presented to the authority’s performance and audit scrutiny committee last night showed it had been struck with £2.9m in additional costs, combined with lost income of £8.3m.

However, the council has indicated that after Government support packages and savings programmes have been factored in, it is expecting to be £1.1m short, which will be covered from the general fund.

Covid-19 (43216927)
Covid-19 (43216927)

Greg Stevenson, service manager at the council for finance and performance, said: “The capacity to deal with homelessness and making sure we are providing temporary accommodation to those that need it, is considerably higher than we have seen before.

“The other areas are predominantly related to income, and they are significantly below – particularly car park income at this point in the year is well behind where we would expect to see it for obvious reasons.”

Among the key expenses for councils during the pandemic have been providing temporary accommodation for homeless people during the two lockdowns, and PPE supplies.

Key income streams such as car parking, planning fees and theatre and leisure income have all taken a dramatic hit.

Car parking income alone was down £3.8m on the usual figures directly as a result of Covid-19.

According to the council report, Government bailouts included £2.5m for additional spending pressures and £3.5m to mitigate the irrecoverable income losses.

The latest figures represent a slight increase on the £10.2m impact reported in July.

Councillor Mary Evans from the committee said: “We are all incredibly impressed by how the council responded so swiftly to the pandemic, it was uncharted and uncertain, and quite frankly frightening territory for us all.

“The way the council picked up and responded was exemplary, and obviously it has had budget implications.”

Davina Howes, assistant director for families and communities, confirmed the authority would be looking at “all aspects of service delivery” to see where further efficiencies could be made.

“We have come a long way in the last few years, and I think more and more services were put online due to Covid, which did accelerate the work we already had in train anyway, and we have another round of work we are looking at in terms of what we can deliver more efficiently online,” she said.

“We do always caution that some people will need assisted digital, so I can’t at the moment see a day where we wouldn’t be answering the phone to help people along the way – that is very important to us. But we very much look to that as being assisted digital so actually the customer service person is doing the work for them online and seeing if they need some support in any other way.”

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