Suffolk County Council anticipates financial implications of coronavirus amount to £43m
More than £43 million is the anticipated financial hit facing a Suffolk authority as a result of coronavirus this year – though Government grants have made up for most of that.
Suffolk County Council’s first quarter data (April-July 2020) indicate a projected £43.9m impact from the Covid-19 pandemic to its coffers this year – a combination of soaring costs in the response and slashed income.
The authority is responsible for key areas of Suffolk’s public services, and those to have been heavily impacted by the virus include public health provision, and adult social care.
But the authority has been supported by £39.1m in Covid-19 response grants from central government and £1.7m in additional funding, largely from additional business rates, as well as under-spends in other departments.
Despite that, finance chiefs at the council have warned that challenges remain going forward.
Councillor Gordon Jones, Conservative cabinet member for finance, said: “Like many businesses and millions of families across the country this has been a challenging few months, and it has been no different here in the county.
“As we deal with the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the response has continued into the second quarter [July-October] where the planning for the recovery phase has continued.
“The recovery phase, I suggest, will continue for many quarters to come.”
He added: “In this challenging time we continue to have tight financial controls on our budgets however the uncertainty and the increasing and changing demands and delivery of services, coupled with the uncertainty of tax collection, government grants and the outcome of the comprehensive spending review in the autumn makes for an uncertain future, and that is without any possible return of a widespread lockdown.”
According to the council, the £43.9m cost pressures include £26.7m additional costs in relation to the response – such as bulk PPE deliveries, £4.7m in lost income and £12.5m transfer into risk reserves in anticipation for reduced business rates and council tax as a result of businesses shutting down or being offered discounts, and more families relying on Universal Credit.
However Mr Jones said that the full impact of reduced business rates and council tax – which combined fund 82 per cent of the council’s budget – was not yet clear, and “could be greater” next year.