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Financial challenges for Suffolk County Council as a result of coronavirus

Councils are facing financial challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to latest figures.

Suffolk County Council’s June return to the Government indicated its current estimates were for an additional spend this year of £57.8 million as a result of the virus, which includes additional costs and lost income.

So far, the authority has received £34.7 million in government support, meaning it is still facing a £23.1 million shortfall.

Suffolk County Council, Endeavour House
Suffolk County Council, Endeavour House

Additionally, current estimates for Council Tax or business rate reductions are around £12.5 million, although figures continue to change as the pandemic develops.

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for finances at the authority said it was ‘important to recognise these figures continue to change month to month as we move through the response to Covid-19’.

He added: “The position regarding additional costs and lost income resulting from the Covid-19 are estimates.

“There remains significant uncertainty over the scale, nature and duration of these related financial pressures.

Cllr Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services,education and skills. (37996377)
Cllr Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services,education and skills. (37996377)

“It is hoped the course and impact of the pandemic becomes sufficiently clear in the weeks and months ahead for the council to develop meaningful financial scenarios upon which we can inform plans for the short term and longer term."

Some authorities have had to announce emergency budgets or impending cutbacks, but Suffolk County Council said it was not looking to develop an emergency budget at this stage. However it was ‘looking at ways of bridging any gap between funding and expenditure’.

SCC’s level of unallocated reserves is £49.6 million, although £40.6 million was there to cover potential risks prior to Covid-19. This means £9 million is in the reserves to help support the Covid response.

Authorities have been hit by the double-penalty of having to spend more on response measures as well as losing income from avenues such as fees and charges.

Among the biggest challenges are the demand for social care, impact on highways and infrastructure projects, pressures on the safe return of school pupils and wider economic issues affecting the county.