Southend Council could lose up to £20million as a result of coronavirus pandemic

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Southend Council is facing losses of up to £20million as it battles to reduce the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.

Council documents published on Tuesday reveal the total cost of responding to Covid-19 will be somewhere between £15million and £20million.

Current lockdown arrangements are said to cost the council up to £3million every month.

The report, which will be discussed by the council bosses next week, explains the estimated total cost is “very difficult to quantify” but losses are largely the result of limited income from things such as parking and penalty enforcement notices, combined with the high demand for social care.

Last month, the council’s deputy leader Councillor Ron Woodley revealed parking revenue, which would usually bring in around £500,000 a month had been cut to “nil” since the middle of March.

Some of the costs in dealing with the crisis have been supported through one-off grants from the Government but a “key concern” is the council could still need an extra £9.5million in order to properly fund core services up to the end of the year.

When the council was asked whether this could mean cuts would be made to services, a spokesman said there would be “financial challenges” but it would be “too early to speculate on cuts”.

It is not yet clear how much more support the authority will get from the Government, particularly after the secretary of state for local government, Robert Jenrick, told a press briefing in May that what councils had been given was “sufficient to meet the crisis”.

The report continues: “This assessment is based on a huge amount of disparate information, together with a range of constantly developing assumptions. From a financial planning perspective, it is very difficult to form accurate definitive conclusions with confidence at this early stage.

“The pandemic will clearly continue to have major financial implications for our residents, businesses, and the council itself over the coming weeks and months.

“We will continue to lobby central government with our other Essex local authorities for extra resources to both help with our local response but also the transition, preparation, and implementation of our restoration.

“We are recording all our costs and measuring the impact on all our income budgets to provide appropriate evidence.

“At some stage in the future it is hoped that this will help to form a fair financial compensation request to the Government.”

The government is expected to allocate some additional funding in the coming weeks but rather than compensating the council for past costs, it will be focussed on the local response to the track and trace scheme which is expected to incur additional expenses.

As part of the scheme, the council will expected to create and implement a virus control plan, as well as support efforts to track people who are suspected of being infected.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter