Southend Council facing financial challenge

Southend Council is facing a major financial challenge as a result of the coronavirus pandemic but council bosses have reassured the authority remains stable.

At the council’s first remote cabinet meeting, council leaders discussed the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic which is set to cost them somewhere between £15million and £20million.

During the meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Labour council leader Councillor Ian Gilbert said the authority has been “hugely affected” by the pandemic.

A report published ahead of the meeting shows 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.

Mr Gilbert said: “We, like all councils, have been hugely affected by this in terms of pressure on services, the extra services we have been called upon to set up, extra expenditure in adult social care sector and also the lost income from charges and fees, which we like all councils have been hit hard by.”

He continued: “There is no precedent in term of what a recovery, economic or otherwise, will look like so we do not know the full effects but we do know the consequences are significant and we do know the support the government have given, while welcome, does not come close to covering the full amount of extra resources we have put in.”

The council’s executive director of finances, Joe Chesterton, told the cabinet that the council will face a “significant financial challenge” in the coming years but stressed that he does expect the government to provide further funding.

“In terms of our overall position, we do have a reasonable level of reserves that support council operations and business,” he explained.

“We set this aside for potential incident such as this so we are prepared for this but in terms off where we are as a council I have identified that our position for the 2021 financial year could be £9.5million down.”

The council’s deputy leader, Councillor Ron Woodley, admitted the fall in finances will impact the council’s ability to deliver major capital projects.

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Mick Ferris

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