The financial cost of supporting local communities throughout the pandemic has been huge – even with some support from the government – leaving councils all over the country fighting to stick to their budgets.
During a meeting of the full council on Wednesday (June 30), councillors approved a recommendation from the cabinet that the overspend should be met from the general reserve.
Deputy leader Judy Llewellyn-Burke said: “Obviously this is not a happy set of circumstances that we’re having to do this and I’m hoping that we’ll get back to our £1.4m – or a figure approaching that – that we usually get as income from our leisure centres, as happened pre-pandemic.”
Leader Jonathan Ash-Edwards said the deficit was ‘very, very significant’ and pointed out that the council could not forever carry on plugging gaps by using its reserves.
While the light has appeared at the end of the pandemic tunnel, Mr Ash-Edwards urged vigilance when it came to finances.
He said: “We’ll have to see as we continue moving through the Covid roadmap, which should result in some of those income pressures and cost pressures coming back into balance.
“But we’re going to need to be very vigilant as we go through this year in terms of monitoring that and taking corrective action where necessary.”
A report to the meeting said the main reason the overspend was lower than expected was due to a pick-up in income towards the end of the financial year as lockdown started to ease, along with a drop in expenditure as some planned works could not be carried out due to Covid.
Interest from income, though, was less that half of the original estimate, totalling £170,306 rather than £356,000.
That money will be transferred to the special reserve.
When it came to the council’s capital programme for 2021/22 – which covers one-off costs rather than day-to-day expenses – members agreed to increase it by £1,556,000.
This money had been allocated for a number of projects throughout the previous year, which did not go ahead as planned.
Rolling it forward into this year’s programme will ensure those projects can still go ahead.