Council has the coffers to get through Covid
West Berkshire Council is reassuring residents that it currently has the funds in place to deal with the financial impact of Covid-19.
It has been widely reported that councils across the UK are struggling to manage the additional demands on their services and that some are considering issuing a Section 114 notice to Government.
West Berkshire Council has received £7.6m in non ring-fenced funding to support its efforts in respect of the Covid-19 response. This funding has, among other things, enabled the Council to support the Adult Social Care market to continue to deliver vital services, create the Community Support Hub and distribute additional laptops for more disadvantaged pupils.
In addition, the Council has received other targeted funds including £29m for business grants as well as funding to help the district’s high streets to re-open safely, to eradicate street homelessness in the district and to support its Public Health duties.
As changes to social distancing guidance come into force from Saturday 4 July, some of the financial pressures the Council has faced are expected to reduce or be removed; including falls in income from planning fees or car parking. Furthermore, as infection rates drop, a reduction in additional Adult Social Care demand, which has seen the largest additional financial cost, is expected.
Commenting on the Council’s budgetary position, Lynne Doherty, Leader of West Berkshire Council, said: “In recent weeks, we have been asked, as have councils across the country, whether we will be issuing a Section 114 notice in response to the additional Covid-19 costs. I am pleased to advise that this is not something West Berkshire has had to consider at this time.
“At the start of pandemic, it was made very clear to me by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) that the financial support we needed to cope with its impact would be made available to us. To date, this has been proven to be the case and we are confident that the funding we have received so far will last until at least the end of July, at which point we may have to consider the use of our reserves. "We have put the funds we have received to good use as part of our response and are able to continue to offer support to those in need whilst providing local services. We have recently completed a third financial return for Government and expect to receive a further funding update from Government in the coming weeks.
“The long term impact of Covid-19 is not yet clear as much will depend on the local and national economic recovery efforts. We will continue to monitor the financial impacts of Covid-19 and look forward to receiving further funding from Central Government. We believe, however, that we have the budget and emergency reserves in place to support our services in the short term and that we do not need to consider a S114 notice at this time.”