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Suffolk district councils could deploy ‘significant actions’ in fight against coronavirus finances fallout

PUBLISHED: 05:30 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:56 07 July 2020

Babergh and Mid Suffolk cabinet meetings discussed the impact of Covid-19 on finances at their meetings on Monday.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Babergh and Mid Suffolk cabinet meetings discussed the impact of Covid-19 on finances at their meetings on Monday. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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A Suffolk council has warned that a list of actions to address squeezed budgets following the coronavirus lockdown are being considered, and council reserves are likely to be “severely depleted”.

Babergh District Council leader John Ward said reserves would likely be 'severely depleted'. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNBabergh District Council leader John Ward said reserves would likely be 'severely depleted'. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Babergh District Council leader John Ward has indicated that “significant actions” may need to be taken following the Covid-19 fallout on council finances.

Speaking during Monday’s cabinet meeting, Mr Ward said that a list of potential savings or actions was being considered, but would be dependent on the level of government support over the coming months.

MORE: Ipswich Borough Council outlines cuts to close £10m black hole

Mr Ward said: “We do have sufficient reserves to achieve a balanced budget for 2020/21 but they will be severely depleted, and the picture beyond that is more worrying.

“Significant actions may need to be taken to ensure financial stability in the long term.”

John Whitehead, Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member for finance, said the strong reserves position would be key in the fight against the coronavirus costs. Picture: PAUL NIXONJohn Whitehead, Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member for finance, said the strong reserves position would be key in the fight against the coronavirus costs. Picture: PAUL NIXON

It is understood the council’s reserves currently sit at around £5million, although the authority said it is not yet clear how much of that will be needed to address the finances hit by Covid-19.

To date, Babergh has received just over £913,000 in government support for Covid response measures, as well as £476,000 through the Hardship Fund for council tax relief.

Meanwhile, finance chiefs at Mid Suffolk District Council have said they believe the authority can weather the financial storm caused by the coronavirus pandemic, thanks in part to its healthy levels of reserves.

The authority has around £17million in reserves, although some of that will be allocated for specific areas, and cabinet member for finances John Whitehead said this put them in a strong position.

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“This administration has been criticised in the past for our high levels of reserves, but we go into the new, uncertain, Covid era with a high level of reserves, and I say thank goodness for that.

“A great deal of work is presently being undertaken to evaluate the ongoing effects of Covid-19 in both income streams and expenditure but at present this still remains a rough guesstimate. “I do feel confident that the strength of our accumulated reserves will enable us to weather this unprecedented storm.”

MORE: Suffolk County Council heading for £23m shortfall this year

Members of East Suffolk council’s cabinet are meeting on Tuesday to discuss how to deal with an £8.6m gap that has opened in its finances as it deals with the coronavirus crisis.

Like other councils the authority is still waiting to hear what extra financial support it will be receiving from central government, and at this stage it has not yet identified any cost-cutting measures.

Tuesday’s meeting is expected to see councillors discuss possible ways of closing the gap – with capital projects facing particular scrutiny.

Meanwhile West Suffolk council is still working out what impact the coronavirus has had on its finances over the last four months.

Its cabinet is due to meet

later in July when it should have a clear idea of how much dealing with the pandemic

has cost – and it is possible that by then local councils will know how much extra they will be given by central government.


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