Coun Charmaine Morgan says
At a meeting of SKDC’s Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee 26 May 2020, members of the committee were presented with an up to date financial statement drafted by the District Lead Finance Officer and presented by Cllr Adam Stokes.
Cllr Charmaine Morgan, Labour Group Leader and Committee member said: ‘The Year to Date report raised a number of concerns. In particular we noted that there is a shortfall in funding relating to Covid 19.
‘The council has not received from the Government sufficient funds to cover the full cost of the Covid 19 epidemic. There is an estimated shortfall of £3.5m to date.
‘As a result there is a worrying deficit building in cash flow that will hit crunch time in November / December when the council’s budget for the financial year will be spent.
‘ Fortunately we established that SKDC has reserves invested in areas that can be readily accessed if necessary. However once the reserves are spent that is it.’
Cllr Adam Stokes was asked to comment. He advised that £2.8m had been set aside as an emergency fund at the beginning of the crisis. He has written to Communities Minister RT. Hon. Robert Jenrick MP asking for more funding. So far of £3.2bn awarded to local authorities SKDC had received two payments, the first for £64k, the second for £1.4m. This is to cover both additional costs and loss of revenue.
Mrs Morgan said afterwards: ‘I noted there was an assumption that things should return to normal in July and at worst in September but there is no guarantee of this. SKDC is having to take things day by day.
‘One of the costs to stand out was the £15k spent on B&B accommodation. Early estimates put the number of homeless in our District at a handful. I have always been sceptical of this figure.
‘As people reliant on sofa surfing lost their accommodation due to distancing rules, the actual figure of across the District was much higher. So far the cost of 346 in B&B accommodation had been met by SKDC. A further £48k has been spent on PPE for key staff and £37k spent on modifications to property.
A key message is that the Government must fully meet its obligations if the ‘District is to continue delivering much needed services. Whilst some businesses have benefitted from Government grants there remain many who have fallen through the gaps including the self employed and small limited companies renting sites from landlords. The council has received a descretionary fund to help some of those in need. Details of the scheme are to be published.
‘A further sum of £924k has been awarded to help those struggling to pay their Council Tax. A shocking reflection of how Covid19 has had a devastating impact on some household finances, this is expected to increase tenfold later this year. In April there was a 68% increase in contacts to the Benefits team.
‘It was also concerning to note that some of the most popular areas of responsibility of the council, the leisure centres and Arts have been hardest hit with income loss. A claim from subcontractors running the leisure centre is anticipated. To date there has been little information from the Government regarding funding for the Arts.
‘Large Capital Schemes have been delayed and finances remodelled including St Martins Park, Stamford, the leisure investment programme, Historic Action Zone Future High Street initiative and new homes building programme.
‘As a result of the report I called for a Risk Assessment to be completed. This was echoed by a number of committee members. It was agreed the Committee must meet more frequently than originally planned to keep a track of the situation in these extraordinary times.’