Dorset Council says COVID-19 cost means difficult financial decisions ahead

As a result of additional spending and lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic, Dorset Council says its facing an unexpected £60m bill and it’ll have to dip into its financial reserves to survive this year.

In a financial report that will be considered at the Dorset Council cabinet meeting on Tuesday 28th July 2020, it says it has so far received £21m from central government to help towards the cost of the COVID-19 crisis but that isn’t enough.

Budget gap is now forecast at £43.1m

More funding has been promised but Dorset Council says it’s highly unlikely that this will fully address the current year’s budget gap which is now forecast at £43.1m.

Additional costs of coronavirus to Dorset Council includes:

  • Increased demand for social care for adults and children
  • Extra personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees
  • Support for people who were shielding

Lost income includes:

  • Suspension of car parking charges
  • Closure of leisure centres and other commercial services
  • Lower than anticipated income from business rates and council tax

Reduced council services or higher taxation over the coming years

The fear is that using Dorset Council’s financial reserves this year will mean that next year there will have to be cutbacks. If more funding does come from central government, then this money will ultimately come from either taxation or government borrowing.

So the likely harsh financial reality is that people living in Dorset will face either reduced council services or higher taxation over the coming years.

“Really challenging budget setting round for next year and future years”

Councillor Tony Ferrari, portfolio holder for finance, commercial and assets, said:

“While Dorset Council has sufficient reserves to survive this financial year, our overall financial position as a result of COVID-19 is of real concern. It will be unsustainable to take this continued level of expenditure into the next financial year, 2021-22.

“However, we will continue to explain the financial reality of the situation to government and seek additional funding to reduce the impact.

“We will also need to enter into a really challenging budget setting round for next year and future years. This will identify tactical savings and will involve developing a transformation programme which enables the council to meet the needs of Dorset’s residents within the funding available.

“There are difficult decisions ahead.”

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