THE ‘significant’ financial strain of the Covid-19 pandemic left Barnsley Council with a £22m overspend, documents into the local authority’s finances have revealed.
According to the report, discussed by ruling cabinet members on Wednesday, the biggest overspend was in the adults and communities department, which reported a black hole of £6.7m.
A further £3m was spent in ‘outbreak control’ costs, £6.7m in support to the care market, and £5m in business support, PPE and insurance costs.
The council received £15.9m from the government - labelled as ‘inadequate’ in the report - and was left to fund the remaining £6.1m from its own resources.
It’s been warned the council will have to borrow significantly in the coming three financial years - to the tune of more than £200m - to aid its recovery from the pandemic.
“A shortfall in commercial income is forecast as a direct result of the ongoing impact of Covid-19,” the report, compiled by finance director Neil Copley said. “For example, car parking income is predicted to be 20 per cent short of overall target.
“This and other commercial income streams may improve as we exit restrictions though this will be kept under scrutiny during the remainder of the year.
“Council services are forecasting a significant overspend for 2021/22 of £17.8m.
“Over the next three financial years it is anticipated that the council will need to borrow up to £205m.
“The council’s investment strategy remains to minimise credit risk and ensure that its cash balances are invested prudently and are available when needed to meet its spending commitments.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has placed a significant strain on the 2021/22 revenue budget.
“Council tax collection is currently forecast to be in line with the target of around 96 per cent, however, there is currently a shortfall forecast in business rates collection of 2.4 per cent.
“This will be monitored closely as we progress through the remainder of the year.”
The local authority also lost out on £2.1m from car parking, rent relief on commercial properties, course fees, culture and sport fee income.
“It remains possible that government support will be inadequate to cover the full cost of responding to and recovering from the pandemic during this financial year,” the report added.
“To mitigate against this risk cabinet approved the setting aside of specific funding within the 2021/22 budget.
“A £2m economic recovery programme will help Barnsley’s communities and businesses bounce back and adapt.
“The programme is designed to help both protect existing jobs and bring new jobs to the borough by supporting economic recovery in the short and medium-term.
“This will be achieved through a package of immediate interventions to help stabilise the local economy and return it to growth.”