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North of Wales council’s £13m deficit plugged by Welsh Government

05 Jan 2021 3 minutes Read
Conwy Council building in Colwyn Bay

Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter

A council’s finance guru has revealed his authority would have lost more than £13m because of Covid, without “unprecedented” support from the Welsh Government.

Andrew Kirkham, Conwy council’s council’s strategic director of finance and efficiencies, told councillors on Monday that without the critical aid the authority would have faced a £13.2m black hole in its coffers.

He told the finance and resources scrutiny committee the authority faced an end of year deficit of around £1.95m based on current projections, which would be met by using existing receipts, money from future capital schemes and some cash from its reserves.

He said: “What’s been flowing from UK Government to Welsh Government has been provided in a fair way.

“UK and Welsh Governments have provided unprecedented support to the public sector and local government.

“Had it not been for Welsh Government grant support we would have been £13m overspent. It accepted most of our claims.”

All councils in Wales have had to apply for funding to cover loss of income and extra expenditure brought on by the pandemic.

Such things as loss of car parking revenue and council tax have cost all councils dear but Welsh Government has used extra funding to try and plug the gaps.

There have also been extra cost pressures on social services because of the need to protect care homes during the pandemic which have led to reductions in the amounts they were due to save from budgets.

Mr Kirkham also revealed Conwy county council had received £1.32m for the period April to October for furloughed staff.

On average there were 300 workers on furlough up to September, with the figure dropping to 198 in October.

Increased council tax discounts, being given because households are struggling financially, will cost the council an estimated £300,000 in the current financial year he said.

 

‘Embarrassment’

However, Andrew Kirkham said he was hopeful Welsh Government would continue to support the reduced take in council tax for the rest of the financial year.

He revealed the budget reduction of £8.303m agreed in March will be missed by an estimated £620,000 – down £393,000 from previous estimates.

Next year’s proposed settlement from Welsh Government, the cash it gives the council to fulfil its business, is up 3.6% on this year.

Mr Kirkham said that was 0.2% below the Welsh average and put the council 17th out of 22 local authorities. The largest increase is 5.6% and the smallest 2% across Wales.

Councillors approved the report unanimously, but also supported a proposal by Cllr Brian Cossey asking the cabinet to scrap a requirement for heads of services to come before the committee and justify budget overspends.

The policy was adopted in March this year after a proposal by Cllr Cossey, but he said it was an “embarrassment” to him the requirement was still in place with so much financial uncertainty being caused by Covid.

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