City Council tackles funding gap as Government reneges on Covid pledge

Nottingham City Council has been forced to use reserves to fund a £38m shortfall after the Government failed to meet its promise to cover the costs of Covid.

The council has had to make cumulative budget savings totalling £271.4m over the last ten years and since the start of the pandemic the financial strain Covid-19 has had on councils across the country has been widely reported in terms of increased expenditure and lost income. Nottingham now receives over £100m less, each year, in terms of central Government revenue grant than it did back in 2013.

The Government pledged to fully cover the costs of the Covid pandemic, but has only compensated the City Council £40m of the £78m total cost of Covid measures like care for older and vulnerable people and the ongoing purchase of PPE, together with lost income from leisure centres, trade waste services, car parks and many other areas.

The move to use reserves to plug this gap comes as councillors also agreed to propose £12.5m of budget savings in the council’s 2020/21 budget.

A range of emergency savings proposals were approved by the Council’s Executive Board today (Tuesday 22nd September) which includes a reduction of 154 staff posts, which the council is seeking to meet through the deletion of vacant posts and voluntary redundancies where possible. Other savings include:

• Apprentices – delaying the employment of apprentices until next April, saving £450,000 in total
• On street parking machines – replacing most parking machines with cashless machines, promoting pay by phone and card payments
• Parking permits – introducing charge of £25 for households requesting a third residents parking permit, renewable every two years
• Civic roles – reducing the ceremonial duties of the Lord Mayor
• Day Centres – closing one adult-care day centre while maintaining access to a day centre for all users
• Bulwell Hall Golf Course – closing the course from November 2020 and seek an external operator
• Play Areas – closing a small number of underused play areas and those requiring significant improvement.

Councillors have prioritised services for the most vulnerable residents, protected free universal services such as bulky waste collections, a free garden waste bin and two free resident parking permits and defended parks, community centres, libraries, care services and leisure centres.

Councillor Sam Webster, the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Finance, said: “Councils were struggling financially before Covid hit, due to a decade of Government cuts. When Government asked our key workers to step up when they were needed most, they did – but then Government went back on its promise to fully fund councils for the cost of taking those actions and the lost income due to Covid.

“This is a dreadful betrayal and leaves councils like us having to take decisions like we have today to cut services and to use reserves to plug the funding gap left by the Government. We have done what we can to protect universal free services for our residents and prioritise those services which our most vulnerable residents rely on the most. We continue to call on Government Ministers to honour the clear pledge they made. All we’re asking is for the costs of Covid to be met as was promised at the outset.”

Today’s decision will go to the meeting of the full council on October 5th for final approval.

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