Mid Suffolk forecasts budget surplus this year despite impacts of Covid-19

Mid Suffolk District Council's current financial data estimates an £848,000 surplus at the end of the year despite the...

Mid Suffolk District Council's current financial data estimates an £848,000 surplus at the end of the year despite the Covid-19 impact. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Mid Suffolk District Council is anticipating an £848,000 surplus this year despite the impact of Covid-19, according to latest figures.

John Whitehead, Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member for finance said careful financial management and generous...

John Whitehead, Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member for finance said careful financial management and generous government support were responsible for the council's position. Picture: PAUL NIXON - Credit: Archant

Financial data presented to the authority’s cabinet on Monday afternoon revealed that since the beginning of the financial year in April, the coronavirus pandemic had resulted in additional costs of £800,000 and reduced income by around £1.3million.

The total Covid-19 impact is at just over £2.3m, but government support has covered 92.5% of those costs, meaning the authority has just £175,000 to cover.

MORE: West Suffolk Council reports £11m impact of Covid-19 on financesBut councillor John Whitehead, Conservative cabinet member for finances, said that savings in the existing budget and some staff vacancies meant the authority was forecasting a year-end surplus of £848,000.

He said: “Some of the early projections I saw were frankly alarming. Still now we can only make best estimates.

Opposition Green councillor Andrew Stringer questioned the budget setting. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Opposition Green councillor Andrew Stringer questioned the budget setting. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

“We have collated and fed information back to central government and they in their turn have used that to generate generous financial recompense and assistance schemes.”

He added: “We do pride ourselves on our careful financial management and we keep an eagle eye on our expenditure.

“Mid Suffolk is forecasting a surplus for the year of £848,000 and that’s a very healthy surplus indeed in these Covid-ravaged times.”

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Among some of the additional costs were accommodation for homeless people during lockdown, and expenses for items such as PPE and additional cleaning.

Income lost has included car park takings, trade and garden waste invoices and commercial income from property investment.

However, some questions were raised by the opposition Green group over the surplus.

Green councillor Andrew Stringer said: “We normally underspend somewhere between 4.5% and 11% of our budget, so for us this looks normal in that we are either just not spending our budgets or we are not making realistic budgets in the first place.”

The council report said: “As a result of the support received from government, and careful management, at this stage in the financial year the potentially devastating financial impact of Covid-19 on the council’s finances has been largely mitigated.

“However, there remains significant risk that this could change as the year progresses.

“Recruitment across the council has now commenced at some pace, therefore the vacancy management factor saving is unlikely to continue at such a high level, as well as the continuing uncertainty of the Covid-19 situation across the country which could severely impact on the council’s financial forecast for the year.”

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