Will Suffolk’s council budgets weather the storm from Covid-19?
PUBLISHED: 19:00 03 November 2020
2020 SARAH LUCY BROWN
While Ipswich council is looking at making cuts to services in a bid to balance its books during the Covid crisis, other local authorities in Suffolk seem confident that they will be able to weather the storm.
Suffolk County Council and other districts have not prepared emergency budgets as a result of dealing with the pandemic – although they have relied on government support to help tide them over the extra financial costs they have faced over the last few months.
The county council has spent an extra £42.1million as a result of issues from Covid over the last few months – but because of extra government support it is predicting a £4.3m underspend going into next year’s budget discussions.
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An East Suffolk Council spokeswoman said their officers and councillors were constantly monitoring the position, but with increased support from central government they did not see any major concerns ahead.
She said:”Early indications are that East Suffolk Council can, through its reserves and balances position, withstand these impacts in the short term, but there is obviously an extremely high level of uncertainty about the economic outlook, the local finance environment and ongoing Government policy.
“A prolonged and sustained recession, combined with the need to close the already forecast budget gap could put pressure on earmarked reserves and council projects and services.
“Ongoing review, monitoring, and forecasting for all aspects of the council’s financial position will be critical over the course of this year to enable it to respond to this rapidly changing situation and balance the budget over time.”
There was a similar response at Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils. A spokeswoman for the joint administration there said: “Our careful financial management over many years, and working together as two councils, has stood us in good stead to weather the storm.
“We are working hard behind the scenes to balance our budgets by February, but we face an inevitable financial challenge over coming years as a result – particularly given the absence of certainty from government in terms of having a long term settlement.”
Further details of the councils’ budgets for next year should become clearer in December.
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