We estimate we will have an £9.5 million shortfall this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Our total predicted losses and extra costs come to £11 million. This is despite a government grant of £1.8 million, plus £600,000 of government contributions to the pay of furloughed staff.
We provide essential services to Chelmsford residents, such as:
- collecting waste and recycling
- helping people who are homeless
- looking after green spaces
- managing new development
- keeping the community safe
- cemeteries and crematoria
- business support
- taking care of the environment, and much more
These services cost over £60 million a year. Half of that is paid for by fees, charges and sales we levy, and all those have dropped dramatically in the last three months.
Car park charges, admissions to leisure centres, theatres and events, and hire of spaces like Hylands Park all help pay for these services. During the pandemic, these income-generating venues are closed, which means that there is a significant budget shortfall.
Our costs are increasing too. We are spending an extra £360,000 to help people who are faced with homelessness. We have hired agency staff to cover key workers who have not been able to work, at a cost of £90,000. There have also been other costs associated with enabling staff to work from home and getting important information out to vulnerable residents.
If we can't plug the gap, we will struggle to fund essential public services. If the money is not there, we cannot pay for the places, equipment, food, staff costs and so on required to keep them running.
Local government is the lifeblood of essential services for the community and many people take it for granted. We were in a strong position compared to some local authorities, but this pandemic has taken its toll and councils around the UK urgently need government support if we are to continue our work.
Our officers are currently preparing a medium-term financial strategy report, which will be discussed by Councillors at a streamed public meeting in July.