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Jobs and services at risk at Stoke-on-Trent City Council as pandemic hits finances

The impact of coronavirus will ‘most likely’ leave a significant shortfall in city council budgets, bosses have warned.  

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s cabinet discussed the authority’s response to the pandemic, and progress being made to reduce the risk of infection and lead the city’s recovery earlier this week.

Council leader Abi Brown also announced at the meeting that the cabinet has written to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick to call on the government to give urgent additional funding to local councils.

Dealing with the coronavirus continues to place a significant additional financial burden on the council.

Based on the most recent forecasts from the authority the total direct income and expenditure pressures faced by the authority will be in the region of £27m.  

In response to these predicted pressures, the government has confirmed the authority will receive a grant of around £18m.

The government also announced late last week a new Next Steps Accommodation Programme fund to support vulnerable people into housing following the easing of the lockdown, and the council will be bidding for this funding.

Bosses at the council say that coronavirus is likely to impact on the amount of council tax and business rates the authority is able to collect.

The government has announced that these tax losses can be repaid over three years instead of one, and there is expected to be further clarification on irrecoverable council tax and business rates losses in the government’s autumn spending review.

Council leader Abi Brown said: “We have been very open and honest around our response to the coronavirus and the impact it has on our funding.

"We have listened to and acted on national legislation and taken every appropriate step to halt the spread of infection, support and advise residents and businesses and protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

“We have undertaken significant financial modelling from the start of the pandemic to understand the impact on budgets and to plan for a range of potential financial outcomes.

“It is clear that we need additional funding to meet the financial pressures that we face.

"We welcome government announcements on funding streams in response to the coronavirus, and we are continuing to lobby hard for the city.

“As a cabinet, we have  written again to the Secretary of State to outline our significant financial pressures and to explain our role at the forefront of tackling the pandemic in the city.

"We have urged government to give further recognition of the need for additional financial support to enable us to lead our city’s recovery from the pandemic.”

Current forecasts show that the ‘most likely’ spend of £27m will be split, with: 75 per cent towards supporting children and families, adult social care and housing services; 24 per cent on maintaining key infrastructure works and projects during the lockdown and through the recovery; one per cent on other services and lost income.

Cabinet was also updated on the new powers that the city council has to close specific premises, cancel events and close public spaces in response to local outbreaks. 

Councils in England have been given these new powers to manage local outbreaks of coronavirus.

The additional powers have been put in place to allow local authorities to act more quickly in response to outbreaks where speed is paramount and to help in situations such as those that have been seen in Leicester where there have been local lockdowns.

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