Joint Report of the County Treasurer and Chief Officer for Communities, Public Health, Environment and Prosperity (CT/20/58) giving an overview of COVID-19, progress and financial implications, attached.
(Councillors Dewhirst, Greenslade and Hannaford attended remotely in accordance with Standing Order 25(2) and the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 and spoke to this item).
The Cabinet considered the Report of the County Treasurer (CT/20/58) giving a brief overview of COVID-19, and financial implications and governance arrangements, circulated prior to the meeting in accordance with regulation 7(4) of the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012.
The Report outlined how Local Authorities had to respond quickly to new announcements from Government and understand their financial implications. A number of grant funding streams to support Local Authorities had been put in place and the most significant for the Council was a share of two main tranches of £1.6 billions, known as the Local Authority Support Grant. The Report focused on that funding stream, but highlighted other grants awarded to date, such as the adoption support grant, bus services support grant, infection control grant, emergency active travel fund and test and trace local action plan.
There was increasing national focus on the application of funding and the anticipated impact of the pandemic on Local Government finances, and as such, returns were being requested by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Within the Council, a local Pandemic Incident Management Team (PIMT) was established in mid-March whose role was to provide tactical oversight to Service led Covid-19 responses. This also included an emergency Pandemic Funding Protocol (PFP) with delegated authority to incur expenditure during the emergency.
As part of the financial commitment monitoring process, the Pandemic Incident Management Team received weekly updates detailing both the agreed interventions and any pipeline proposals. The current value of the initial commitments was £45.3millions which included one-off support or set up costs, time limited interventions, ongoing commitments to support particular service sectors, lost income etc. It was anticipated that further PFPs would be received which could seek an extension to current arrangements which would lead to increased expenditure. Work was underway within Service areas which considered these forecasts. The Report outlined a table summarising the value of expected interventions by service area.
Trying to assess the impact on Council Tax collection and the tax base was very difficult at this point in the year. However, estimates provided on the Government’s returns indicated losses of up to 13%. Due to the level of Business Rates Relief, the risk to lost Business Rates was much lower estimated to be around £1 million.
Whilst indications were that there could be further Pandemic funding for Local Government, it seemed unlikely it would cover the full cost. Current approved and pipeline response plans already exceeded the main grant of £36.7 millions by some £8.5 millions. It was imperative that the move from Response to Recovery, was done in a measured and affordable way.
The actual spend and lost income was being closely monitored and would be reported to Cabinet as part of the normal Budget Monitoring governance procedures.
The County Treasurer and Cabinet Member for Resources Management also commented that since the Report had been published, there was a further grant to be made available to Local Authorities, but the details and allocations were as yet unknown.
The matter having been debated as set out in the County Treasurer’s Report and/or referred to above having been considered:
it was MOVED by Councillor Barker, SECONDED by Councillor Hart, and
RESOLVED that the current levels of confirmed central government funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current levels of financial commitment against this funding be noted.