Cherwell District Council seeks to protect valued frontline services from COVID financial shortfall

Cherwell District Council is seeking to protect valued frontline services and the most vulnerable while looking towards the future as it sets out its plans to balance its budgets following extra expenditure due to COVID-19.

By Matt Elofson
Wednesday, 12th August 2020, 10:47 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th August 2020, 11:45 am

The council’s executive will be asked to approve a series of measures to meet the currently projected shortfall for 2020/21 at a special meeting on Thursday, August 20.

The coronavirus pandemic has required councils across the country to adapt and deliver their services in a different way with increased demands having resulted in significant additional expenditure. At the same time, council income streams have been affected by the lockdown and the impact on the local economy.

COVID has presented opportunities for adopting new ways of working and making greater use of digital technology. For example staff who normally work in the office are continuing to work remotely from home, which has resulted in a saving in utility costs across council buildings.

Coronavirus

Recommendations to the executive include not filling vacant posts, delaying the purchase of some new equipment and simplifying how the council delivers new programmes.

Additional funding has been provided to Cherwell District Council by the government, which has been extremely welcome. However, this has not matched the projected additional expenditure and loss of income for local authorities.

As a result the council is having to deal with a £3.5 million shortfall on the 2020/21 budget that was originally set in February. The council is able to deal with £1.2m of this with the use of reserves – leaving £2.3m to be made in savings.

Cllr Tony Ilott, Cherwell District Council’s lead member for financial management and governance, said: “Our overall aim has been to minimise the impact on our frontline services, to continue our work to protect the most vulnerable in Cherwell’s communities, and to support our district’s recovery from COVID.

“Councils have played a hugely important role in providing crucial services throughout the pandemic - they have done whatever it takes and shown real commitment to the communities they serve. We are proud of Cherwell District Council’s role in the local response and of each individual member of staff for their contribution.

“The situation we have faced in 2020 has required us to make swift changes to meet new demands. We are particularly proud of our role in quickly helping rough sleepers off the streets and into safe accommodation, ensuring kerbside waste and recycling collections have continued and distributing important Government grant money to local businesses.

“Additional funding has been provided from central government to help councils with the financial impact of COVID-19, which has been extremely welcome. However, as is the case with other councils across England, this does not cover all of our costs.

“COVID has provided real opportunities for adopting new ways of working and we do need to capture the lessons and build on them.

“Throughout the pandemic, councils have worked around the clocks on a daily basis for their communities. We will continue to work with partner councils across England to lobby the Chancellor for further funding.”

Savings proposed to contribute towards the 2020/21 saving of £2.3m include:

Approximately £800,000 is proposed to be saved by not filling all current staff vacancies across the council during the remainder of 2020/21

Around £70,000 can be saved as a result of staff working from home/remote working instead in the office

A total of £472,000 can be saved as a result of lower borrowing costs and lower interest rates compared to those anticipated when the 2020/21 budget was set in February

An increase in income of £30,000 following an expansion of the bulky waste service.

A total of £50,000 can be saved as a result of local elections being postponed last May