Portsmouth council faces £18m shortfall due to coronavirus

PORTSMOUTH City Council is looking at an £18m loss due to coronavirus, which could result in future cuts - its leader has warned - unless the government 'steps up.'

Tuesday, 28th April 2020, 4:54 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th April 2020, 9:16 am
Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson had concerns government would not reimburse councils for loss of income during the pandemic. Picture: Sarah Standing (191119-2516)

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 the local authority has spent an additional £7m on services and equipment to tackle the pandemic.

It is also predicted to lose around £17m in the 2020/21 financial year usually provided by income generators such as parking charges, rent, council tax and business rates.

So far the government has given the council a lump sum of £6m to help tackle the crisis and it is hoped more could be on the way.

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However, council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson had concerns that the full cost to the authority would not be met by the government.

He said: 'What the government hasn't given us money for is the loss of income.

'The loss of income is around not collecting money from parking charges as well as less people paying council tax, rent and business rates.

'There will also be a significant loss of income from the port because there will be no-one travelling across the channel.

'We still have to balance the budget at the end of the year and that's an issue. What we are able to do with the budget depends on whether the government steps up with the money. And of course it's not known how long this will go on for.

'We could face cuts.'

In Hampshire the county council said it was still analysing the potential cost of the pandemic, with 'further costs and losses' still expected.

A spokeswoman for the council said: 'We’re also still awaiting clarity from the government on how much individual authorities will receive from its latest announcement of £1.6bn of emergency funding – and what proportion will be awarded to Hampshire County Council.

'However, we think it is unlikely to cover all of the response costs and losses that the county council expects to incur.'

Fareham Borough Council has also been hit with extra costs with around £100,000 spent on helping rough sleepers, new IT systems and social distancing measures. It is also expecting a loss in income of around £500,000 a month.

It has so far been awarded £34,000 by the government.

Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham council, said: 'While these are tough times in terms of extra demands on our services and costs to the council, our financial position remains stable.’

The cost to the Gosport Borough Council is expected to total £610,000 with £300,000 extra spending and a £310,000 loss of income. The council receieved £44,000 in the first tranche of government funding and has recently been awarded an additional £841,471.

Havant Borough Council was also approached for the information.

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