Fareham Borough Council is drawing up an emergency mid-year budget to manage a predicted £1.14m shortfall as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The measures will be discussed at the Council’s Executive which meets later today (Monday, 7th September).
The pandemic left the Council’s original break-even £9.6m budget with a £3.66m shortfall. Government grants and other financial support is only expected to cover around two-thirds of that shortfall leaving the Council with a £1,143,700 hole in the budget.
It is proposed that the shortfall for this year is met from the Council’s reserves but a number of other measures – including charging for parking in coastal car parks – are being considered to bridge the funding gap for future years.
Before the pandemic, the Council’s medium-term financial strategy predicted a funding gap – the gap between what the Council needs to spend to maintain services and what it will have available to spend – of £1.5m over four years. Plans were in place to overcome the shortfall, but the indications are that the Covid-19 pandemic will mean that gap widens considerably putting Council services at significant risk.
During the pandemic the Council has had unforeseen costs with its COVID response while seeing declines in income as a result of:
- Parking charges being suspended
- Demand for trade waste collections reduced
- Concessionary payment terms for commercial property tenants
- Reduced number of planning applications received
- Suspension of market pitch fees
- Treasury investment income affected by adverse cash flows and reduced interest rates
A 14% Council Tax rise – approximately £23 – would cover the £1m funding gap but has so far been dismissed as an option.
Executive Leader of Fareham Borough Council, Cllr Seán Woodward, said: “Most residents are surprised that Fareham Borough Council delivers all of our services for a cost of just £3 per week for the average home, almost the lowest in the country.
“However, Covid-19 has had a significant impact on every aspect of life and society in our Borough and it is well reported how this has led to an immense impact on the UK economy.
“It is fortunate that as a Council we have been so prudent with our reserves for a number of years so have a strong financial standing, but this is still going to have a very significant impact on what we can and cannot do as a Council for the rest of the year and for many years to come.
“We must take action now and that is why we have got an emergency mid-year budget coming before us and why we are having to look at alternative ways of bridging the funding gap for the future.
“Our services are vital to our residents and, for many, are a lifeline. But in order to safeguard those services from cuts we must find revenue from other sources – either increasing the Council Tax for everyone in the Borough or introducing a modest charge for demand-led services.”