Central Beds Council reports £20m in lost income due to Covid-19 pandemic

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More than £20m of income losses have been highlighted by Central Bedfordshire Council because of the pandemic, including around £15m in council tax and business rates.

Some of this money could be reclaimed in future years, a meeting of the local authority’s audit and governance committee heard.

A report to councillors described as “of major concern” the council’s loss of income during the coronavirus crisis.

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This is through the closure of car parks and leisure centres, a reduced number of planning applications, and many other fees and charges, said the report.

CBC's head office in ChicksandsCBC's head office in Chicksands
CBC's head office in Chicksands

Figures include:

> Planning and development - £1.7m;

> Leisure and culture - £1.5m;

> Commercial income (rents/farms) - £1.5m;

> Parking - £1m;

> Other highways and transport income - £1m;

“Greater losses may be seen in reduced collection of council tax and business rates,” warned the report.

“The latest estimates provided to the government were £9.2m in council tax and £5.5m in business rates.

Director of resources Charles Warboys said: “The figures for loss of council tax and business rates is our best estimate at £15m.

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“But our current estimate is a loss of about £10m in year, although some of that could be recovered in future years and it may improve.”

An emergency response was required, he told the committee.

This included scope within the constitution for the chief executive to take some decisions, “which might exceed the previously agreed budget on a very limited number of occasions and issues”, he explained.

“The local resilience forum was activated and that tactical command group has been operational, and is still on a scaled down basis.

“In those areas, such as adult social care especially, there has been a major increase in the cost.

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“That’s an uplift in fees paid to care providers, as well as resilience payments.

“I’d like to say they were one off, but they’ve happened each month so far. They’ve been significant,” he added.

“In the area of children’s services, there have been extra costs, but nothing like as significant as in adult social care.

“We can expect more costs coming through from the children’s services area when the schools go back, such as transport.

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“There might be an increase in social care activity when the children come back, and are more regularly visible and seen by their teachers.”

The committee heard there was a shared cost of £800,000 for CBC for the temporary mortuary at RAF Henlow, with Bedford Borough Council and Luton Borough Council also contributing.

On business grant claims, the council took a diligent approach, according to Mr Warboys, who said: “I’m confident it saved the council a lot of money in not paying out to potentially fraudulent claims.

“Sadly there were multiple applications from one business, personal bank accounts being given to us for the payment rather than a business account, and other businesses applying for a grant which had ceased trading.”

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