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West Berkshire Council loses £4m income during coronavirus pandemic

WEST Berkshire Council estimates that it has lost £4.4m of income during the coronavirus pandemic.

Around half of the loss, £2.4m, has come from a fall in car parking revenue as shops, pubs, restaurants and events were closed or cancelled, and people were told to stay at home.

The losses have been covered from central government funding, with the council's executive member for finance, Ross Mackinnon (Con, Bradfield) saying "all the losses we have had were covered by the Government".

The Government funding was covered through an income compensation scheme or non-ring-fenced funding.

Three main sources of Covid-19 related funding have been provided to councils to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

An income compensation scheme to cover lost income says that a council funds five per cent of specific income losses against budgets.

The council had budgeted £4,064,980 in last year's budget for free car parking/reduced parking and lost parking charge notice income.

Under the income compensation scheme the council would then have to fund 25 per cent of the remaining loss (£965,432), with the Government covering the remaining 75 per cent (£2,896,298).

West Berkshire Council received £9.6m of non ring-fenced funding to be spent on pandemic response, along with specific grant funding to support businesses and control infections in care settings.

The council also received £3.2m of non ring-fenced Government funding, some of which can be used on income pressures not funded through the income compensation scheme.

Mr Mackinnon said: "We have had more than one source of support from the Government, but the money is specifically for lost income, but we have had about £10m un-ring-fenced to do with as we see fit. The government have covered all our losses from different sources."

Around £2.7m of the overall estimated loss of £4.4m, which excludes commercial income losses, is expected to be funded through the income compensation scheme.

Other areas affected were adult social care losing £335,000, licensing £147,000, and streetworks and traffic regulation £316,000.

Leisure lost £448,000 of income, of which £345,806 was from leisure centre fees and refunds from Parkwood, while registrars lost £209,000.

Another £17,465 was lost because the council was unable to fine parents for not having their children in school.

Speaking at an overview and scrutiny commission meeting last week, Mr Mackinnon said: "The central government support we have had this year to cover these income losses has been extensive, not just from the income replacement scheme, which doesn't cover the lot...but the non-ring fenced funding we've had has been great.

"That's made the financial position of the council, certainly this year and next year, much more benign than it would have been.

"I've got every faith that our Government will continue to support us."

The council recognised there would be an on-going drop in income, mainly in car parking, and had factored a £900,000 impact into its financial strategy.

It is also anticipating a post-lockdown boost from a demand in suppressed services, such as weddings and planning applications, should the Government roadmap out of lockdown proceed as planned.

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