Fri, 17 Jul 2020
THE coronavirus pandemic is expected to cost Thatcham Town Council £22,000 every three months.
With public halls not being hired, sports clubs not using playing fields and a shared liability for the Henwick Worthy Playing Fields, the town council’s income has fallen dramatically during the pandemic.
Town council leader David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said: “As a consequence of coronavirus, we have to accept that our rental income has dropped to virtually zero.
“Even with savings made, our shortfall is significant, about £22,000.
“We have some surplus that we are able to carry over, which is good for us as it means we have been prudent with our finances.
“With the reviewed shortfalls that have arisen because of Covid, we are facing a situation where we have virtually no income from our halls and reduced rent from our other suppliers – we are looking at something like a £22,000 deficit on a quarterly basis while we are in this situation.
“As lockdown is being eased, some hall hirers will return and this will look more favourable going forward.
“Clearly there will be an ongoing impact that we can’t yet quantify.”
He said that the town council would have to spend “for the safety of residents and to get the town up and running again”.
He said: “It’s difficult to predict what will happen in the future, but we want to be in as strong as a position as we can and we want our community to feel safe and be safe.”
The town council pays £46,850 a year towards the management of the Henwick Worthy fields, which are owned by West Berkshire Council and leased to the town council, but the district council retains all of the income.
Mr Lister said that the field was running at a deficit which would only increase because of the shared commitment.
“It can only go up, it won’t go down because there is no revenue coming in,” he said.
Asking if the town council would be receiving any support from the Government, Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) said: “I don’t understand why we are having to pay out when it’s not being used.”
Mr Lister replied: “As a town council we will be making our position to West Berkshire Council.
“We are not entitled to any Government funding as yet, unlike West Berkshire Council.
“Some of this detailed legislation has not yet been finalised. There’s some ambiguity.
“We will be making our case for some funding.”
But town mayor Mike Cole (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said the only ambiguity was when the money would be coming.
He said: “We as a town council should be receiving some central government funding.
“There was a conference where the secretary of state confirmed that the intention was for that money to come to town and parish councils.
“As I understand it, we have not been able to confirm yet when and how much is coming.
“The secretary of state was unambiguous that that funding should be coming our way.”