Brent Council might have to find an extra £29 million as part of next year’s budget as it continues to battle the costs and uncertainties brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A report presented to its resources and public realm scrutiny committee yesterday (October 1) showed that, at this stage, it is facing further financial pressures of between £11 million and £29 million for 2021/22.
It noted the council could be forced to make “difficult decisions about which services to prioritise and protect, and which to reduce, in order to continue to deliver affordable and sustainable budgets”.
Minesh Patel, director of finance at Brent Council, said things could change significantly based on any additional government funding but stressed some form of action will be required to combat the shortfall.
According to the report, this could include more cuts, a re-evaluation of growth expectations, and a reduction in spending.
Almost £5 million worth of cuts that were supposed to be enacted this year have been rolled over due to the coronavirus outbreak, while the wider implications of the pandemic have set the council back around £16 million following some government support.
Mr Patel said the “very volatile” state of affairs means things will “change all the time” but he suggested the council could look to utilise some reserves this year.
He added the situation will be influenced by the latest Local Government Finance Settlement, which confirms funding for each council each year, and the long-awaited Spending Review
Senior councillors have consistently called on the Government to fully reimburse councils’ spending and lost income during the pandemic, pointing out that they have been at the forefront of supporting residents.
At a full council meeting earlier this year, Cllr Margaret McLennan, deputy leader of Brent Council, said the calculations by the finance department “show the challenges this authority is facing going forward”.
She said: “With Covid-19, everything has gone out the window in terms of what we are trying to achieve.
“We now find ourselves facing near bankruptcy all because we want to support our residents and make sure they don’t suffer in this pandemic.”
The report noted that, without a “reasonable commitment” from the Government on Covid-19 funding, Mr Patel could be forced to issue a section 114 notice, which would suspend council spending outside of statutory services.