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Council finances remain strong in face of Covid costs

A new report shows that Swansea Council is carefully managing its budget this year whilst playing a key role in tackling coronavirus.

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Like all councils, Swansea drew up its 2020-21 budget shortly before the pandemic struck.

Since then it has helped the community fight Covid with a series of powerful measures that had not been budgeted for.

The council's revenue and capital budget monitoring report for the first quarter of 2020-21 is due to be presented to cabinet on October 15.

Council leader Rob Stewart said: "The challenges we have faced this year, as with all councils, have been significant.

"Covid came as a shock to the country but in Swansea we've invested in a series of wise interventions that have helped people and businesses cope with these unprecedented times.

"I'm confident that, as the financial year progresses, Covid-related cash grants from the Welsh Government will allow us to get our financial forecasts back to where we planned that they would be.

"With ongoing expert and prudent financial management, our finances are strong and well-managed.

"We will continue to provide first class services to our community and will continue to forge ahead with our £1bn regeneration story which will put the city in a strong position for the post-pandemic world."

Council chief finance officer Ben Smithsaid: "The outlook remains challenging due in large part to our positive immediate financial response to coronavirus.

"However, forecasts show that the measures and controls we have in place mean that we're in a strong financial position; work continues to make the ongoing costs of running the council sustainable and we are where we need to be to continue delivering our services to the public.

"Financially, we're in a good place compared with many other councils. Our significant underspend at outturn for last year has clearly stood us in very good stead."

The budget report shows that the pandemic has meant substantial originally non-budgeted spending by the Council and a significant fall in revenues, including an increased number of council tax reduction scheme claims.

Extra spending has included that on staffing and IT for the test, trace, protect (TTP) programme and that on increased social care support.

Revenue losses being reclaimed from the Welsh Government include those for car parking, waste collections, school catering and cultural services income.

The cost of building the Bay Field Hospital on Fabian Way has been recovered from the health board and Welsh Government. 

The cabinet will be asked to consider an overspending limit of up to £17m this year to ensure the overall budget remains balanced and to be drawn from reserves.

Officers will be asked to defer and delay spending as far as is practicable, whilst delivering agreed council priorities.

Cabinet papers: Web page

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