District councils have welcomed Government funding to help them through the pandemic but say it is not enough to stave off a budget shortfall of millions of pounds.
Following a second round of another £1.6billion of funding for councils, North Devon Council (NDC) has now received almost £1m while Torridge District Council (TDC) has received a total of £727,000.
While welcoming the latest grant package, the councils between them are predicting a £5.5m hole in their finances due to extra spending to cope with the pandemic and lost revenue from services such as car parks and planning fees.
NDC chief executive Ken Miles said it was ‘a cautious welcome’, adding: “In reality, it will last us around a month as current projections show that we could have up to a £3 million budget shortfall over the first three months of the pandemic.
“This is due to increasing costs from supporting our local community, particularly our most vulnerable residents and a reduction in income
“We’re pleased the government has recognised the importance of district councils by offering a bigger slice of this second round of funding, but we need them to recognise that it isn’t enough to keep us afloat in the longer term and that further funding will be needed.”
The first £1.6bn released by the Government was weighted more towards county councils – Devon county has so far received a combined total of £36.7m.
TDC leader, Councillor Ken James, echoed the comments from Mr Miles. He said: “Our current estimate is a shortfall of around £2.5m for the 2020/21 financial year which is likely to grow should the crisis persist.
“To put this into further context the shortfall estimated to date equates to around £38 for every resident in Torridge. The package from government announced so far is around £11 per resident or 29 per cent of this figure, less than a third of the money we already need to balance the books.
“Therefore while we very much welcome the funding provided we sincerely hope that it will be part of an ongoing package of support as this will certainly be needed by all councils up and down the country and not just here in Torridge.”
Mr James praised Torridge MP Geoffrey Cox for raising the council funding issue at Parliament.
North Devon MP Selaine Saxby said during the pandemic councils were playing a crucial role and the extra funding will help them to continue to deliver frontline services.
She said: “I am delighted to see the important work North Devon Council be recognised in this allocation and I hope will provide the council with reassurance that their important work will be supported and that government does recognise the loss of income they have experienced, from business rates and parking charges for example.”