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£2million earmarked for COVID-19 contingency fund to support council financial pressures

NEARLY £2million is earmarked for a Covid-19 contingency fund set up to support council financial pressures now and in future years.

Pembrokeshire County Council’ s cabinet approved the creation of a Covid-19 reserve of £1.806 “to fund the expected ongoing financial pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic in the current and future years.”

An out-turn monitoring report highlighted to cabinet the budget pressures facing the council in 2019-20 including within the education and social care directorate.

According the budget out-turn monitoring report presented to cabinet education services overspent its rolling budget of £88.637million by £1.085million, children services was £222,000 over its £13.362million budget while adult social care’s overspend was £2.435 more than its £51.554million rolling budget.

At its meeting on Monday (July 6) cabinet heard that the projected expenditure was higher than what was actually spent by £273,000 and a projected overspend was recovered due to a previously agreed contingency budget.

Cabinet member for finance Cllr Bob Kilmister added that this was a “much better performance than we could have expected.”

However, cost reductions and efficiency targets were not fully achieved – around £10million saved – with more than £5million carried over into this financial year, with education and social services requiring “significant extra resources before the Covid-19 crisis.”

“It should be obvious to everyone that significant extra costs are being experienced in all service areas,” added Cllr Kilmister, much of which is being covered by Welsh Government for now.

Higher than expected council tax collection rates added to the improved budget but the potential impact of the pandemic on this, as well as housing rent collection, was highlighted.

Cllr Cris Tomos raised concerns about people struggling to make payments in lockdown which was echoed by cabinet member for housing Cllr Michelle Bateman, who said it compounded the situation created by Universal Credit.

“That was already having an impact and now people are being put on furlough, many of our tenants are on minimum wage and a 20 per cent cut is significant,” said Cllr Bateman, adding that families also faced increased costs when staying home.

Cllr Tessa Hodgson, cabinet member for social services, highlighted the need for a national conversation about funding for adult social care and reviewing the sector as a whole to make the “system more equitable for people using the service and people working in the sector.”

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