12/06/2021

Newyddion Cymru Ar-Lein : Wales News Online

Newyddion Lleol a Chenedlaethol Cymru – Local and National News for Wales

Calls have been made for the extension of Welsh Government support to help councils continue to meet additional costs associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

As part of the budget for 2021/22, ministers announced that £206m would be made available for councils to meet additional costs and income losses caused by lockdown.

This was in addition to extra cash made available for councils the previous year.

With Gwynedd Council number crunchers counting the cost of the pandemic as over £20m in 2020/21, its estimated that another £5.6m has been incurred so far during the current financial year.

Having already received £3.1m of total applications worth £4.3m during 2021/22, another £800,000 has been received towards another £1m of lost income.

But Tuesday’s full council meeting saw a warning from the authority’s Chief Executive that uncertainty over the future of the hardship fund was causing uncertainty for local authorities.

Dafydd Gibbard, who took up the role earlier this year, said: “I have concerns regarding the future of the fund, we have benefited over the course of the year to meet spending we would never have been able to greet ourselves.

“But at present there’s no information about similar funding for next year.

“I will take every opportunity to lobby the Government as there are fields such as homelessness which have led to eye watering amounts and will still face us next year as we won’t have been able to re-home everyone.

“We will need similar support next year or will be in a difficult financial situation.”

Looking at the authority’s financial situation, it was also noted that while most departments were projected to finish the year in the black, concerns have been raised over two in specific.

The Adults social care department is expected to overspend its budget to the tune of £1.4m by the end of March, partially blamed on a failure to hit savings targets as well as overspending on older people, learning disabilities and community care services.

Meanwhile, an overspend is also forecast for the highways and municipal service, blamed on a failure to realise savings targets in a number of areas to the value of £673k.

The report concluded, “Again this year, the financial impact of Covid is very obvious on the figures, with a failure to realise savings a prominent factor in both departments that are overspending most, namely the Adults, Health and Well-being Department and the Highways and Municipal Department.

“The Council’s financial position is balanced as a result of an underspend by the majority of departments, as well as Corporate budgets.

“The accountants will continue to claim for the additional costs and the income losses relevant to Covid from the Welsh Government.”

In response, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “To date we’ve supported Local Authorities’ response to the impacts of the pandemic with £688m through the Hardship Fund.

“Our budget for 2022-23 and subsequent years will be published in December following the outcome of the UK Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

“We’ll continue to work closely with our partners in Local Government and recognise the vital importance of the services they provide.”

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