By Tony Earnshaw LDRS
Council chiefs face dealing with a multi-million pound overspend as they continue to react to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kirklees Council has spent more than £24m tackling Covid-19 across the borough, and faces £13m in lost income including from its leisure centres and car parks, which have been closed during the health emergency.
Cumulatively the authority has taken a hit of more than £37m.
But it has followed advice from the government to do “whatever it takes” to tackle the virus, and senior figures are confident that the borough will bounce back as a result of its own investment and support from Westminster.
Currently not all of the money spent by the council on coping with Covid will be offset by government support. The shortfall could be more than £6m.
In a report to the council’s decision-making Cabinet Clr Graham Turner said a projected overspend of £7.7m had been reduced by £2.2m, which showed the authority was “heading in the right direction”.
He added: “However we do have forecasted Covid-19 unfunded pressures of £3.7m, so we will need some more support from government to fund this if they are to keep their promises of funding Covid-19 related spending.”
Clr Turner added that investment in leisure centres should generate extra income, which will offset investment and raise cash to cover lost spending by members of the public.
Ticket revenue has plummeted since shoppers, workers and commuters stopped using municipal car parks across the borough.
It has been estimated that the council has lost as much as £4.1m on parking fees and fines since mid-March.
The council has also lost:
£2.4m on catering due to school closures
£1.3m on its markets
£700,000 on trade waste
£500,000 on planning fees.
Coronavirus-related spend pressures have topped £3m and include:
£500,000 on traffic management at household waste sites as well additional vehicles and hired staff for collections
£500,000 for cremator works and temporary mortuary facilities
£400,000 on school catering, including the provision of ‘grab bags’ for pupils during school closures
£300,000 on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
In September free parking in the district’s 95 municipal car parks was extended until the end of the year.
Clr Turner added: “We are all too aware that in Kirklees we have issues with higher than average residents who are physically inactive, so it’s important that we offer as wide a range of activities as we can.
“This investment, coupled with the current review of our working relationship with Kirklees Active Leisure, will hopefully help to reverse this trend.
“Sadly we have seen that being overweight is a contributory factor in deaths caused by Covid-19 so its beholden on us to encourage residents to become more healthy and to ensure we provide the best facilities we can to aid and help residents [to] become fitter.”