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  1. ITV Report

Councils face losing tens of millions of pounds in coronavirus crisis

  • Watch: ITV West Country reporter Max Walsh speaks to councils in the region about the impact of the coronavirus crisis on funding

Councils across the region face losing tens of millions of pounds as a result of the coronavirus crisis, raising serious concerns about whether vital services could be cut.

Bath & North East Somerset Council and Bristol City Council are just two local authorities calling for more financial support from central Government.

They warn they could be forced to make "tough decisions" in the months ahead as they try to protect frontline services for the most vulnerable.

Cllr Dine Romero explains the council's precarious finances.

For Bath & North East Somerset Council, they are facing what they describe as a "double whammy".

They are spending more money responding to the demands of the crisis, but have lost some of their main revenue streams.

I think we're just going to have back to the drawing board and completely re-consider the budget.

– Dine Romero, BANES Council Leader

The deserted city centre is a sign of just how little money is being generated through car parking and business rates. The Roman Baths, which normally generates millions of pounds for the local authority, has effectively dried up. This is not helped by the fact a growing number of residents are now unable to pay council tax.

This comes as the council is having to spend even more money on social care, sourcing PPE and food parcels to ensure the most vulnerable people in society are being looked after.

Council Leader Dine Romero said, "I think we're just going to have back to the drawing board and completely re-consider the budget. It is a huge challenge because whatever you choose to change, reduce or even cut, they're going to be many services which people in this council area rely on."

£10m
Money spent by Bath & North East Somerset Council in responding to Covid-19 demands.
£17m
Loss of income from tourism.
£50m
Total estimated shortfall as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Mayor Marvin Rees says the council needs to more government support.

In Bristol the situation appears even more serious, with the Mayor Marvin Rees estimating a shortfall of £80 million.

City Hall has spent millions this crisis on delivering hundreds of emergency food parcels, launching a helpline to support vulnerable people as well as securing beds for hundreds of homeless people. Meanwhile demand on children social services and domestic abuse services has risen.

At the same time the council has lost income on rent, car parking charges as well as "a huge number" of people taking advantage of a council tax reduction scheme.

Mayor Marvin Rees said, "People need local government services. Children's mental health, adult social care, domestic violence, wider social inequalities caused by children being kept home. This turns up as a need. If that need is bigger than the capacity of local government to be able to deal with it, we've got a whole bunch of problems."

£26m
Money spent by Bristol City Council in responding to Covid-19 demands.
£80m
Total estimated shortfall as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The Government has already handed out grants of more than £30million to Bath & North East Somerset Council and Bristol City Council. But they insist it's not enough.

More money has been promised by the Government but there are fears that if the full costs of this crisis aren't covered then vital services will have to be reduced or even cut.

And as this crisis continues, the numbers are only going to get worse.