Wiltshire Council warns it could face bankruptcy unless it gets more help from the Government

Credit: ITV West Country

Wiltshire Council has warned it could face bankruptcy unless it gets more help from the Government.

The council has faced plummeting income from facilities like leisure centres and car parks. But at the same time it has had to spend more money, helping people during the pandemic.

It is one of six authorities across the country to say they could be bankrupt within 18 months.

Earlier this week Bath and North East Somerset Council said it is facing a potential £42 million black hole in its finances for the 2020/21 financial year.

Wiltshire's biggest leisure centre, Five Rivers in Salisbury, is an important income stream for the Council. Credit: ITV West Country

Wiltshire's biggest leisure centre, Five Rivers in Salisbury, is an important income stream for the council.

This revenue has dried up with the sports hall acting as a Covid-19 relief hub.

It is housing stocks of PPE for care homes and food for vulnerable people.

We were asked to set it up. There wasn't much discussion around finances very early on. And from a council perspective, we just needed to get on and deliver it. We needed to make sure that our residents received what they needed, and in a way we put the finances to one side at the start.

Lucy Townsend, Director of Children's Services
The sports hall at Five Rivers is acting as a COVID-19 relief hub. Credit: ITV West Country

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24,000 people have been shielding in Wiltshire, with many receiving council food parcels, home visits and other practical help.

People have lost their jobs. Mental health will have been impacted - people's physical health. We know there's been a rise in Universal Credit and free school meal applications. So for us as a council we're doing a lot of modelling at the moment and we are expecting a real upsurge in demand.

Lucy Townsend

With the lack of income from leisure centres and car parks Wiltshire Council now has a £50 million shortfall, even taking into account a £29 million government handout.

£50m

shortfall at Wiltshire Council.

The council's Leader Philip Whitehead is confident the Government will supply more money.

If not, Wiltshire could declare bankruptcy and cut services.

In reality all it means is we can only do what is statutory. So that's looking after elderly people, running schools, safeguarding children. There are things that we do, such as leisure centres, that we don't have to do. So we would not be allowed to do those, but we would do the statutory. So people should not worry about being looked after. That will always happen.

Cllr Philip Whitehead, Council Leader

Cllr Whitehead is confident that bankruptcy can be avoided.

We're working with Government. Government have confirmed that they will fund all local authorities and see them through this. And I'm confident that they wouldn't say that unless they meant it.

Cllr Philip Whitehead

The Government has already given £3.2bn to English councils and says it is working on a comprehensive plan to ensure their financial sustainability.