Westminster Council facing £91m funding gap from Covid-19 as opposition fears ‘major cuts’

Westminster's opposition says youth clubs, arts funding and public toilets could disappear entirely

Westminster's opposition says youth clubs, arts funding and public toilets could disappear entirely. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Westminster Council is forecasting a £91 million economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

The local authority has lost huge revenue from commercial rents and business rates, and from road and parking charges.

But the opposition says the council will have to make cuts to public services, such as social care, if the government doesn’t provide more emergency funding.

At a cabinet meeting on July 13 councillors were told there will be a funding gap of £29m by the next financial year, rising to £91.3m by April 2023.

Westminster Council is still planning to build 2,400 new homes by 2023.

After the cabinet meeting, Cllr Melvyn Caplan (Con, Little Venice), Westminster’s finance lead, said: “The council’s financial position has not changed significantly since the budget was approved in March, and we continue to be on track to deliver initiatives like 2,400 affordable homes by 2023.”

The new homes were one of the council’s biggest announcements when it unveiled its long-term financial plan in early March, with a promise to spend £2.5 billion – including £1.5bn from borrowing – on capital projects over the next three years.

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However, Westminster’s opposition leader, Cllr Adam Hug (Lab, Westbourne) said: “The scale of the financial hole facing the council could mean major cuts to adult and children’s social care in the years ahead.”

Cllr Hug feared that “services that are not legally mandated” such as youth clubs, arts funding, or public amenities like toilets, “could disappear entirely”.

No details have been given about which services might be cut.

Cllr Caplan said: “Although we don’t know all the answers as to where the future looks, we do know that starting this exercise early, identifying savings at an early time, then having the ability to deliver those at an early time, is the right approach.

“It’s clear over recent times that the method of working how we operate is going to change going forward.”

Cllr Caplan continued: “This is a financially well-managed authority with reserves of £60 million.

“We remain focused on the priorities of delivering value for money services for local people while helping businesses recover.”