Coronavirus could blow £63m hole in Camden Council’s budget as finance chief calls for more government support

Cllr Richard Olszewski. Picture: Richard Olzewski

Cllr Richard Olszewski. Picture: Richard Olzewski - Credit: Richard Olszewski

Camden Council’s finance chief has called on the government to step up and provide further emergency funding to help the council tackle and recover from the coronavirus crisis.

Cllr Richard Olszewski (Lab, Fortune Green) delivers Camden's budget for 2020/2021. Picture: Sam Vol

Cllr Richard Olszewski (Lab, Fortune Green) delivers Camden's budget for 2020/2021. Picture: Sam Volpe - Credit: Archant

A report set to be presented to the town hall’s cabinet on May 13 sets out the scale of the financial pressures faced.

It states that if the crisis was only to last three months, lost income – from things like council services, council tax and business rates – extra spending, and an inability to make planned savings could leave the town hall almost £43m worse off.

If the Covid-19 crisis continues for six or nine months, this figure increases to around £63m and around £82.5m respectively.

So far, central government has provided just under £20m in funding to the authority.

Cllr Richard Olszewski (Lab, Fortune Green) said so far the council had pumped money into “supporting the most vulnerable in our communities”. He added: “What is particularly concerning for local government and our residents is that we have borne the brunt of ten years of austerity and have already had our budget from government cut in half. If this crisis has proved anything, it is that frontline services need proper investment – and government will need to step up to the mark on this.”

He continued saying that even if extra investment was forthcoming, changes to “market conditions” meant the council would have to adapt how it delivers services.

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Giving evidence to the communities and local government select committee, the secretary of state Robert Jenrick said: “There’s a very significant amount of money being put in to ensure that where we have asked things of councils they get the funding that is required of them.

“Of course some councils are doing things over and above what we’ve asked, that’s absolutely their right to.”

Where we have asked things of councils we have asked them to do specific things, they will be fully compensated.”

The minister added he was “gathering data” as to the effects of local government loss of income, and he said it was “quite soon to make a judgement on that”.

He also warned councils to “spend public money wisely” adding: “We wouldn’t want anyone to labour under a false impression that what they are doing is guaranteed to be funded by central government.”

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