The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Fife Council’s finances has been put at £66 milliom as a clearer picture of how the crisis has affected the local authority emerges
Finance bosses told members of the policy and co-ordination committee on Thursday that the coronavirus bill had been reduced from the most recent estimate of £73m and a peak of £78m forecast late in 2020.
Councillors were told accountants remain confident they can avoid dipping into a £10m financial reserve, despite still facing a £3.7m shortfall in agreed funding to cover Covid-related expenses.
Earlier this week Scottish Government Finance Minister, Kate Forbes announced she was increasing the Government’s lost income fund for local authorities from £90m to £200m as part of the Scottish budget for 2021/22.
Fife will receive a share to cover some of the additional costs for health and social care, education, financial hardship and other pandemic related costs.
Some of the biggest deficits are in building services, where £18.7m of income has been delayed due to lockdown. Another £3.5m of lost income has been racked up at Fife leisure and culture centres and upwards of £2m in parking fees has been lost.
If financial predictions are realised, the council could yet be left with more than £18 million of uncommitted funding because of what Eileen Rowland, director of finance and corporate services, termed “one-off” financial boosts from the Scottish Government.
She said: “The Scottish Government announced this week an additional £275m to cover Covid-19 pressures for the loss of income because of the pandemic.
“There will be an additional £40m for educational recovery to include safety measures in schools, also £20m for financial insecurities on top of the £20m already agreed and £17.2m for spring hardship payments in which we anticipate to make £100 payments to children who receive free school meals.
“We are projecting an overspend in health and social care but because of the extra funding coming to us we expect this to be removed.”
Committee convener and council co-leader David Alexander praised the work of the financial team in “the most unprecedented and difficult of situations” ever faced by an administration in Fife.
He said: “There’s money moving around like Las Vegas at the moment but it’s all going the one way – we’re not losing and that is welcome for Fife.”