Tough lessons learned from balancing a seriously squeezed budget will help Angus crawl back from the financial battering of Covid-19, the area’s finance spokesman has said.
Angus Macmillan-Douglas was speaking as councillors on the authority’s special arrangements committee heard the pandemic had so far blown a £7million hole in the balance sheet – and the full financial impact is likely to take some time to emerge.
Mr Macmillan Douglas said: “Work on updating budgets for the coming year will start shortly, but perhaps our greatest asset in moving forward is managing huge improvements in efficiency over the past three years.
“We must adhere to strict cost control – we must continue to treat council money as if it were our own money,” said the Kirriemuir and Dean Conservative.
Finance director Ian Lorimer told the remote meeting that steps including debt repayment deferral had already been taken in a “realistic but cautious approach” to finances.
Mr Macmillan Douglas also said the time was approaching to start “weaning off” business from the lifeline support which has kept many afloat through the crisis.
Latest data delivered to the SAC showed that almost 2,150 applications from small businesses have been processed – to the tune of nearly £19million.
Mr Macmillan Douglas said: “These grants have provided the lifeblood to many businesses throughout Angus which have seen their revenues fall over a cliff as customers have disappeared.
“It has been heart-breaking for those struggling to keep their businesses going and terrifying for their employees, who have seen their incomes become dependent on the furlough scheme or cease altogether.
“Thanks mainly to an estimated £10bn paid by the UK Government to the Scottish Government in special Covid-19 funding, we in Angus Council have been able make grants to local businesses adding up to some £18.8m plus another £270,000 in self-employed hardship grants.
“In addition, we acted quickly to ensure that our own council suppliers were paid promptly, to help their cashflow; and we are working hard to try and ensure that we expand the proportion of our suppliers who use local labour from the present 37%.”
Councillors agreed that a suspension of recovery action on the collection of non-domestic rates will come to an end on July 1.
Officials stressed that enforcement action will only be taken where there is a failure to engage with the council or sheriff officers.