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NFDC launches probe into reducing its spending amid £2m coronavirus income loss

The council needs to plug a £269,000 financial hole
The council needs to plug a £269,000 financial hole

BOSSES at New Forest District Council are to investigate how it can reduce spending after the authority lost more than £2m worth of income to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ruling cabinet voted to ask chief executive Bob Jackson and his team to look into the situation amid NFDC being forced to fill a £269,000 funding gap.

Finance portfolio holder Cllr Jeremy Heron revealed the council lost around £2.1m worth of income in April and May, along with added costs of £315,000.

Government support so far had equated to £1.78m and there had been £415,000 worth of extra help, leaving a six-figure shortfall that will be met by the council dipping into its general reserve.

“Going forward, it’s unclear how long and to what extent the loss of income will continue and if government will provide us with any further support,” Cllr Heron said.

“In light of the uncertainty we cannot continue to deplete our reserves at such a rate. Immediate action is required and I have therefore asked our chief executive, supported by his executive management team, to come forward with options to reduce expenditure.”

As reported in the A&T, NFDC leader Cllr Barry Rickman has announced that four council task-and-finish groups will be set up to address how it will cope with the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.

The report to the latest cabinet outlined one will focus on finance recovery, which will assess the overall financial implications on the council for 2020/21.

It will also review the council’s medium-term financial plan and subjects such as business rate retention, pay assumptions, topping up of the general fund reserve, council tax assumptions, investment returns and the overall medium-term deficit.

The other three task-and-finish groups, the report went on, will focus on the local economy, community stakeholder engagement and council services.

Each will comprise 10 to 14 members and will undertake an impact and opportunity assessment which will be regularly updated to identify the “actions required for recovery”.

The chairman of the four groups will meet the leader and chief executive and get support by the council’s performance team and democratic service.

The council will also meet with and seek the views of representatives from outside groups, including New Forest Business Partnership, the voluntary sector, town and parish councils, Safer New Forest and Trade Unions, the report said.

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