Council Leader: ‘We will overcome financial impact of Covid-19’

The Leader of Lewes District Council has said the Covid-19 financial challenge ‘will not define the future of the authority’ as plans are agreed to identify savings alongside new ways of working. 

The coronavirus pandemic has left councils all over the UK facing significant budget deficits due to the loss of income during lockdown and extra costs associated with their response to the crisis. 

Cabinet councillors today (24/9/20) approved a recovery and reset programme that will see a senior team of council officers scrutinising every facet of the council’s operation for efficiencies. 

The Covid-19 crisis has created a budget deficit in 2020/2021 of £4 million, with an estimated £7.9 million cost to the authority over the next four years. 

Councillor James MacCleary, Leader of Lewes District Council, said: 

“When the coronavirus hit the UK, the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick MP, promised to recompense local authorities for the unplanned expenditure arising from the pandemic and loss of income. To date we have only seen a fraction of that funding from government. 

“Our officers continue to work closely with the MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) to find a sustainable solution and I hope the outcome of these discussions reflects the earlier commitments made by Mr Jenrick.” 

The recovery and reset programme will focus on four key principles; the best use of digital technology, reshaping service delivery, the best use of the council’s assets, such as buildings, and supporting the restart of the local economy, including preparedness in the event of any resurgence in the coronavirus, all delivered in tandem with support for the council’s corporate priorities. 

Councillor MacCleary added: 

“The programme will build on the changing way people have been accessing services over the last six months, most notably online through our website, email and webchats. 

“This understanding coupled with further consultation, internally and externally, will help shape the sustainable and resilient services our residents and businesses rely on. 

“We will overcome the financial impact of Covid-19 and it certainly will not define the future of the authority, but there will be significant changes as we adapt to it.”