With Eastbourne Borough Council tackling a significant budget deficit due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cabinet members last night endorsed the work being undertaken by council officers to review every area of the council’s operation.
The impact of the coronavirus on Eastbourne’s tourism sector and costs incurred by supporting residents during the pandemic has left the authority with an estimated £30m budget gap over the next four years.
The Covid-19 crisis continues to decimate income the council would normally receive from theatres, conferences and other tourism related activities and the latest lockdown will mean yet further curtailment of planned leisure and revenue generating activities, and more furloughing of staff.
An independent report by Grant Thornton accountants recently showed that Eastbourne has been particularly impacted by the high number of businesses and employment in risk areas, such as tourism and hospitality.
Councillor David Tutt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, said: “The pandemic has been devastating to seaside towns like Eastbourne and we’re having to address the deficit it has created by taking really difficult decisions about the way services are delivered in future.
“We have had to say goodbye to a number of valued staff who would normally be busy in our theatres and most regrettably, more painful decisions of this kind may be forced upon us in the coming months.
“We continue to liaise closely with the government and remain hopeful that they will honour their promises to meet many of the Covid-19 costs we’ve incurred and our loss of income.”
All council services, systems of delivery, organisational structures and asset management strategy are being scrutinised for efficiencies and a cross-party Joint Member Board will oversee all the work undertaken. The board will include Councillor David Tutt, Councillor Stephen Holt, the Deputy Leader of the Council and Councillor Robert Smart, Leader of the Opposition Group.
Councillor Tutt added: “While our challenges are greater than many towns that don’t have the same reliance on tourism, I am determined that the council’s finances and plans will be sustainable and resilient for the long-term and we are able to emerge from this process renewed and ready for life after Covid-19.”