Threatened cut to services eases as council come out in the black

Nusrat Ghani

Despite a fall in revenues from car parks, Council Tax, and Business Rates costing Tunbridge Wells Borough Council [TWBC] around £8million, the authority has managed to balance its books.

The result is that an expected withdrawal from its reserves of £1.5million is now not needed, easing fears that the authority would have to cut services and sell off some assets.

In fact, thanks to the money received from Government grants, TWBC has ended up £19,000 in the black.




“Our balance sheet had been heavily damaged by Covid”

Speaking exclusively to the Times, the Leader of TWBC, Cllr Tom Dawlings, said: “Our balance sheets had been heavily damaged by Covid, but the contributions from Government mean we do not need now to draw from our reserves. Any impact on our balance sheets has been covered.”

He added: “This has only been possible due to the efforts we went through to maximise the grants, and the efforts of our staff to administer the best deal for the town.”

At the height of the crisis last year, the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee were told the health emergency was still costing around £1million a month following ‘widespread collapse in local income and all local governments are under extreme pressure’.

TWBC’s main revenue streams, such as Council Tax, business rates and car parking fees, were cut dramatically due to the various lockdowns.

In contrast, the pandemic has increased spending as the Council had to house the homeless and support shielded residents in addition to providing its normal services.

To pay for the crisis, the Council was expecting to plunder its reserves – money that has to be paid back that is put aside for emergencies and capital spending – and the Council began consulting on what assets it could sell off and what services it could cut.

It held a public consultation in January to find out what the public thought its spending priorities should be as the authority looked to make swingeing cuts to plug a deficit that could have been nearly as high as £8million.

In total, revenues at the Council were down £7.7million over the last year, nearly half of which was due to the loss of car park income, but a raft of financing has been handed to TWBC to help plug the gap.

The authority was given £6.95million in funding, including £4.2million for loss income from sales, fees and charges, and £1.3million to reimburse the authority for a loss of Council Tax and Business rates.

The Council also received grants equalling more than £1.4million, as well as £293,000 towards the cost of providing additional services because of the pandemic.

The result is that TWBC has emerged from the pandemic £19,000 in the black, although Cllr Dawlings warned that next year the Council will remain under financial strain from the fallout of the Covid crisis.

He said: “There will be a continuation of a loss of revenue for the Council next year. Business rates are down so our income will not recover to pre Covid levels.”

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