SIGOMA Survey reveals financial cost of Covid

Posted on September 03, 2020

An internal survey, shared exclusively with The MJ, revealed the severe financial strain and uncertainty that Covid has caused for council finances. 25 Councils responded to the 25 questions, a mix of multiple choice and long form answered with the theme being Medium Term Financial Forecasts.

The survey headlines included:

  • Any actual or planned spending controls in place? –in place (27%) planned (27%) no (46%).
  • 2020-21 Budget Risk RAG rating – Red (27%), Amber (36%), Green (36%).
  • Biggest single service pressure – Children’s services (60%), adults (32%), Regen and Leisure (8%).
  • Any expectation for compensation for commercial income – no (86%), partial (9%), yes (5%).
  • What are the most important issues members wish to bring to Governments attention? (top 3): 3/multi-year settlement (83%), increase in quantum (50%), Social Care funding (28%).
  • What are your greatest challenges (top 3): uncertainty (83%), loss of income (17%), un-achieved savings and social care pressure (both tied 3rd on 13%).

Responding to the Survey results SIGOMA chair, Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton, said:

"These survey results reveal the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic on council finances. The combination of severe income losses and expenditure increases has further strained budgets after a decade of cuts. The survey also reveals that uncertainty is a significant challenge – a multi-year settlement would be a good way to reduce this and provide more stability for the sector.

Our members identified Children’s services and Adult Social Care as the areas of most pressure. While this is unsurprising, given that both of these services were under severe financial stress before the pandemic, it is clear that Covid has exacerbated the situation and support from the government is urgently required. This is especially true for Children’s services which have not received the same targeted support as Adult Social Care in the past.

It is vital government steps in with further financial support to ensure councils aren’t forced into making cuts to front-line services and letting down the key workers who have played a crucial role in fighting the pandemic".

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