Coronavirus costing Dorset Council £13m extra per month

Coronavirus costing Dorset Council £13m extra per month

Published by George Sharpe at 5:14pm 23rd April 2020. (Updated at 7:13am 24th April 2020)

Dorset Council says it's additional costs total up to £13m per month to support residents, communities and businesses through the pandemic.

The local authority approved a balanced budget of £304m in February. 

A statement from Dorset Council said:

"The agreed budget outlined projected income, expenditure and savings in balance to avoid any overspend by the end of the year. The size and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic was not known at this point so was not budgeted for.

"Since March, Dorset Council has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic as a category 1 responder under Civil Contingencies Act responsibilities. This includes a responsibility for planning and responding to the emergency with partners such as the NHS, Police and Fire Service."

Dorset Council, south walks house

The financial impact of COVID-19 on Dorset Council's budget has been significant. It includes:

  • additional unexpected expenditure on social care for adults and children including a 10% increase in fees for care providers, renting and converting rooms in a hotel into a social care base, providing staff and care agencies with extra PPE, additional staffing costs, and preparations for potential excess deaths
  • lost income from the suspension of car parking charges, closure of leisure centres and other commercial services, and lower than anticipated income from business rates and council tax
  • savings which were planned to be achieved through transformation projects. These savings can no longer be delivered due to employee redeployment to support our communities including shielded individuals.

They estimate the council's likely to incur extra costs of £54m in 2020-21 if the crisis continues into the summer.

calculator accounts

However, this additional £21.4m funding from government for the COVID-19 response represents just 40% of the forecast additional costs of £54m, leaving a shortfall of £32.6m.

Dorset Council's 2020-21 budget included reserves of £28m but even if all the council's reserves were taken into account there is still a shortfall.

Cllr Tony Ferrari, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Commercial and Assets, said:

"We are grateful to the government for the funding we have received to date.

"We feel that government ministers are listening to councils and responding to our concerns to ensure that the country's COVID-19 response is as effective as possible.

Tony Ferrari
Tony Ferrari

"We are doing what the government has asked of us by supporting Dorset's people and businesses through this crisis.

"The decision to form a unitary council in 2019 is proving to be the right one.  Across the country, councils have found it more difficult to manage the pandemic when there are two tiers of local government.  

"Our own reorganisation meant that we entered this in a much more financially robust position than we would have been as a county council and five district and borough councils.  Although our position is uncomfortable many councils are worse off than Dorset."