Council will discuss plans to plug coronavirus £26.4 million funding gap tonight

Pound coins and money

Bedford Borough Council’s Executive committee will tonight (28 October) discuss how they are going to plug a £26.4million funding gap caused by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

The Council says they have to add the vast majority of this gap (£21.8million) into next year’s Budget, which will be set in the coming months.

To do this they may have to make “difficult decisions” about service delivery and imposing fees or raising fees for services like planning advice.

Read: Council still facing “difficult decisions” despite further £2.65m emergency funding

“The financial impact of coronavirus is unlike anything we have faced before,” said Cllr Michael Headley, Portfolio Holder for Finance.

“We need to bridge a gap of £21.8million, or nearly one-sixth of our net budget, by next year. Previously we have had to look to save this amount across four years.”

Proposals being discussed suggest the majority of savings will be made through using technology more and streamlining council processes.

Cllr Headley (Liberal Democrats) blames the funding gap on 10 years of reduced government funding, the challenges of coronavirus, and the unknown impact of Brexit.

“We are facing uncertain times,” he said.

The council says today’s discussion at the Executive Meeting will build on their Transformation Programme which started in 2017 which has seen £18 million saved through 70 cost-saving projects.

Councillor Headley added: “Through the Transformation Programme, the Council is working in a more efficient way and we are constantly looking for ways to build on this.

“But this alone will not meet the financial challenge for us and we are looking at potential savings right across the Council.

“We face some challenging decisions in the coming months and years, and we will continue to do our utmost to minimise the impact on local services.”

The Transformation Programme report can be found on the Council’s website.

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