Financial impact of COVID-19 discussed as Council continues to protect most vulnerable in county


West Sussex County Council will discuss the financial implications of COVID-19 with West Sussex MPs as it continues to protect the most vulnerable through the coronavirus outbreak.

The council’s Cabinet met on 22 April to receive a formal update on the County’s response.

They heard that following the Government’s official lock-down the council, in partnership with district and borough councils, launched community hubs across the county to make sure those people who are vulnerable, or have been made vulnerable by COVID-19, get the support, supplies and help they need.

Social care staff across the council have been working in hospitals and people’s homes supporting residents with social care and health needs.

The Cabinet also heard an update on the financial position of the council and the affect that COVID-19 is having on that.

To date West Sussex County Council has received an additional £20.5 million from the initial £1.6 billion of Government emergency COVID-19 funding which is being spent directly on the coronavirus response. The Government announced a further £1.6 billion on 18th April, but the county council is waiting for clarification on its allocation from this. Current forecasting shows the estimated costs of a lockdown until June this financial year could cost the county council as much as £85 million

The council has looked at the impact of COVID-19 on the county council’s financial position. This has looked at the direct costs of the response, further costs resulting from being in lockdown, the impact on activity that was planned before the virus outbreak, costs of recovery and the impact on the economy of the lockdown.

The council is working on a support package for its care homes and domiciliary care homes, valued at about £8m to the end June. It will also be working with the care sector during the three months to establish further need beyond this period, as the impact of COVID-19 on the care sector in West Sussex becomes clear.

A meeting of MPs and the Leader of the Council Paul Marshall to be held virtually on Friday will discuss the issue.

Jeremy Hunt, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, said: “As we do not know how long the current lockdown situation will last, we are only able to estimate the likely impact on our financial position in 2020/21. The ultimate length of the lockdown will determine the final impact on the financial outcomes and consequently the current modelling that the council has undertaken reflects a spectrum of potential financial impacts due to this uncertainty.

“Our modelling currently indicates that the estimated costs of a lockdown until June this financial year could cost the county council as much as £85 million. But it is likely that, however long the national emergency lasts, the financial implications will stretch beyond 2020/21 and beyond this figure, recognising that the impact upon the local economy and the demand placed upon local government services is likely to significant.”

Prior to the national emergency being declared, the county council had received a Budget Report which indicated that there remained significant financial challenges in the medium term, with savings of £45 million required between 2021/22 and 2023/24, which may be dwarfed by the potential impact of COVID-19.

Paul Marshall said: “Nothing is more important than making sure we keep residents safe and supported during this truly difficult times. The challenge we face is unprecedented. The easy cuts to budgets have already been made over recent years, but the size of the gap emerging means that we will need to make some really difficult decisions around our service provision – just when people are looking at local government to lead the recovery.

“We now need Government to provide clarity around the extra funding we desperately seek. With our county’s older demographic, I intend to also stress that the allocation of future funding by Government should reflect population statistics for local authorities and in particular the number of older people who will need care in the future.”

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