Sunderland council facing £6m Covid overspend - calls for Government to cover pandemic costs

Sunderland City Council leaders have repeated calls for the government to fully reimburse the costs of Covid-19, as the local authority faces an overspend of nearly £6 million this year.

By Chris Binding
Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 1:02 pm
Sunderland City Council, leader Cllr Graeme Miller has called for the Government to cover the costs the council has faced during the pandemic
Sunderland City Council, leader Cllr Graeme Miller has called for the Government to cover the costs the council has faced during the pandemic

The figure was revealed at a recent meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet during a first review of the 2021/22 revenue budget.

Revenue spending covers frontline council services including adult and children’s social care and environmental services, such as bin collections.

According to the latest budget estimates prepared for the cabinet, the council is facing an estimated overspend of £5.729 million at the end of the year.

Councillor Graeme Miller leader of Sunderland City Council introduced a report on the revenue budget to cabinet on Tuesday, July 14.

“The forecast overspend is largely due to the additional costs and lost income arising from the pandemic impact and cost pressures associated with delivering adults and children’s social care,” he said.

“The forecast overspend position relies on fully utilising the balance of our Covid contingency without which, the forecast position would be significantly worse.

“We will continue alongside regional and national colleagues to make the case for local authorities to be fully compensated by the government for the financial impact of the pandemic and also continue to argue for a fair level of resource to be provided by the government to enable councils to deliver their social care responsibilities.”

Councillors heard that the budget for this financial year was reliant on the inclusion of around £6.2 million worth of savings initiatives – with 77% of the savings having either been delivered or progressed.

However, 23% are considered “undeliverable as planned” at this stage and are factored into the budget forecast position.

Cllr Miller said targeted support initiatives were planned to “mitigate the impact of the pandemic,” providing essential support to care homes, local businesses and vulnerable residents.

Councillor Linda Williams, cabinet member for Vibrant City, added it was important for the council to put pressure on the government to meet the cost pressures of the pandemic.

“The biggest impact has been taken by those people who are the most vulnerable, whether they are in adult social care or within child safeguarding areas, it is unfair for the’ bad balance,’ if you like, to lie on those individuals,” she said.

“We need to press for fairer funding for our vulnerable residents so that they can live a really good life and enjoy things rather than wondering when the next issue is going to be.”

Noting the impact of national funding cuts over the last decade, Cllr Miller also called for the government to back up its “promise” to compensate councils fully for the financial impacts of Covid.

He added: “We continue to try and do the best we can with increasingly reduced resources so I think the report has to be applauded as a budget, given the hard work the staff from the council and the officers drawing it up have done to get us to a position where we have a budget that we can work towards achieving this year.

“So maybe the government will have a change of heart and actually pay local authorities their worth and give them the money that we are due given we have been working with health partners and others to keep people safe from Covid.”

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