£1million budget gap at East Devon District Council

  Posted: 27.07.20 at 15:05 by Francesca Evans

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East Devon District Council still faces a £1million budget gap as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – but its financial situation is far better than first feared.

Revenue streams for the council have improved sooner than was expected and a windfall sum of around £2.5million from additional business rate income in 2019/20 has become available.

The council’s cabinet on Tuesday heard that the actual budget deficit they faced so far was around £4.5million, but government grants and use of the furlough scheme would address £1.7million of that, and the expected ‘lost income scheme’ could see a further £1.7million provided.

Simon Davey, strategic lead for finance, told the meeting that while there was still a £1million deficit to find, the council had plenty of options to address it, and said: “We do have options to finance this gap and the deficit and to be reassured, it can be done.”

A further report would come back to the cabinet in September with firmer figures and recommendations as to how the address the gap, but among the options Mr Davey outlined were using £800,000 of reserves, in-year budget savings around agency staff for streetscene and in the carbon reduction fund, New Homes Bonus funding, the £2.5million business rates income windfall, or use of existing earmarked reserves.

He added: “For the current year the council will have a funding gap to find, the final sum will depend on how our income streams hold up during the remainder of the year, particularly in the summer months, any additional costs in terms of COVID-19 implications not factored in as yet and finally the details behind the government's recent funding announcement.

“The picture is more favourable than first predicted and as can be seen that the council has options by year end to allocate funding or make savings to balance the 2020/21 financial year.

“Consideration needs to be given on the level of savings to address this year’s deficit in terms of the balance to be struck between using one off monies or to make ongoing savings which would in turn help address future year deficits as they reduce our net budget going forward.”

Councillor Jack Rowland, portfolio holder for finance at East Devon District Council, added: “Revenue streams have improved sooner than expected, and the £2.5million bonus from business rates could be used, but we would rather see that used for the medium term financial plan gap if we can.”

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