Wiltshire Council’s cabinet met this week to update and discuss the 'long lasting' impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

In terms of financial weight, the report put forward to cabinet said: “The response to the Covid-19 pandemic will have immediate and undoubtedly long lasting significant financial implications for Wiltshire’s economy, communities and residents as well as the council itself.”

At the meeting, Cllr Ian Thorn said that the projected three and six month figures were ‘eye-watering’.

He continued: “If the government doesn’t come charging over the hill with sacks of cash over their shoulder, given that by law we have to ensure we have a balanced budget at the end of next year, what point would we have to declare our inability to balance the budget?”

In response, Cllr Philip Whitehead, leader of Wiltshire Council said that he didn’t want any services changed because of the present pandemic: “I do not want to change any service, any provision or any part of our plans because of Covid - I think that should be removed from the equation.

“ I do not want to be forced to change any of our services because of Covid and we will fight tooth and nail to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Additionally, Cllr Thorn asked whether the council would seek to form a new budget in the wake of coronavirus’ financial impact, which other councils have sought to do.

Cllr Whitehead responded: “I would expect us to do a new budget going forward once we know where we are in terms of facts and figures.

“I don’t see that there is any real benefit in doing it too early. We need to establish what monies we’re getting from government and how that will follow through.

“I think that will be a long time coming.”

Cllr Whitehead continued to say that he believes the government will give out more funding to local authorities moving forward with the pandemic.

“Other local authorities are setting cash flow problems to the September/October timescale. If that’s the case, if you’re the government, why would you give money prior to that moment?

“We may not see the full recompense for the money we’ve spent until toward the end of this year, so working on a budget as early as June wouldn’t be a normal budget and wouldn’t get signed off in that way.”

At this time, the council estimates that the total financial impact, which is the additional spend, loss of income and changes to plans that can no longer be delivered will be between £47.6m and £80.3m.

These figures are offset against the financial aid given by the government, which leaves a gap of between £18.8m and £51.5m, with the amount of funding reserves held by the council, ‘prior to the finalising of the outturn’ for 2019/20 being £15.5m.

With the government’s spending review delayed, the council said that there is further uncertainty over its funding position for 2021/22.

However, before the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, the council was already tasked with filling a financial blackhole of £24.5m.

In addition, to government grants amounting to £25.5m, the council was awarded £3.2m in hardship funding to provide further council tax relief for vulnerable residents.

At the meeting it was noted that the full financial impact, through loss of income from council tax and business rates, would not be known until at least June.

The council are looking at their cash flow figures week by week.