Covid-19 pandemic costing Newcastle City Council millions

Tilly Williams describes how the council has already spent millions on supporting the community during lockdown, and what councillors are doing to prepare for the future.

Tilly Williams
21st April 2020
Image: Pixabay

In just weeks, the Covid-19 pandemic has already cost Newcastle City Council £50 million, a figure which is already set to rise significantly over the coming weeks.

Newcastle City Council has received £10 million from the Government as emergency support money, with Covid-19 in total costing the Council £50 million so far. £40 million of this has been handed out to support small businesses which would otherwise face closure, and a further £6.1 million has been spent on reducing council tax for struggling families. Many services which bring income to the Council have been suspended, such as car parks now being made free across the city, but the Government has pledged to £1.6 billion to help out city councils, some of which may restore Newcastle’s losses over the next coming months.

There are fears rising, however, about the promises that the Government are making. This comes after they failed to deliver enough PPE equipment and the Council had to procure their own.

If the Government has already backtracked with situations like this, then Newcastle, as well as many other City Councils, could face a funding crisis.

Leader of Newcastle City Council Nick Forbes says that the Council has been working hard to make deliveries of food and medication available to those who are vulnerable. He also has stated that attempts are being made to keep services "like bin collection and street cleaning" running as smoothly as possible.

Forbes has said that he knows that "we’ll collect less council tax, business rates and income from everyday activities." This will mean that the Council budget will be largely impacted, having already suffered more than £300 million in cuts over recent years.

The Council is also dealing with a depleted workforce, with 9% in isolation and a further 5% away due to illness. This has meant many of the workforce in non-essential services have been retrained to take up essential key work.

Forbes has written to the Prime Minister asking for assurance that they can work together to allow the Council to receive compensation for its losses. He has said that he has done this in the hope that the Council can "not only continue to support our communities thorough the public health crisis but play an active role in helping our city recover from the economic crisis that is to come. The Council is the only institution which can lead this."

Forbes has expressed his gratitude to Council staff, NHS workers, those working the care sector and other workers who are keeping communities running smoothly in these troubling times, saying that they "all deserve our unqualified support and praise".

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