The impact of the covid pandemic features in budget planning reports that will be considered by the council’s Policy and Resources Committee this week.
The cost to the council of responding to the pandemic is estimated to be more than £7 million in 2021/22, given for example lost income and increased contract costs for regeneration projects.
Reports to the Policy and Resources Committee set out different options open to the council for making savings or raising income, and touch on the need to fund both the response to, and recovery from, the pandemic.
Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, Councillor Robin Currie said:
“Setting the council’s budget is always tough. This year the challenge is even greater given the huge impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Argyll and Bute’s budget for council services already has to stretch further than that of many other councils – day-to-day the area needs more than most from its council, for example air and sea transport services.
In addition the council has a key role to play in supporting the area, as restrictions allow, to recover and move on from covid-19.
Meeting greatest day-to-day need and supporting the area in the longer term – now more than ever, setting a budget that delivers as much as possible for Argyll and Bute will be about balancing those two demands.”
Reports to committee outline the complexity of balancing the council’s budget: for day-to-day running (revenue budget) costs the council could have a surplus, but only if it takes a range of service savings options, introduces other changes such as increased fees, and is fully re-imbursed for covid-19 costs.
However, it is facing a gap in its (capital) budget for regeneration and other infrastructure projects.
Findings from public consultation on potential savings options show strong public feeling against an option to remove pupil support assistants from schools. This is not going for consideration to the P & R Committee.
Councillor Currie said:
“We were aware of the strength of feeling against this proposal so with cross-party agreement this will not be considered further.”
Subject to approval by the P&R Committee on 18February, reports will go to full Council on 25 February when the budget for 2021/22 will be set.