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Gravehsam council urges government to 'do more' after £3.75m shortfall due to Covid-19

The government has been urged to step up after the council suffered a £3.75m shortfall due to Covid-19.

At a cabinet meeting on Monday, Cllr John Burden (Lab) praised the way Gravesham council responded to the pandemic.

Gravesham council leader Cllr John Burden has called on the government to do more to help the local authority
Gravesham council leader Cllr John Burden has called on the government to do more to help the local authority

He said: "We have given direct support to more than 8,000 of our most vulnerable and isolated residents, made more than 10,000 welfare calls, distributed more than 150 food parcels, and paid out more than 14 million in support grants to 1,145 businesses, all the while maintaining our front line services at a time our staff were facing the same challenges and fears as the rest of the population.

“We have spent more than £1 million directly on our Covid-19 response and suffered a huge loss of income, including from unpaid council tax, business rates and car parking charges.

“Unlike many local authorities around the country, we are in a fortunate position where – thanks to prudent financial management over the last decade of austerity – our reserves are such that there is no immediate threat to our essential services.

“However, we need the government to step up to the plate and help make up the £3.75 million shortfall we have suffered directly as a result of Covid-19.

"So far, we have received £1.1 million from them which does not even cover our direct expenditure, let alone our loss of income."

"There is still much to do and much the government can help us with..."

Cllr Burden gave an example of where the council was asked "quite rightly" to find accommodation for the borough's rough sleepers "within a day" of lockdown starting.

"We succeeded in that, in a programme that has so far cost us £60,000," he added.

"So far we have received £9,000 from government to ‘help’ fund that.

“I would like to thank local residents for their community-spirited response to the crisis.

"There are many stories of groups and individuals going the extra mile to support those who needed help. And we still need that help.

"Gravesham remains a strong and resilient borough and council."

"We are looking for volunteers to help us manage the queues in Gravesend town centre and the shopping areas in the parishes as our economy gets back on its feet.

“There is still much to do and much the government can help us with, but Gravesham remains a strong and resilient borough and council.”

Documents revealed how much certain parts of the local authority were affected by the pandemic.

It stated there was a £243,000 impact on car parking income between April and May and this downfall is expected to continue with an assumed 50% reduction in income between June and August.

However, income for the car parks are expected to return to normal around September for the rest of the year.

Gravesham council had a shortfall of £243,000 in car parks income
Gravesham council had a shortfall of £243,000 in car parks income

The plan also predicts the estimated impact of running costs at Gravesham council to be £300,000, while the cost of investment income is predicted to be around £195,000.

The biggest expected losses are set to come from income from business property rents and other fees and charges.

More than £1.15million is expected to be impacted by the virus outbreak, as well as £1.6million for other fees and charges from the council, which are yet to be outlined.

The council document stated there is likely to be a number of delays to small projects as a result of these losses.

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