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Corona costs keep rising for council

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By Fiona Reid

DEALING with the coronavirus outbreak has so far cost Dumfries and Galloway Council over £5.1 million.

They have paid out thousands to set up emergency response measures, free school meals and support shielded people.

And finance bosses expect the overall cost by the end of the 2020-21 year will have risen to £9.1 million.

That includes an expected £4.2m loss of income.

At last Thursday’s meeting of the full council, head of finance Paul Garrett warned of the impact on future budgets, saying: “Current indications are that there will be significant additional pressures facing social work/social care services as the impact of the lockdown period is becoming increasingly apparent. It is inevitable that issues such as these pressures and the need for investment in economic recovery will result in further financial implications but these cannot be quantified at this stage.”

Responding, Annandale South councillor Richard Brodie said: “It is clear we are in financial meltdown and it’s cold comfort that we are not in as bad shape as other authorities. We are going to be well short of what we need. We are going to be in dire straits.”

Mr Garrett explained that although additional funding has been forthcoming to address the initial impact of Covid-19, their costs have already exceeded the original estimates and there are, so far, no contributions towards the restart and recovery work that needs to be done, including in education. He said: “The need for additional financial support is readily apparent and there is ongoing dialogue between councils and the Scottish Government to seek to ensure that there is full awareness of the financial impact on councils of the Covid-19 emergency response and the subsequent recovery period. “Current indications from the Scottish Government that there is little scope within existing budgets to provide further financial support to councils are very concerning given the increasing costs facing councils in relation to emergency response measures, loss of income and the expectations in relation to the restart of council services.”

He highlighted ‘particular concern and significant risk’ in relation to reopening schools, nurseries and childcare, adding: “The council faces significant additional costs in relation to staffing, reconfiguration of the learning estate, transport and hygiene/safety measures.

“This represents a significant risk to the council’s financial position and to the ongoing provision of the council’s essential services.”


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