Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Wiltshire Council publishes financial figures for 'unpredictable and challenging' year

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Wiltshire Council has published its financial year-end position for 2020/21, which details the most challenging circumstances it has ever faced.

The council lost millions of pounds in council tax and business rates, as well as direct income from car parks and leisure centres.

The revenue and capital report will be formally presented at the next Cabinet meeting, due to take place on July 13.

The council approved a net budget for 2020/21 of £344 million at its meeting on 25 February 2020 – less than a month before the pandemic struck the UK.

The report confirms that the final figure received by the Government from its sales, fees, charges, and income compensation loss grant scheme was £7 million.

This figure helped to offset the loss of significant income in areas such as leisure centres and parking fees.

The overall deficit for Wiltshire Council's share of the council tax stands at around £3.73 million, and for business rates it is £2.44 million, net of grants from government.

The council's capital programme, which helps improve the county's infrastructure, was originally agreed in February 2020 at a budget £261 million.

However, due to the impact of the pandemic, the council deferred some programmes and projects to a time when they would realistically be delivered. As a result, the final capital programme budget for 2020/21 stood at £127 million.

Despite the challenges, the council says it continued to invest in key areas in 2020/21 to improve the lives of residents and their communities.

This included:

  • Significant improvement works to school buildings
  • Works completed at Chippenham Station Hub
  • Bringing forward key highway projects due to reduced traffic during lockdown periods
  • Progress on the LED project to convert 40,000 streetlights - expected to be complete by December
  • Area board grants being awarded to key projects such as a community shop in Salisbury, a delivery van to support Devizes and District Foodbank, and to Community Digital Divide to purchase and refurbish digital devices to support disadvantaged primary aged children.
  • Work being completed on Calne and Cricklade Campuses - transforming leisure centres into a modern, refurbished facilities
  • The Council House Build programme completing 26 units

Cllr Pauline Church, cabinet member for finance and procurement, said: "Financially, this past year has certainly been the most unpredictable and challenging since Wiltshire Council came into existence.

"However, our prudent planning and excellent track record of robust financial management gave us a strong foundation from which to work from.

"It allowed us to be flexible to the ever-changing circumstances, while still providing opportunities to invest in the future of the county.

"There's no doubt that more challenges lie ahead, but we'll continue to carefully plan and ensure that the council is in a strong position to help the county emerge from this pandemic, thriving."

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Wiltshire has one of the largest underspends in grants for small and medium-sized businesses in the UK.

The Department for Business awarded £25.1 billion to local councils across the country to support businesses in the form of grants – but nationally 18 percent – or £4.4 billion – of funds remain unallocated.

With £43.3 million unallocated, Wiltshire is the third biggest under-spender after Westminster City Council (£56.8 million) and Birmingham City Council (£44.3 million).

According to the Local Government Chronicle, which uncovered the under-spending, any unpaid grant money will be returned to the government.

The full Cabinet agenda can be found at https://cms.wiltshire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=141&MId=13770