Bucks Council leader paints stark economic picture after furlough and lockdown

A TOP politician fears “significant” job losses when the government furlough scheme ends – and the “death knell” of local businesses coming from the third national lockdown.

Wednesday, 13th January 2021, 11:48 am
Updated Wednesday, 13th January 2021, 11:52 am
Council Leader Martin Tett

Buckinghamshire Council leader Cllr Martin Tett forecast a stark picture for the county during a Budget Scrutiny Select Committee Inquiry, on Monday, January 11.

The leader was answering questions about the council’s draft budget report and council tax plans for the new financial year.

Cllr Chris Whitehead said he needed to know “precisely” how the council had budgeted for Covid.

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“It seems to me this is a sort of problem that goes on into the future without any definite ending,” said Cllr Whitehead.

“And yet you have produced a budget, for which I take off my hat to you. But how did you do it given these enormous uncertainties.”

Cllr Tett said the council had taken account of pressures this financial year and “made an estimate of how they will then carry forward into next year”.

He said it had to make “as best a guess we can” as to the impact of losses normally coming from council tax, business rates and fees.

“Can I guarantee to you each one of those [estimated income streams] is going to be 100 per cent right? No,” said Cllr Tett.

He added, they “could be worse” because most were estimated prior to the announcement of the latest lockdown.

“One of my big, underlying concerns is – have we made enough provision for the impact of the third lockdown?” said Cllr Tett.

“When furlough ends, I’m anticipating significant additional numbers of people will be made redundant, candidly.

“And that will suddenly hit people very hard and their ability to pay council tax.”

The council recently announced plans for a 1.99 per cent hike in basic council tax from April, together with a two per cent rise in the Adult Social Care Precept to support elderly and vulnerable people.

“Likewise,” he added, “I’m anticipating the third lockdown will be the death knell – sorry to put it in quite dramatic terms – for a number of businesses who have been on life support for the last ten months.

“And that, again, will impact on our business rate collections.

“There are two big areas – both individuals and businesses – where I think there is a higher risk now than there was when we put those assumptions together in the autumn of last year.”

Cllr Tett added, he ‘was not sure the council had enough contingencies’ in its budget to cope with these factors.

Findings from the inquiry will be presented to Cabinet on February 16 and then to full council on February 24.