Barking and Dagenham estimates £24m shortfall from coronavirus

Barking Town Hall

Barking Town Hall - Credit: Archant

The council has estimated it will see a £24million shortfall in its finances this year as it counts the cost of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Dominic Twomey. Picture: LBBD

Cllr Dominic Twomey. Picture: LBBD - Credit: Archant

Barking and Dagenham Council’s finance chief, Cllr Dominic Twomey, revealed the deficit during an online town hall meeting on Wednesday, May 13.

Cllr Twomey said: “There are greater financial challenges to the weeks, months and years to come, and that is definitely a sentence I did not think I would be saying after 10 years of Tory led austerity cuts. But it’s true.

“We’re estimating a deficit this year of some £24million and counting, consisting of extra demand costs, loss of income across the council and an inability to deliver savings that had been programmed in to our medium term financial strategy over the next two years.”

The local authority’s latest prediction comes in spite of government funding to help it tackle Covid-19 totalling £12m.

“The indication is there won’t be much more coming, if any at all,” Cllr Twomey said.

The cabinet member was presenting Barking and Dagenham’s plans for the borough for the next two years.

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But Cllr Twomey warned it would become a “fluid” plan because of Covid-19’s present and future impact, but sets a “firm foundation”.

“There will need to be many changes over the coming months. Changes will need to be made much earlier. Many of the targets, aspirations and challenges have already changed over the last seven weeks,” he said.

He added the plan would form a baseline which could be used to demonstrate what would have been possible in the borough before the virus struck.

“We need to be absolutely clear of this to be able to lobby and talk to government to make sure funding is given which is fair and meets the needs and challenges which we face.

“We need to let them know exactly how this pandemic has affected our businesses, residents and communities.

“It has never been more important that that message is clear, concise and straight to the point,” Cllr Twomey said.

Mental health, substance misuse, domestic abuse and social isolation could all worsen after the pandemic on top of already higher than average unemployment and low pay, he added.