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West Norfolk Council to review budget after coronavirus crisis

West Norfolk Council officials will draw up a revised budget over the coming weeks in order to address the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The move comes as an official warned councillors that the authority's income streams may never fully recover from the pandemic.

And, at least one in five of the borough's working age population is currently being supported by the government's furlough programme.

West Norfolk Council's Lynn headquarters.
West Norfolk Council's Lynn headquarters.

A recovery strategy, which is due to go before a borough council cabinet meeting tomorrow, sets out initial plans for how the authority hopes to lead the area's recovery from the virus.

The plan was put before a joint panel meeting on Thursday, where members were told that a revised budget for the current financial year will go before cabinet members in early August.

A new capital programme, which officials say will reflect what is now affordable following the crisis, will also be presented at that stage.

But Honor Howell, assistant to the chief executive, Lorraine Gore, told members the impact of the outbreak on the council's revenue streams, such as car parking, was likely to continue in the long-term.

She said: “It’s going to be a long time before we get back to pre-Covid, if we ever do.

"It’s really difficult for us to predict but we’re not going to bounce back quickly.

"It’s going to take time and although some areas of the economy might bounce back very quickly, others will probably still see a reduction."

The meeting was told that the crisis is not causing an immediate impact on the council's cashflow, but could become "problematic" in the medium term.

The focus of the recovery strategy, which covers a period of up to two years, will be on stimulating the economy.

The borough council has so far distributed more than £37 million in government grants to over 3,000 businesses across the district since the lockdown began.

The meeting was also told that more than 15,000 people in West Norfolk are currently being supported by the government's furlough scheme, which equates to more than 21 per cent of the people who are classed as being "economically active."

Earlier this month, figures showed that unemployment benefit claims in the borough had more than doubled during the lockdown period.

Miss Howell said council-owned companies, such as Alive West Norfolk, which runs the borough's leisure centres and Lynn's Corn Exchange, would need support to ensure it remains solvent in the immediate future.

She added that the council was also lobbying the government for compensation to cover the losses incurred through the fall in revenue generated from car parking and other fees and charges.

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