Warning over long-term cost of Covid-19

County Hall, Northallerton.

North Yorkshire taxpayers have been warned they “will be paying the price for Covid for decades”.

Ahead of the Government announcing the amount of central funding each local authority will receive later this month North Yorkshire County Council’s deputy leader has laid bare concerns over the amount of funding that will be available for essential services in coming years.

He was speaking after Chancellor Rishi Sunak vowed there would be no return to austerity and as the council’s leading members were told it was facing an unprecedented amount of uncertainty in setting its budgets for next year.

The executive meeting was told the longer term impact of the Covid-19 crisis remained “a critical issue”.

An officer’s report to the meeting stated: “The potential long-term impacts on levels of local tax funding, the wider economy and local markets represent very significant areas of uncertainty with potential major repercussions for the county council’s budget and cash flow.”

The authority’s corporate director for finance, Gary Fielding, warned members: “We’ve got massive uncertainty next year and even greater uncertainty the year after.”

Deputy leader councillor Gareth Dadd, who is also the executive member for finance, said while the council’s projected overspend for this financial year was limited to £1.4m, representing just 0.4 per cent of the authority’s budget, he believed the council could face “pent-up demand” for some services following the pandemic.

The meeting heard the number of adults in care homes had significantly dropped since earlier this year.

Illustrating further uncertainty faced by the council as it tries to work out how much funding it can direct towards each services, he said while restrictions on wedding ceremonies remained in place, ceremony bookings had been cancelled or re-booked for dates in the future, leading to a projected £1.1m loss of income.

A further decline in wedding bookings could result in further loss of charges of up to £100k per month, but Cllr Dadd said he had been heartened by news of a surge in sales of engagement rings.

He said: “My personal view is that we will be paying the price for Covid for possibly decades. The Government can claim we are not returning to austerity – the day of reckoning will have to come. We should all be grown-up and recognise that.”