February 26, 2021

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Carmarthen Council spreadsheet highlights coronavirus pandemic’s impact on local Government finances

A SPREADSHEET showing how council income has been eroded by the coronavirus crisis has highlighted its impact on local Government finances.

Between April and September last year, Carmarthenshire Council revenue from 13 services – from parking to theatres, commercial property to weddings – was down £6.1 million.

Councils across the UK are able to claim back many lost income and hardship costs from central Government – and Carmarthenshire recouped all but £22,500 of its £6.1 million shortfall from Welsh ministers, although £58,000 is still on hold.

Between April and October last year, the authority also incurred £12.3 million of hardship costs, such as temporary mortuary costs, extra care home and domiciliary care expenditure, and summer childcare.

It has successfully reclaimed £11.8 million of the £12.3 million, with equipment, food parcel, and marketing and media claims among those partially or fully rejected.

Overall, the figures show that 96% of the Covid-related claims were reimbursed during the April to October period – a rate welcomed by Carmarthenshire Labour leader Rob James.

“The level of support that has been provided during the pandemic has been unprecedented,” he said.

Cllr James, who leads the opposition group in the county, said the Welsh Government had also funnelled £40 million of direct business support to Carmarthenshire during the pandemic.

He said he felt the Plaid Cymru-Independent-led council should be doing more to support residents, and described recent parking charge increases as showing a “lack of empathy for local communities”.

In response Cllr Hazel Evans, executive board member for environment, said the rise in council car park charges was the first since 2014.

“Revenue from car parking funds highway improvements and transportation services that are essential to support town centres, and therefore it is not sustainable to delay the increase any further,” she said.

The increase had been due to take effect in April 2020, but was deferred to January this year. Parking charges were also suspended completely between March and the beginning of September.

Cllr Evans added: “We have been running a free parking offer across our car parks since 2018 which allows people to park for free on certain days – this is there for people to take advantage of and for traders to benefit from, and we do hope that people use it.”

Plaid councillor Alun Lenny said the council’s business rate bill for car parks was currently £561,000 compared to £344,000 in 2015, and that the 20p parking charge increase would raise an extra £100,000 per year or so.

Business rates go to the Welsh Government but the money gets recycled back to councils, based on a formula. Carmarthenshire Council received £53.4 million in recycled business rates in 2015, and £62.7 million this financial year.

A Welsh Government spokesman said councils in Wales have been reimbursed £304 million in lost Covid income and hardship costs to date.

Carmarthenshire Council’s loss of income claims from April to September included:

– Recreation and sport, £2.4 million. Repaid in full.
– School catering, £1.35 million. Repaid in full.
– Parking income loss, £978,000. Repaid in full.
– Theatres and public entertainment, £128,000. Repaid in full.

The council’s hardship claims from April to October last year included:

– Home care, residential care and homelessness, £4.88 million. Repaid in full.
– Infection control and cleaning, £1.39 million. All but £37,000 repaid.
– Waste collection, £456,000. Repaid in full.
– Food parcels/key services, £305,000. Some repaid, but £167,000 not allowed as it was the council’s decision to provide.

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