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Coronavirus / No commitment yet from government on covering additional Covid-19 cost, SIC leader says

Shetland Islands Council leader Steven Coutts. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council (SIC) political leader Steven Coutts says the local authority will continue to press the Scottish Government on securing funding to cover the additional costs of Covid-19.

He said the effects of the pandemic are “going to have a significant impact on the council and the wider community”.

Finance manager Jamie Manson told a meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee on Monday that the net additional cost to the SIC resulting from Covid-19 in the first quarter of 2020/21 was £718,000.

It is estimated to be £2.12 million by the end of the financial year, and this includes the consequence of deferring into next year certain works unable to be carried out.

The figure is a melting pot of extra spend, lost income and savings from services not running.

A key area of this is children’s services, which is projected for an overspend of nearly £1.4 million by the end of the financial year – with day cleaners in schools, for example, accounting for £328,000 of this.

Manson told councillors that the assumptions through to the end of the year were based on the Scottish Government’s route map out of lockdown, with guidance often changing.

His report to the committee added: “The council is actively monitoring the financial pressures faced, including lost income, and is working with COSLA and other local authorities to secure additional government funding to meet those pressures.”

Councillor George Smith asked if the Scottish Government has given any commitment to fully fund the additional costs resulting from Covid-19.

“The short answer is they have not,” Coutts replied concisely.

The leader said the council had already set a challenging budget earlier in the year before Covid struck.

He expressed his desire for the SIC to continue to impress on the government for the need for financial assistance, adding that the council had “very limited” powers to generate income itself.