FINANCE officers have warned councillors that Slough Borough Council’s (SBC) cashflow will have to be closely monitored due to the coronavirus.

Slough cabinet members met virtually on May 18 to be briefed on the potential £15.3 million black hole the virus will cost the local authority for 2020/21.

However, the £7.6 million of Covid-19 emergency funds from government and £4.8 million of identified savings will be taken into account to offset this shortfall – leaving only £2.9 million which can be covered by the council’s general reserves, which are estimated to stand at £16.1 million at the end of this financial year.

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Councillors were made aware by the council’s service lead for finance, Barry Stratfull, that these figures are provisional and are based only on the first two months – and that it’s uncertain what the final cost of Covid-19 will be due the unknown length of time the virus will last.

In a report presented to cabinet, they identified a £6.1 million loss of income due to Covid-19 from things like parking, regeneration developments, road traffic enforcements, property services, and cash from parks and community centres.

If the public health crisis continues much longer then reserves could fall below the recommended level of £9.3 million by the end of this financial year.

Although the pressures can be contained within SBC’s general reserves, Mr Stratfull warned if additional pressures such as the Slough Children’s Trust debt or if more costs come up then the council may have to grow its cash reserves in 2021/22.

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Councillor James Swindlehurst (Labour: Cippenham Green), leader of SBC, said: “Clearly we’re in a more robust financial position than some of our neighbours and secondly our strategy of trying to put more money back in reserves this year and leaving us slack in order to do that.

“Although we won’t end the year with more reserves – we’ve at least created the headroom space to deal with the £2 to £3 million of pressures created most immediately by this.”

He added: “We’re currently having constructive discussions with the government about the future of the children’s trust and sustaining its financial model and, therefore, the risk of that debt isn’t a particular serious risk though we do need to keep an eye on this because if those two bits of debt arrive – it could threaten our reserves and we will have to find further savings.”