Coronavirus sees more than 30,000 furloughed
MORE than 30,000 workers in South Gloucestershire were furloughed and many of the area’s most vital industries left with an uncertain future by the coronavirus pandemic.
And the hit to the economy could also affect public spending in the area over the coming years, with building projects such as the new Frenchay Primary School among those that could be delayed.
Trade and commerce body Business West said figures from HM Revenue and Customs show a total of 32,800 employees in South Gloucestershire were furloughed under the government scheme to protect businesses unable to operate normally during the lockdown.
Business West managing director Phil Smith said: “Residents in South Gloucestershire have been particularly hard hit by coronavirus as a result of its strong private sector employment base.
“What is usually a marker of rude economic health has left thousands of workers exposed in these unprecedented times. The aerospace sector supports thousands of jobs in South Gloucestershire – it is therefore vital to the area’s economic recovery to get it back on its feet, which is why we are lobbying government to rethink quarantine rules for travellers arriving into the UK.
“Whilst the re-opening of non-essential retail and some leisure facilities is of course welcome news here – the outlook for another key pillar of the South Gloucestershire economy, education, looks uncertain without a clear roadmap from government in terms of exiting the lockdown.”
South Gloucestershire Council received £39m from the Government to spend on small business grants, and by early May had paid out more than three quarters of the money to almost 2,500 businesses. A further discretionary fund saw £2.6m made available for grants of up to £5,000 in June.
But the council itself is facing a shortfall in funding, and expects to have lost £33m by the end of this year as a result of extra costs and lost income because of the pandemic.
While the council expects to balance its books this year, it is warning it will have to spend “significantly less” to cushion the financial blow from the Covid crisis which is expected to hit next year, when lost council tax and business rates income will bite.
The ruling Conservative administration has signed off a series of changes to this year’s budget and is also intending to review its reserves and spending plans and put in place spending controls for the years ahead.
The council is expecting to spend between £20m and £126.2m less in 2020/21, with the “biggest impact being from schemes within children’s, adults and health”, according to cabinet papers.
Changes to the 2020/21 budget approved on June 8 include the injection of an extra £4m of government funding for care homes and people struggling to pay their council tax.