Full impact of Covid 19 on Blackpool Council coffers revealed

The financial impact of Covid 19 on Blackpool Council services added up to just over £3m for the 2020/21 financial year – with an additional £3.5m lost from the budgets of the council’s wholly owned companies.

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 3:50 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 3:52 pm

Initially it had been feared the companies – including the Winter Gardens, Blackpool Transport and the Sandcastle Waterpark – would lose between £12m and £18m.

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But government grants and revenue generated between lockdowns has lessened the blow.

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Town hall finances have suffered less then forecast from the impact of Covid 19

The council has provided loans to its companies and devised a five-year recovery plan to ensure they survive the effects of the pandemic.

The council’s director of resources Steve Thompson who presented the report for the financial year ending March 31, told a meeting of the executive despite a ‘challenging and uncertain year’ the authority had kept Covid 19 financial losses below earlier forecasts.

This was helped by receiving £166m of Covid 19 government grants, as well as specific grants to support Blackpool Transport and the Winter Gardens.

Spending on services during 2020/21 was £4m below budget with an overspend in Children’s Services offset by savings in Adult Services.

Working balances ended the year at £6.3m, just above the £6m target, while earmarked reserves increased by £21m to £71m due to £15m of business rates not due to be released until this financial year, and a further £4m of external funding towards the Blackpool museum project.

Capital outturn was £50m which Mr Thompson said was “a huge figure for an authority of our size.”

He added this was “principally in the areas of regeneration, transport and housing.”

He said: “You only have to look around Blackpool to see steel emerging from the ground around the central business district phase two, the conference centre which is due to open in November this year and the Troutbeck housing development on Preston New Road – the gateway to Blackpool.

“And of that £50m, nearly 50 per cent came from external grant funding which didn’t happen by chance. We have had to compete and bid to achieve that.

“In the context it has been a remarkably successful year finance wise.”

The meeting heard at the end of the financial year, council debt was £339m with 75 per cent through temporary borrowing taking advantage of interest rates of less than 0.1 per cent.

But Mr Thompson said if interest rates go up, the council would “look to lock in our debt” rather than continue with temporary borrowing.

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