West End

Covid 19 has seen council income slashed by £20 million against pre pandemic levels, according a report.

The document produced by the Westminster Scrutiny Commission also showed that the council had spent an additional £10m on Covid measures, including social distancing and protecting vulnerable groups.

Repeated lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 saw a vast reduction in tourism and footfall in the West End, but new trends such as hybrid working could permanently reduce income generated from rates and other fees.

The report found that “in such a scenario the Council may struggle to achieve the same level of income as pre-covid years.

It adds that: “Without the influx of pre-covid levels of daily commuters and visitors, income from sales, fees and charge might not get back to previous levels.

“This would represent an ongoing pressure to the Council’s budget.”

The conclusions were drawn in spite of separate research conducted by the New West End Company. that footfall had reached 79% of pre pandemic levels in the week between January 27 and February 2, following the loosening of Plan B restrictions, an 11% increase on the week before.

The study also showed a gradual return to the office with commuter footfall up by 9% in the same week.

Figures show that the Council spent £1m on PPE during the pandemic as well as a further £1.5m towards helping rough sleepers.

In addition, income from sales and fees for 2020/21 was around £50m less than budgeted for, with both council tax and business rates down by 10%.

Despite receiving £39m in government funding to spend on the Covid response, reserves are nearly £4m lower than they were pre-Covid.

Westminster Council did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Main image credit: Steve Collis, Wikimedia Commons.

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