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Council demonstrates ''huge resilience'' against ''crushing pandemic''

Having seen income decimated and costs spiral as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Eastbourne Borough Council has "achieved a remarkable turnaround" in the health of their finances, thanks in the largest part to a raft of savings and efficiencies.

The council's Cabinet met last night (15 September) to consider the latest report into the progress being made to address their losses and extra costs created by the pandemic.

When the country went into lockdown, almost all of the avenues of funding that the council rely on stopped entirely, or were dramatically reduced. From conference and theatre shows to off street parking fees and catering, income was wiped out and costs to help the most vulnerable in society rocketed.

Councillor David Tutt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, said: "People sometimes forget that local services are no longer funded by government. The government stopped funding all local authorities and instead left us to find other ways such as commercial developments, to replace the income the government used to give us.

"When the pandemic hit, our tourism operation was devastated, in the sense that theatres and conferences were forced to close and new expenditure were required in order to protect people from the pandemic, a double whammy for a seaside resort like Eastbourne. However, we have shown huge resilience against this crushing blow by reducing the borrowing requirement from government to less than half of what was originally forecast.

"There is no doubt that through the efforts of our officers and Cabinet colleagues we have achieved a remarkable turnaround in the state of council finances."

The savings generated by the council mean that the level of shortfall for 20/21 is now £3.5m, as opposed to the figure of £6.7m, a reduction which is expected to continue into 21/22 reducing the shortfall to £2.5m from £6m that was anticipated at the height of the pandemic and prior to the council's work on recovery.

Deputy Leader, Councillor Steve Holt added: "To put the situation in some context, Croydon Borough Council and Slough Borough Council will between them receive £320m in emergency funding from the government and I understand are likely to ask for even more.

"I would rather we didn't need an extra penny of support, but when you consider the figures being discussed elsewhere, it  goes to show that even with the added challenges of being a town reliant on tourism, we have emerged from the worst crisis since World War II and on track for a rapid return to business as usual."