City of Wolverhampton Council has warned it could be forced to make cuts of £23.2 million next year unless further financial support from government is made available to manage the ongoing cost of the pandemic.

A report due before the council’s Cabinet next Wednesday says that the impact of the pandemic has “significantly distorted” the council’s financial position. 

The report acknowledges the £26.1 million of financial support provided by government so far, but says the council urgently needs to know what future funding will be made available. 

It warns that without the resources promised to councils by government to fund the full pandemic costs, a “fundamental review of all services in order to identify budget reductions sufficient enough to set a balanced budget” would be necessary.  

Councillor Louise Miles, cabinet member for resources, said that it was vital that the government told councils what future funding arrangements would be by early next month (December). 

She added: “We manage our finances well, setting balanced budgets and keeping a prudent sum in reserves even during the past decade of austerity. Were it not for the unforeseen impact of Covid, we would be on course to deliver another balanced budget with minimal impact on services next Spring. 

“However, the pandemic will cost us and all councils vast sums of money, not just in terms of the immediate response such as feeding the vulnerable, taking homeless people off the streets and getting PPE to our social care workers, but also lost income with services shut and fewer people being able pay their bills due to unemployment. 

“The impact will be felt for years to come as we manage the here and now, but also what is sure to be the long economic recovery to all this. As a council, we have already pledged to support the vulnerable in our community, including children and young people. 

“We are forecasting a really challenging time with cuts of more than £23 million to the local services our residents depend on next year without additional government money. The emergency £26.1 million already provided to us by government will already have been spent by then.  

“The government is on record promising council’s the money to fund the full costs of Covid. What we need now is assurances over future funding and a recognition that councils will be dealing with this pandemic for years to come.”