FIFE Council are aiming to protect jobs and services despite the coronavirus pandemic blasting an estimated £78 million hole in their budget.

Loss of income and costs incurred due to Covid-19 are piling up and finance chief Eileen Rowand warned that failing to take immediate action would be "disastrous".

Mitigation measures and help from the Scottish Government should reduce the shortfall to around £51m this year but there are fears about job losses and cuts to services.

However, the council's co-leader, David Ross, said: "In terms of the good of Fife, the last thing we want to do is shed jobs and make people redundant as that will have a negative impact on our local economy and it will just become a circle of decline.

"Given our staff have put so much effort into dealing with the emergency, and are continuing to do that, it's absolutely not right that they should pay the cost for this going forward."

And, at last week's policy and co-ordination committee meeting, he added: "I've seen a few people saying 'Are we getting a reduction in our council tax as the council aren't providing certain services'.

"I think this is a misunderstanding of the role of local government and the tax system.

"It's one thing if people are struggling to pay their council tax, we need to work with them to help, but the council are still providing community services in a whole range of different ways.

"It's for the community collectively to fund those services and look after everyone in our community and that's exactly what's being done."

A report last month estimated that 14 weeks of lockdown would lead to £30m of additional costs for the council.

Over the financial year 2020-21 it's thought to be £78m.

Ms Rowand, the executive director of finance and corporate services, said: "In the current financial year, it is clear that without taking immediate action the financial consequences would be disastrous and as a result, direct and swift action needs to be taken."

She added: "The current situation poses significant risk to the financial sustainability of the council."

Her report said Scottish Government funding and 'flexibility' amounting to £20.8m, and £6m from the council, would leave an estimated funding shortfall of £51.2m.

She was "comfortable" that they'd be able to bring that down further but the council couldn't remove it on their own.

Directorates "will immediately be asked to contain or reduce costs wherever possible" and councillors agreed a motion asking the Scottish and UK governments for additional funding.

They also recommended that the Scottish Government is given additional borrowing powers.

Ms Rowand said loss of income due to the closure of services will continue to have a "significant impact" with income-generating areas such as car parking, school meals and childcare all affected.

They're anticipating less money from council tax, non-domestic rates and council rents "as families and businesses continue to face financial hardship".

Increased costs will come from the reconfiguration of construction sites and council buildings, including schools, for physical distancing, while school transport, extending free school meals, IT equipment for staff working at home, greater support for vulnerable people and increased use of PPE will add to the financial burden.

While the council's arms length organisations and trusts have saved around £1m by furloughing staff, "it is clear that lost income will be a continuing threat to their financial sustainability".

The council have saved around £9m, including reductions in utility costs due to building closures and the purchase of food for school meals, during the pandemic.