ADDITIONAL costs associated with COVID-19 to Fife Council have soared to around £40 million this year, a new report has revealed.

Figures presented to the policy and co-ordination committee have laid bare the virus’ impact on the local authority’s finances throughout 2021/22, with services facing an estimated overspend just shy of £13.3m come year-end.

Funding from the Scottish Government and specific grants to aid COVID recovery will effectively balance the books and wipe that out, councillors heard, but finance chiefs say the projections do not factor in any future waves and any subsequent COVID-19 restrictions that may come along.

Among the extra financial pressures identified were the cost of recovery associated with restarting facilities, vaccination support, additional supply teacher cover, the provision of disposable catering equipment and the extension of free school meals throughout the holidays. 

Eileen Rowand, finance and corporate services executive director, said: “The financial consequences of the ongoing response to, and recovery from, COVID-19 continue to be significant and continue to be a real pressure for the council in this and future financial years. 

“There continues to be a high degree of uncertainty going forward.”

Most of the council’s trusts, with the exception of Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, have suffered loss of income to varying degrees.

Indeed, that sum is thought to be in the region of £3.9m alone as the likes of leisure centres and golf courses cannot operate fully yet and demand has not recovered, reducing their ability to generate income. 

Building services have also been hit hard with a projected under-recovery of income of more than £2.3m, with additional health and safety measures post-lockdown causing impacts on productivity, while there has also been supply, material and labour issues caused by both the pandemic and Brexit. 

Ms Rowand noted that the council’s level of uncommitted balances is likely to stand at a healthy £44.2m once all earmarked balances and commitments were met.

But she stressed: “Balances can only be used once and it is important that we continue to focus on a sustainable level of core funding and take decisions wisely on how we use balances without adding to our ongoing commitments in future years.

“Examples of where balances could be called upon include settling of legal claims and disputes, or responding to one-off 'shocks' such as reductions in funding or unplanned increased costs, for example rising inflation, which we can then factor into future budget planning.”

Further updates will be provided to councillors once the Scottish Government’s local government funding settlement becomes clear in the coming weeks.