CRAVEN District Council could face losses of between £2million and £4million this financial year due to the pandemic, councillors have been told.

However, it is hoped the government will provide further support to councils across the country to prevent cuts.

The council’s policy committee heard that the council’s income had been severely affected by the lockdown.

The total cost of the services provided by the council is £22.2 million, and 39 per cent of this is normally funded by external income.

The 2020 budget assumed £6.5million would be achieved from charges, with parking and leisure services generating more than £3million.

But both income streams have been closed for three months, and although parking charges have been reintroduced, the council's sports centre, Craven Leisure remains closed with no indication yet from the government when indoor gyms will be allowed to reopen.

Trade waste charges have been deferred for three months and other income streams have also been affected to varying degrees.

There may also be a reduction in council tax collection, and the council has also incurred additional costs related to the pandemic.

So far the council has received two support payments from the government, of £26,000 and £565,000.

At the virtual meeting of the council's policy committee, Cllr Patrick Mulligan said while welcome, the money was 'not nearly enough'.

"Whether the government will come forward with more support, we just don't know. We have heard that will be the case, but we have not heard yet," he said.

There were also a 'lot of unknowns', he said, for example, it was difficult to know when income from car parking would pick up again.

However, Cllr Richard Foster, council leader, said he was optimistic that the government would come forward with further funding.

“They’re not ignoring us, and our pleas that this has cost us a lot of money, and we do need further support in some way, shape or form,” he said.

“I think there is a funding package on its way from government and when you look at these figures we do need something. Luckily Craven is financially not in too bad a position in terms of reserves.

“Some authorities don’t have the luxury of what Craven’s amassed over the last few years. It’s all earmarked, it’s all supposed to be going into schemes that will be for the good of Craven, but if we’ve got to pull back on some of those and maybe delay them, then we’ll have that to do, in order to make sure we get the council through this.

“Fingers crossed, we can do both; we can get a bit more investment from the government and get on and deliver those schemes, because I think a lot of them are going to be vital for the regeneration of the district.”

Cllr Foster said he believed an initial announcement would be made shortly, with more details forthcoming in the Autumn Statement.

Responding to concerns raised about the ongoing re-development of Skipton Town Hall, the council's chief finance officer Richard Weigh said while some elements of the project had cost more than expected, and there would have to be some adjustments, it was nearing completion and stopping the project at this stage would cost more than allowing it to finish.

Redevelopment of the town hall was originally estimated to cost £4.5 million. Some £1.5m has come from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and the council has underwritten £1.6m of the cost, with funding applications still pending.

Cllr Simon Myers, overseeing the redevelopment project, said the town hall would be central to the regeneration and recovery of Skipton and Craven and accepted there would be a 'slight overspend' which would be the subject of a report to a future policy meeting.

Cllr Myers, who said he had visited the site and talked to the architect, while observing social distancing, said: "This will be a beacon of hope. It is important that we get the high street up and running, not just in Skipton, but all of our towns. The town hall will be an important part of Skipton High Street's offer."

The council says it is not proposing to make any service cuts at this stage.

In the shorter term, actions to limit the immediate shortfall are being taken, including a review of all revenue budgets to identify any further savings and non-essential expenditure that can be deferred.

The council’s reserves will be reviewed along with the capital plan, to assess viability of schemes, deliverability and funding sources.

A revised Medium Term Financial Plan will be developed.