'I have never seen us have to rely so heavily on reserves' - Rugby council to ask government for more funding

Rugby council has applied for and received some extra government funding - but the financial strain caused by the pandemic is forcing it to rely heavily on reserves

Rugby Town Hall.

The leader of Rugby Borough Council has vowed to press the Government for more funding to help it through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Seb Lowe (Con, Coton and Boughton) was speaking at this week’s [MON] cabinet meeting when the latest draft financial plan was unveiled.

It was expected that nearly £1.2m would have to be taken out of the council’s reserves to balance the books before the end of the financial year in April but an extra pot of Government cash just before Christmas eased the pressure.

Cllr Carolyn Robbins (Con, Coton and Boughton), the council’s portfolio holder for corporate resources, told the meeting that a further grant of £715,000 had been awarded.

She said: “This will mean that the total amount of reserves needed to balance the budget at year end will be significantly reduced to £457,000.”

But she warned that there was plenty to do in ensuring the balanced budget is set.

Labour group leader Cllr Maggie O’Rourke (Lab, Benn) said: “I have, in over 30 years in politics, never seen us have to rely so heavily on reserves and more around so many funds to keep things going so it is a great concern.

“I know we need to deliver a balanced budget but the fact is that we’re not responsible for the pandemic and I would urge the leader of the council to do everything he can in terms of making representation to the Secretary of State to see how much more funding we can get.

"We are out of pocket because of the pandemic, not because we are a bad council, not because our officers aren’t working hard and not because our staff aren’t delivering good services. “

Cllr Lowe replied: “I am very happy to give you that assurance. As I think you are well aware I have done everything possible throughout this pandemic to press for whatever finding we can possibly get from whatever source.

“As you say the pandemic is not of our making but it has hit us hard as it has all councils up and down the country.

“The only thing I would add is that it is only because of the prudence and sensible way in which we have handled the finances of this council in the years leading up to the pandemic that we are in the fortunate position of having reserves to dip into.”

Cllr Robbins added: “What we need to do at the end of all this is ensure that the reserves are replaced so that if we have a further incident in the future we have the funds available to cover it - that’s the whole point of reserves.”