Wiltshire Publications

Wiltshire faces council tax gap of more than £4million due to Covid, by local democracy reporter Matthew McLaughlin

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THE pandemic has caused a significant council tax deficit in Wiltshire, with the local authority losing more than £4million over 2020/21. 

According to data from the Ministry of Housing, Local Government and Communities, the council will need to address a council tax shortfall of £4,365,245. 

As councils across the country face over half a billion lost from council tax payments, it has been warned that the funding gaps could cause pressures on local authorities for years to come. 

Cllr Pauline Church, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for finance said, “A total £4.635m deficit is estimated in council tax for the 2020/21 financial year. 

“The deficit will be shared amongst public bodies funded by council tax in Wiltshire, with the majority being for Wiltshire Council, but also Wiltshire Police and the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire Service taking a share.” 

The breakdown of the shared deficit is as follows; Wiltshire Council (£3.659m), Wiltshire Police (£0.522m) and DWFS (£0.184m). 

According to the council it has planned for the deficit and set aside reserves to help plug the blackhole “should it materialise.” 

“We know this has been a really tough 15 months for some people and we’ll keep a close eye on this issue, particularly with the furlough scheme due to end in September,” cllr Church added. “If anyone is struggling to pay council tax they should contact us as soon as possible on 0300 456 0109 or email counciltax@wiltshire.gov.uk so that our friendly team can discuss all the options and support available.” 

The local authority said it does not foresee “any significant losses” from business rates for the same period. This is because many of the businesses impacted by the pandemic were given payment holidays and this was compensated by the government. 

Cllr Church continued, “The government continue to provide business rate relief to those sectors most impacted by Covid such as retail and hospitality with those types of businesses receiving full rate relief until the end of June 2021 and then only having to pay a third of their bill for the remainder of the financial year. In addition, the millions in business grant money we distributed has also helped ensure many businesses had the support they needed to cover their costs. 

“We will continue to be compensated by the Government for any loss of income as a result of these reliefs.”