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Ipswich council says coronavirus impact is its ‘worst financial crisis’ in 45 years

PUBLISHED: 20:22 14 July 2020 | UPDATED: 20:23 14 July 2020

The Tourist Information Centre in St Stephen's Church will not reopen after the lockdown. Picture: JOHN NORMAN

The Tourist Information Centre in St Stephen's Church will not reopen after the lockdown. Picture: JOHN NORMAN

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Emergency budget measures which would see the Tourist Information Centre close have been agreed by Ipswich Borough Council‘s cabinet - as it warned of its worst ever financial crisis.

Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, David Ellesmere, Labour, said it was the biggest crisis to hit the authority. Picture: JAMES AGERLeader of Ipswich Borough Council, David Ellesmere, Labour, said it was the biggest crisis to hit the authority. Picture: JAMES AGER

The council’s executive met on Tuesday night to discuss the planned emergency budget aimed at bridging the gap to the £10million black hole it is facing from the coronavirus response.

That gap includes an extra £4m being spent on efforts for the Covid-19 response, such as temporary accommodation for the homeless during lockdown, as well as £6m in income lost from theatres, leisure centres and car parks.

MORE: Ipswich Borough Council unveils coronavirus cash crisis

The plans, if approved by full council at its meeting at the end of the month, will mean the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) in St Stephen’s Church will close, the Profiles gym on the Waterfront will be axed and reduced hours at the customer service point in the Town Hall.

Labour leader of the council David Ellesmere said: “This is the worst financial crisis to hit the borough council since it was formed in 1974.

Ipswich Council opposition leader Ian Fisher, Conservative, raised concerns over making decisions on assumptions.. Picture: IPSWICH COUNCILIpswich Council opposition leader Ian Fisher, Conservative, raised concerns over making decisions on assumptions.. Picture: IPSWICH COUNCIL

“So far we have received £1.4m from the government and we are expecting more, but despite announcements two weeks ago from the government we are still waiting for the details of how much we’ll receive. But the government has made it clear that they are not going to compensate us for the full loss we are receiving.

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“With that £10m deficit, we only have £3m in unallocated reserves to put towards that, so it is clear that we do need to take action to cover that or otherwise the council will effectively go bust.

“If we take tough action now, it will reduce the need to take even tougher action in future.”

The authority is working on the assumption it will receive another £2.4m from central government to address the Covid-19 response, but even then that still leaves a further £450,000 to be found in three years’ time and a further £700,000 needing to be addressed five years from now.

Mr Ellesmere said tackling the budget gap over a four year period would mean more draconian cuts to services will not be needed than if savings had to be found in one year.

But Ian Fisher, leader of the opposition Conservative group, had concerns over the potential closure of the TIC.

He said: “What I would be more comfortable seeing is a decision not being taken on the long term future of the Tourist Information Centre until we know the full extent of the funding we may be getting from the government.

“I fully appreciate the need to identify savings and it is undoubted there is going to be a negative cost implication on this to the council but there are so many assumptions on this that I fail to understand why we are putting in place something for the next few years when we could announce savings without having to update the MTFP [medium term financial plan].”

A final decision is to be made by full council later this month.


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