Ipswich loses a third of council reserves through Covid crisis

Grafton House and Endeavour House

Ipswich Council lost a third of its reserves - but Suffolk saw its reserves increase during the Covid crisis. - Credit: Archant

Ipswich council used almost a third of its reserves to keep services running during the first 12 months of the Covid crisis, according to final figures for the 2020/21 financial year.

It had to spend nearly £2.2m from its reserves - meaning that at the end of the year there were nearly £4.6m remaining.

That is a better outcome than had been feared at one point - at the end of last year the authority had been budgeting to use £2.8m of its balances to cope with the effects of the pandemic on its income and on the cost of its services.

The figures were revealed at this week's council executive meeting and over the next few years the council will be looking at ways of restoring its reserves to health.

The council lost £600,000 in reduced car parking receipts, £500,000 from reduced income from sports centres and swimming pools and £700,000 from the lack of major events in the town.

Councils were given extra help by the government during the Covid crisis, but most of that went to county councils which have responsibilities for roads and social services rather than districts and boroughs.

Because of government grants and savings elsewhere in its budget, the county council actually saw an increase in its reserves through the year - although the council's cabinet was told this week that  some of this would need to be spent during the current year.

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And the total reserves figure was distorted because it included some capital costs that had been granted by the government for specific problems including the Gull Wing bridge that is to be built across Lowestoft harbour.

The total value of reserves at Suffolk County Council went up from £169m to £253m during the financial year - but the value of unallocated reserves, those that can be used for a "rainy day" in an emergency, went up from £57m to £72m.