Uckfield Town Council is taking a big hit to its income from the coronavirus pandemic.
The council’s budget for 2020/21 shows that about one-third of its revenue for the financial year would be generated through commercial activities, with the remaining money coming via the council tax.
An initial broad estimate is that the council’s income could well be down more than £20,000 a month, if not more.
Uckfield Town Council runs a restaurant, lets meeting rooms at the Civic Centre and other venues around the town, has sports pitches for hire and stages entertainment events, particularly in the Weald Hall.
The Civic Centre, Luxfords Restaurant and halls for hire have all been closed as part of the national lockdown.
Now it has been revealed that businesses and individuals are cancelling room hires for many months ahead.
Cllr Paul Sparks reviewed the council’s income and expenditure figures for March and said the drop in income because of the coronavirus pandemic could already be seen.
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s general purposes committee, he said: “Clearly this is something we have to aware of and respond to in the best way possible.”
He was not sure of the answer, adding: “The income for the town council is gong to be very badly affected over the coming months.”
Cllr Ben Cox, who believes social distancing could last for many more months, asked if the council would benefit from government funding that had been recently announced
Town clerk Holly Goring said at present the council would not get funding.
“We did apply to Wealden (District Council) to try and claim some grant funding support for the fact we come under the retail/leisure sector for the restaurant and the Civic Centre room hire, conferencing, events and the Foresters Hall.”
The application was turned down because Uckfield Town Council is a precepting authority (raises money through council tax), which, the town clerk said, was a real gap in support from central government.
“Although we are a precepting authority, and we obviously we receive taxpayers’ money, a third of our income for 2020/21 was actually going to be from own income-generated streams, nothing to do with taxpayers’ money – a full third.”
She said many councils would be lobbying central government on this issue the next few weeks.
“You are encouraged nowadays to try and generate your own income.
“Unfortunately, in the situation, we are not entitled to any support.”
She added the council had managed to rearrange events but in terms of room hire, cancellations up to July were already coming in.
You could be looking at over £20,000 a month, easily, if not more, she said.
Town council staff will continue to monitor income and expenditure and will report further to councillors.