COUNCIL leader Cllr Russ Bowden says the authority should not be embarrassed of continuing to press its case to be reimbursed for coronavirus-related costs.

At the end of quarter one, the financial forecast outturn for 2020-21 is an overspend of £29.9 million.

This position arises largely from measures required in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, with Town Hall chiefs admitting the ability to achieve a balanced budget in the current year is ‘increasingly difficult’.

It comes as the Labour-run authority continues to explore investment opportunities to generate income.

During the virtual cabinet meeting on Monday, deputy leader Cllr Cathy Mitchell confirmed it has commissioned PwC to undertake an independent review of commercial governance arrangements in a bid to provide assurance and assist in identifying further opportunities for improvement.

She said: “The council adopts a consistent approach to the assessment of risk and it takes into account the potential impact of each risk and the likelihood that the risk will materialise.

“The risks associated with monitoring and governance of the council’s strategic investment portfolio were escalated to the risk register during 2019-20.

“Arrangements for the portfolio we have got have been strengthened, we have relied heavily on external expertise to make sure we have got the right people advising us.

“The importance of commercial activity to the council’s financial position shouldn’t be underestimated, it’s about £20 million a year net onto our budget from our activities in this way.

“But we need to ensure arrangements are effective and have full strategic oversight.”

Cllr Bowden reaffirmed calls for the Government to fully reimburse the authority for coronavirus-related costs and to provide direct funding for key services.

He also told members ‘we shouldn’t tire and shouldn’t be embarrassed’ of continue to press the case for proper funding.

He added: “I don’t think we should get tired of reiterating the point really, Robert Jenrick and the Chancellor and other senior secretaries of state, including the Prime Minister, said that we had to get on with doing this work.

“Councils were absolutely at the frontline of dealing with Covid and we were told just to get on and the money will follow – and clearly that just hasn’t happened.”

The cabinet noted the forecast overspend of £29.9 million, as well as the impact of Covid-19 on the 2020-21 budget and the intention to continue to review other budgets.