Leisure centre closures, loss of rents and free car parking costing Wakefield Council £1.3m a month

Wakefield Council is losing out on £1.3million a month through regular income streams during the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday, 14th May 2020, 5:24 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th May 2020, 5:26 pm

The closure of leisure centres and scrapping of parking charges has led to a "significant" financial loss to the local authority, a report on the issue has said.

Reduced rent intake from market stalls, which are only allowed to trade if they're selling essential items, has also contributed to the pressures.

Income from paid services the council offers, such as pest control and food hygiene advice for businesses, has disappeared for the time being too.

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Sun Lane Leisure Centre was among the council venues to shut down in March because of the pandemic.

And the report warns it will take a long time for the council's intake to return to previous levels, with a number of places expected to stay shut even after lockdown ends.

Meanwhile, the council says it has had to proactively spend around £10m on its emergency response to the pandemic, with adult social care the biggest source of expenditure.

The report, which details the financial impact coronavirus has had on the Wakefield district, will go before senior councillors next Tuesday.

It said: "As well as the additional expenditure, the impact of the lockdown and the closure of council facilities means that the council is already seeing a significant loss of income for example from leisure centres, car parking, cultural attractions and market rents as well as the various fees and charges for commercial services.

The council has had to spend 10m on its own emergency response to COVID-19.

"The current estimate is that the loss of income from fees and charges across the council is likely to be around £1.3m for each month during the lockdown period.

"Even when lockdown restrictions are eased, it is likely that some facilities will remain closed for a longer period of time and, given the potential changes to longer-term customer behaviour, it inevitably will take some time for income levels to recover to previous levels."

The Local Government Association (LGA) warned last month that some councils were facing financial failure if the government did not step in to cover their COVID-related costs.

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