FINANCE chiefs at Swansea Council have been submitting monthly claims for lost income during the coronavirus lockdown, but won’t know until the end of the year if they’re out of pocket.
Council leader Rob Stewart said he expected to get most of the missing millions back from the Welsh Government, while chief executive Phil Roberts acknowledged that some decisions made locally may have to be funded locally.
The council has earmarked £100 million to deal with Covid-19, but the final figure won’t be known for a while.
It also shelled out £15 million for the field hospital at Bay Studios, Fabian Way, but has now recouped that sum from Swansea Bay University Health Board.
Mr Roberts said he had some sympathy with the Welsh Government, which is assessing claims from all councils and spending a lot of money to support businesses, but he added: “What we have done primarily is implement Welsh Government policy on the ground.”
Speaking at a council scrutiny meeting, Cllr Stewart said the council had reclaimed some other coronavirus-related outlay via grants.
On lost income for things like car parks, he said chief finance officer Ben Smith was submitting regular claims.
“There is a process where you go through a review with Welsh Government officials and they either accept or reject your claims,” said the Swansea Labour leader.
The arrangement was different, he said, in England where councils may have to cover a certain percentage of lost income with the UK Government subsidising the rest.
“We are not in that game yet with the Welsh Government,” said Cllr Stewart.
“We are continuing to go through the process. I guess until we get to the end of the year we won’t know exactly what we have had back compared to what we’d expected.”
Some missing income, he added, was deferred rather than lost.
The meeting also heard that the council-owned a lot of city centre properties – a legacy of rebuilding after the Three Nights Blitz in 1941 – which was another lost income discussion point with Welsh Government officials.
Committee chairman Cllr Peter Black asked if the Welsh Government had sufficient financial resources to reimburse councils.
“There are no direct indications,” replied chief executive Mr Roberts.
“But we have been very clear about is how much it is costing local Government.”
Swansea Council’s financial position at the end of March this year was £18 million better than expected, with £5 million of that a health board payment for disputed care costs.
Cllr Stewart also said that around 90% of city centre businesses had reopened, but that 75% of hospitality businesses were remaining closed until they could reopen indoors on August 3, assuming coronavirus cases kept low.
He added that First Cymru was currently operating around 45% of its bus network, with passenger numbers only 20% compared to normal.
He expected these numbers would rise when face masks on public transport become mandatory in Wales on July 27.