We do hope everyone is staying safe from the coronavirus and coping well with the lockdown. Hopefully, the disease will be brought under control soon and we can start to get back to normal. However, Covid19 has blown a big hole in Hart’s finances.
Amongst other things, we understand that Covid19 has reduced Hart’s car parking revenue by around £240K. The Council expect to lose £140K of council tax and business rates. They also expect to lose £360K from planning income and £390K from the leisure centre. Of course, they still have to pay for the leisure centre loans. They have also incurred technology and staff costs of over £200K in providing the Hart response Hub.
So far, they have received £24K from the Government to cover these costs and expect more to come, but don’t expect that it will bridge the £1.6m funding gap. They expect to have to bridge any remaining gap from reserves.
There is some good news. So far, they have distributed £6.5m under the Government’s Small Business Grant Scheme. This means that 65% of all businesses that have applied for the grant have now been paid. They expect to pay the balance by the end of April. A number of businesses have not applied for the grant. If you, or any of your friends think you might be eligible, visit Hart’s website to check eligibility and apply: https://www.hart.gov.uk/covid-19-information-for-businesses.
With most construction sites being shutdown, and one might imagine that the housing market will be subdued for some time, they will probably lose some New Homes bonus too.
All this comes on top of the “perfect storm” facing Hart’s finances that we reported on back in January. We hesitate to be political at this difficult time, but surely they must reexamine whether they should be spending £650K on Shapley Heath Garden Village at the moment. We have shown how the project is not required. Now more than ever, it is likely housing demand is going to fall as people have less money in their pockets. The Inspector said there’s no evidence it’s viable or deliverable. It will drive up the housing target and be made irrelevant by Grazeley. Not to mention the unnecessary 1m tonnes of CO2 that will be emitted during construction. This is a white elephant project that we cannot afford.
Stay well and keep healthy everyone.