THE coronavirus pandemic may cost a Cumbrian council more than £3m in lost revenue.

Carlisle City Council estimates that by the end of the year the authority will have seen a £3.5m drop in revenue due to the virus.

Deputy leader Gareth Ellis said: “We will have lost £3.5m over the year from things like car parking, rents on properties and from low interest rates.

“It is going to be a struggle for us, but then it’s going to be a struggle for the Government.”

Despite the drop in revenues, Mr Ellis said there was no need for the council to take any drastic measures.

“We need to know what the new normal is (before any decisions are made), but we are not in any way close to the wall.

“The council has an asset base of £150m, so it can liquidise assets if it needs to, so it is solid and steady in that sense.

“What the long-term impact is going to be no one knows. We don’t know what things are going to be like around social distancing and a vaccine.”

The authority has been boosted by support from Westminster, both to distribute to businesses and to help with its own finances.

Carlisle City Council has so far distributed 90 per cent of the Government’s business support grants, with £23,595,000 handed to 2,044 businesses in the city.

A discretionary fund has also been set up to accommodate certain small businesses previously outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme.

Government funding has also allowed the council to put a waive on business rates for all retail businesses for the next 12 months.

Another challenge the city council has is to drive the recovery of the high street when the coronavirus pandemic allows for shops to reopen.

“Retail needs to be more of an experience and how does that model work with social distancing?" said Mr Ellis.

“The extra costs associated with operating social distancing operations make everything more expensive, so it is very hard.

“Without a vaccine, the virus isn’t disappearing. Viruses are part of human history and one never knows how it is going to end.”

Mr Ellis acknowledges the challenge ahead.

He said: “It is a massively difficult situation, all we can do is improve things and start delivering services again.

“Getting grass cutting up and running is one example, while getting recycling centres back up and running is another.”

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