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Bin Collections in Amber Valley could be reduced due to Covid-19

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020 2:24pm

By Eddie Bisknell- Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Bin collections in Amber Valley, where the council is already on a financial cliff-edge, could be reduced in the coming weeks due to potential staff shortages caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The authority, which is “on the brink of bankruptcy” was told earlier this month that it must make drastic and rapid steps to avoid a total freeze on further spending.

Further threats to the council’s budget and resources are now facing the council due to the Covid-19 virus.

A previous major source of income from central government to district and borough councils was the revenue support grant, but this has been phased out since 2010.

Amber Valley had at that time received £9 million in funding support – but this now stands at just £4,000 for the coming financial year.

It is left with few remaining sources of income, which are council tax, charges for services such as car parking and business rates.

The number of people using car parks over the next few weeks and months will fall significantly due to widespread self-isolation – meaning another loss of vital income for the council.

This paired with a business rates “holiday” for many businesses in the borough will see more income lost.

Cllr Chris Emmas-Williams, leader of the council, who is over 70, will no longer be attending public meetings, along with several other councillors, after government advice to self-isolate.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We may have to pause garden waste collections and reduce bin collections generally if we have a shortage of staff for bin collecting.

“It is right that we look into it but are not at that stage yet.

“The picture is changing every day and we are always having to review what we are doing, it is always fluctuating.

“We are currently reviewing our staff to see how many will have to work from home because of health conditions or to look after children or their parents.

“We are already asking staff to work from home where possible and that if people come to the council for a face-to-face talk they can do so in the interview rooms where there is a pane of glass between them.

“Our full council meeting will be reduced to 13 councillors next week and I and other councillors over 70 are to be kept off the list and councillors will be asked to sit apart.

“The government announced a lot yesterday and we are hoping they will put money in for councils too. We are helping to support services and local councils will need help.

“We are hoping the government will help us with lost business rates.

“This is an unprecedented situation we are facing, we have never had anything like this.”

At the start of the month, the borough council was told that financial officers may need to serve a Section 114 notice on the authority next January.

This is the same order that was served to Northamptonshire County Council in 2018 – which at the time was the first council to have been given the notice in two decades.

It meant a freeze was placed on all of its future spending apart from on statutory duties – which for Amber Valley would include the provision of salaries of staff and bin collections.

This potential notice has been raised with Amber Valley because it could “run out of resources” before the end of March 2022.

A report from Sylvia Delahay, Amber Valley’s executive director of resources, says: “Without action to address the projected budget deficits the council will be faced with considering an unbalanced budget as soon as 2021-22 which would be unlawful.

“This is an extremely serious position for the council both financially and reputationally.”

She says that “if the costs of operating the council are not reduced or additional income secured during 2020-21” officers will carry out a review in January 2021 ahead of setting budget.

If the review finds there is a risk of not setting a balanced budget, then a report under Section 114 will need to be presented within January 2021 to “determine how its budget will be brought into balance and so that a balanced budget can be set for the following three years”.

Ms Delahay says: “If a Section 114 notice is issued by an authority the implications for such an authority are indeed extremely serious.”

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