BOURNEMOUTH Town Hall should be sold and more jobs cut as part of efforts to address the financial impact of the coronavirus, Conservatives members of BCP Council have urged.

The council has forecast that, even with the £22million already provided by the government, it will have a funding gap of about £30m this year – more than a tenth of its total budget.

Conservative group leader councillor Drew Mellor described the ruling Liberal Democrat-led coalition’s handling of the issue as “bordering on financial negligence” and has urged merger plans to be stepped up.

Local authorities across the country have said their response to the coronavirus pandemic has left them with significant funding gaps.

BCP Council has forecast it will lose an average of more than £1m each week over the coming year, with almost half of this coming through “lost income”, particularly from its car parking and commercial ventures.

Two grants totalling just over £22m have been awarded by the government, leaving a funding gap of about £30m – about double its reserves.

Last month local government secretary Robert Jenrick told local authorities any extra costs they incur would be covered. But Cllr Mellor said the council should prepare to have to cover some itself.

“With a huge loss in the council’s income expected through diminished receipts in areas like car parking it is without doubt that we will have a financial hole that is well in excess of our reserves,” he said.

“Any commercial organisation would have immediately looked at a financial response but briefings with senior officers shockingly revealed that this administration hadn’t even started on how to recover this loss."

On Monday he sent Cllr Slade a four-page “transformation strategy” urging the council to put its merger work back on the agenda and increase its ambitions.

Outlined in this is a proposal to increase the number of jobs cut by the council from 15 per cent of its staff to 20 per cent and also the speed at which they are made.

He said by further reducing the side of the council’s workforce, the council would also be able to move into an available office block in Bournemouth, understood to be Holland House, freeing up Bournemouth Town Hall to be sold.

This work, he said, would mean the council would not have to pay an estimated £20m-29m cost of refurbishing the building and bring total savings of between £50m and £60m.

Cllr Mellor has also proposed the formation of a “united administration” in which his group would have a part in running the council. This has been rejected.

Discussions have also been held about calling a vote of no confidence in Cllr Slade in order to gain control of the council, although this is not expected in the immediate future.

It follows the death of Christchurch Independent councillor Colin Bungey, which left the controlling coalition with the same number of councillors as there are Conservatives.

Cllr Slade said it was “unrealistic” to suggest this arrangement would be able to work.

She said: “We have a successful, innovative and united administration running this council already and – as we have seen from recent government failings – an effective opposition is required for any administration to work properly. That is the proper role of the Conservative group at present.”

Plans for how the council will respond to the financial impact of dealing with the coronavirus are due to be considered at the meeting of its cabinet at the end of next month.