BUDGET reviews, assessing service provision and leaving vacant job posts unfilled are some of the actions council leaders could take to plug a forecasted £31million budget gap created by the coronavirus.

With council finances already on a tightrope for many local authorities across the country, the impact of the pandemic has left town hall chiefs with a challenging task to balance the books.

BCP Council’s predicated budget gap is based on a 24-week impact of Covid-19 and follows the decision that all major summer events cannot take place.

While this leaves a large hole in the options available to residents this summer, with the likes of Bournemouth Air Festival, BSO Proms in the Park and the weekly fireworks displays not taking place, it has also forced councillors to further review how services can be funded.

Key decisions could be made when senior councillors hold a cabinet meeting next week and the Unity Alliance administration has maintained its ambition to harmonise council tax for the 2021/22 financial year.

Cllr David Brown, BCP Council cabinet member for finance, said: “The council has predicted a £31 million budget gap based on a 24-week impact of covid19, which encompasses the summer events season. The council has already restricted expenditure, implemented a vacancy freeze applied for the government’s Job Retention Scheme where we can, and is actively lobbying government for additional funding.”

As reported, the BCP Conservative group has suggested that Bournemouth Town Hall should be sold and the planned number of job cuts should be increase.

A reduction in workforce would allow the council to move into an available office block in Bournemouth, understood to be Holland House, freeing up Bournemouth Town Hall to be sold, said Conservative group leader councillor Drew Mellor. This would, in turn, lead to the council not spending an estimated £20m-29m on refurbishing the building.

The Liberal Democrat-led coalition’s handling of the budget pressures were described as “bordering on financial negligence” by Cllr Mellor.

Cllr Brown said fast-tracking the administration’s ‘transformation’ was being considered.

“Our Cabinet meeting on 27 May is considering a range of further options to address the predicted budget pressures, including fast tracking some aspects of our transformation, in particular around office accommodation, deleting vacant posts, reviewing 2020/21 budgets for the rest of the year, and carefully examining all service provision levels and standards," said Cllr Brown.

“The council will set the 2021/22 council tax in February 2021, and our intention is still to harmonise the Council Tax rates in Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole so that it is fair for all residents across the area paying the same rate.”