City council assesses cost of pandemic

July 30 2020
City council assesses cost of pandemic

THE coronavirus pandemic is likely to cost Wells City Council nearly £100,000 in lost income this financial year.

Town Clerk Steve Luck told a Finance Committee meeting on July 9 that he was keeping track of the figures as he worked on a revised budget.

He said money had been lost from cancellations and activities not taking place, such as the fun fair, Town Hall lets, and small classes like dance and yoga. Rent had been lost from Bluebird Care and Mendip District Council, while The Crown had been given a six-month rent-free period. He also said that Ask restaurant had fallen behind with its rent payments. In all, he said, the council was looking at £99,200 as lost income this financial year.

There had been some savings, he told the meeting, such as with a new insurance deal and in utilities. The toilet cleaning contract had been cancelled, money had been saved by buying a second-hand string of Christmas lights instead of new strings, the bus station shelter had not taken place, there was still grit left from last year, and furloughing staff had saved on salaries. “We’re in a good financial state. We have no worries,” he added.

Committee chairman Councillor Louis Agabani said his feeling was that projects the council had planned should be delayed until January.

Mr Luck said that the post office in the Market Hall building was closing and moving to Peacocks, though there was no moving in date, and that the council had offered probably ten extensions to the lease to maintain post office services. He said there was a new tenant keen to take over the council-owned premises who would be putting in a planning application to turn it into a restaurant “any day now”. “It looks like Wells will be without its main post office for a short period of time,” he said.

Councillor Agabani said that the post office staff had been managed badly and were very upset. “They have no idea whether they are going back to a new job or not, they have had no consultations and they don’t know who to talk to,” he said.

Councillor Oliver Hartley said: “Steve and the team have put so much effort to make sure Wells had a post office in the centre of town. I think it’s disgusting that the Post Office have acted this way. Wells City Council, particularly the staff, did everything they possibly could to keep it there, and it is the Post Office that have acted awfully, and there’s going to be people who won’t be able to access the post office very easily because of it.”