Luton Council took the right financial action during Covid crisis, says report

'We took early, decisive and correct decisions'

By Lynn Hughes
Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 4:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 4:22 pm

Luton Council coped well with the issues raised during the Covid pandemic, an independent assessment has found.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) was called in as part of the Government's issuing of an Exceptional Financial Support loan, allowing Luton to borrow up to £49 million to fund services up until 2022.

A council spokesman said: "We only drew down £15.8m of this, which is another indicator that our decisive action to bring in an emergency budget in 2020 has helped the council to address the financial challenge posed by COVID-19.

Luton Council

"We are pleased that an independent assessment into how we manage the public purse on behalf of the community has concluded that we took early, decisive and correct decisions when faced with the huge challenge of income reduction as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic."

The review looked into the council’s financial affairs and competence and highlighted the town’s exceptional vulnerability to the difficulties faced by the problems of the aviation industry because of the council’s commercial interest in the success of London Luton Airport.

The spokesman said: "Nevertheless it confirms that not only does the council have a strong history of robust financial management, but that we took appropriate and timely action once the current and potential future financial impact of Covid-19 had been assessed.

"This early and decisive financial readjustment through an emergency budget has placed the council in a very strong position to recover post-Covid, and placed us in a far stronger position than other authorities currently facing similar extremely challenging circumstances."

The report acknowledged that, along with other councils, significant challenges remain – particularly with regards to the provision of statutory adult social care and children’s provision, as well as implementing a further rigorous cost-efficient savings programme.

A number of recommendations have already been implemented by the council to stabilise finances in the aftermath of the pandemic.

"Our central focus is on delivering the Luton 2040 vision and making Luton a healthy, fair and sustainable town, where everyone can thrive and no-one has to live in poverty.

"This has included ensuring that we are less reliant on income from the airport to fund services locally in the future, but we also recognise and are fully committed to maximising the success of our largest asset, which remains critical to Luton’s economic recovery from the pandemic", said the spokesman.

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