SOUTH Lakeland District Council (SLDC) has insisted it can weather the storms of Brexit and Covid-19. However, Councillor Andrew Jarvis, the portfolio holder for finance and resources at the council, is predicting the council will have it tough next year.

He said: "Local councils’ budgets are facing a perfect storm. The Covid pandemic is costing the council around £1.5 million this year, and will continue to hit our finances for the foreseeable future.

"We now face the consequences of economic recession and the impact of Brexit.

"At the same time, the Government is looking to squeeze funding for local government and make us more dependent upon council tax."

Councillor Jarvis thinks the council is in a better position than most, though.

He said: "Thankfully we are in a better position than many councils. We have reasonable reserves, and through our customer connect programme, have cut the cost of running the council.

"We are not in imminent financial danger - but as a local council we are not allowed to go on running deficits and need to close any gap. That is why, if we lose government support, we will be forced to find new ways to raise revenue or cut costs."

Council leader, Councillor Giles Archibald, thinks prudence and hard choices lie ahead.

He said: "The state of local government finance has been seriously affected by the Covid pandemic.

"This council like so many others has taken a severe financial hit as a result.

"Depending on the level of support we get from the Government, we are looking at potentially significant deficits in the future.

"Plugging the deficit gaps will require some hard choices and we are looking at, for example, whether we should raise car park charges that have not been increased for 10 years.

"We have been a council that has run its finances very prudently. We will get through this difficult period, but it may involve some tough decisions."