The ‘severe financial realities’ of Covid-19 have forced Horsham District Council to cut more than £7m from this year’s budget.

As the council fights to balance the books, a number of projects lined up for 2020/21 have had to be dropped or postponed, reducing the capital budget from £15.7m to £8.4m.

They include £200,000 planned for Horsham skate park, £96,000 that was lined up for the Roffey Recreation Ground regeneration project, £40,000 for improvements to Bennetts Field, and £80,000 for touch screen signage kiosks in Horsham town centre.

The council has also set aside plans to invest £3m in commercial property.

The Argus:

At a meeting of the full council, leader Ray Dawe said: “I believe our actions show a positive approach to the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in.”

Mr Dawe warned fellow councillors that the impact of the pandemic would be felt not just this year but for several years to come.

It’s a position being faced by every council up and down the country.

He said: “The council needs to be aware of the severe financial realities it’s facing and the medium-term implications of those.

“That reality is that this council moves from a balanced budget in the current year – and forecasts that showed us we were going to continue to do the same over the next few years – to a likely overspend in the current year that is greater than £5m and could be as much as £7.5m.”

Since the pandemic hit, the council has received £1.65m of help from the government and has enough reserves to ‘smooth out some of the devastating impact’.

But relying on reserves is not a healthy way to plan for the future, especially one filled with so many unknowns.

Mr Dawe said he and the council ‘should not get our hopes up just yet’ about any more government help.

He added: “It’s clear we are faced by a huge number of unknowns – but primarily these are the rate of economic recovery, the control or resurgence of the buyers, and the degree of public confidence to resume a normal level of activity.

“The level of overspend we finally have will be affected by how quickly – or maybe that should be if – our income recovers.”