Pandemic cost City of Whittlesea millions, new report finds

A report of the City of Whittlesea’s corporate performance has tallied the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on council as $4.4 million.

The report found that between the start of the 2020-21 financial year and March 31 2021, council reported a significant deficit due to loss of income and extra expenditure because of the pandemic.

At the most recent council meeting, City of Whittlesea chief financial officer Mark Montague said the pandemic was a key reason for council’s operating surplus of $61.85 million on March 31, behind the year-to-date budget of $66.1 million.

“The primary reason here being some unbudgeted contributions that council was required to make relating to developer contribution income received in previous years,” he said.

“Included in this unfavourable variance is also the financial impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on council during the year … totalling $4.4 million as at March 31, including direct expenditure of $1.6 million and income losses due to facility closures of $2.8 million.”

The COVID-19 pandemic also had an impact on delivery of council’s capital works program, with availability of contractors and materials due to supply chain disruptions impacted by lockdowns.

Victoria’s stage-four restrictions last year directly imaffected 13 council projects, or 10 per cent of total projects, as a result of general work disruptions in normal planning, tendering and construction activities. 

“The year-to-date assessed financial impact was $2.7 million in delayed expenditure, with a prospect this number may climb,” Mr Montague said.

Also in the report was a summary of progress of council’s action plan items.

At the end of March, council was on track to achieve 27 of the 31 major initiatives of in the 2020-21 council action plan, which represents an expected achievement rate of 87 per cent.

The four remaining major initiatives will be pushed into the next financial year’s budget.

Council also successfully advocated for and received $12.5 million in state and federal capital grant funding in the financial year to date, with a further $10.8 million in grants awaiting outcome.

“This is a great outcome for council, enabling future projects to be brought forward, and freeing up available funds to be invested into additional projects to benefit are community,” Mr Montague said.

Chair administrator Lydia Wilson congratulated council officers on achieving a high amount of grant funding, saying it gave council a 50 per cent success rate in grant applications.