COVID-19 has cost Newcastle $8.5 million this lockdown

The COVID-19 pandemic has cost the City of Newcastle $8.5 million this year.

The most recent lockdown is one of the biggest financial hits to Council with the $2.6 million loss from the waste management centre at Summerhill, the temporary closure of the Civic Theatre costing more than $2 million, the closure of the Stockton Holiday Park and a reduction in the number of people using parking meters in the CBD resulting in a $1.3 million reduction in parking tickets.

In an effort to stimulate the local economy as it begins the climb out of lockdown, the City of Newcastle will propose at this month’s Council meeting to increase this year’s infrastructure program by $14 million to an overall record $104.7 million.

The combination of the financial impact of the lockdown combined with the economic stimulus package is forecast to reduce the City’s operating result from continuing operations to a modest surplus of just $2.153 million.

If grants and contributions provided for capital purposes such as developer contributions, state and federal road funding programs are not included then it would be a deficit of $11.635 million.

Due to the City’s prudent management of its financial position prior to the pandemic, the additional infrastructure work can be funded from its cash reserves.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the City has made a conscious decision to provide financial relief and support for vulnerable groups and business, and to expand existing services, while increasing investment in projects to stimulate the local economy and support jobs.

“The latest outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent restrictions have placed significant strain on our community and our current budget, however as a Council we understand the importance of providing targeted responses and support for those in need,” Cr Nelmes said.

“Council unanimously voted in August to move forward with additional COVID support measures, including rapid response grants to support our vulnerable community members, business training and mentoring programs and economic development and community grants.”

“We have also boosted our 2021/22 works program by more than $14 million to a record $104.7 million, which will support the local economy and help create new jobs.”

“These crucial decisions were only possible due to our strong financial sustainability, a legacy of delivering six consecutive operating surpluses prior to the pandemic.”