Barnet Council is facing an “unprecedented” financial challenge due to the coronavirus pandemic – prompting fears of how it would cope with a potential second wave of the illness.

The total hit to the council finances from Covid-19 – including extra spending and lost income – has been estimated at £52.4 million.

Only half of this – £26.2 million – has so far been covered by Government support, including two tranches of emergency grants and extra NHS funding.

The projected figures are from a report by Barnet’s finance chief, which warns Covid-19 “will have a significant financial impact on many of the council’s services”.

It adds: “The scale of the financial challenge is unprecedented in complexity, scale of the crisis and the number of uncertainties in play.”

The report – which says Barnet will see a “lower than average impact when compared with other London councils” – was discussed at a virtual meeting of the financial performance and contracts committee on Monday (June 15).

During the meeting, Cllr Arjun Mitta (Labour, East Finchley) asked what the council was doing to forecast the financial impact of a second wave of the pandemic.

Committee chairman Cllr Peter Zinkin (Conservative, Childs Hill) said a second Covid-19 peak could have a “devastating effect” – but the council did not yet know what the Government would do to support local authorities.

He added: “Next year’s budget is probably going to be one of the most difficult that we ever, probably, have to do – irrespective of what the outturn is in terms of help from the Government, because we may not know it all during the process of having to set it.”

Cllr Mittra asked if there had been any indication from the Government about whether it would provide extra support if financial conditions deteriorated further.

Cllr Zinkin replied: “People have said many things, but unless they are specific sums of money, we can’t take them into account in relation to the budgeting.”

Councils have been on the front line of responding to the coronavirus pandemic, spending extra on food, medical supplies and other measures to support vulnerable residents. At the same time, they have seen reductions in income from parking charges, business rates and other sources.

It remains unclear how much of the total bill will be picked up by central Government.

On May 4, local government secretary Robert Jenrick told a House of Commons select committee councils would be “fully compensated” for “specific things” the Government asked them to do to tackle Covid-19, but he would not commit to covering additional costs until more information was available.

A further report to Monday’s finance committee showed Barnet’s reserves – money set aside for future policy purposes or to cover contingencies – stood at £59 million on March 31 after so-far unused grant funding of £8.8 million to tackle Covid-19 had been subtracted.

Neighbouring Enfield has forecast the total impact of Covid-19 on council finances will be £68 million, while Haringey is expecting a £70 million hit.