Barnet Council’s five-year budget gap has risen to £61 million after the local authority’s finances were hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The projected gap widened from £36.8 million in March, partly due to the extra spending and lost revenue caused by the outbreak of the virus and the associated lockdown.

It means the council needs to find more savings to make up for the shortfall, on top of the £38 million already proposed.

At a meeting of the policy and resources committee on Thursday (September 24), council leader Cllr Dan Thomas (Conservative, Finchley Church End) said that despite receiving more support from the Government, the local authority still had £15 million in “unfunded Covid costs”.

He added: “While it is useful to spread that over this year and the next three years, it is an unfunded cost and has to come from somewhere. Either we use our reserves, or it creates a budget pressure.”

Labour leader Cllr Barry Rawlings (Coppetts) accused the Government of breaking a pledge to councils that it would cover the costs of the pandemic.

Cllr Rawlings said: “(The Government) basically said ‘do what you can and we will cover you’, and now they are backing off on that.

“To say they will cover the cost and then just say, ‘well you can spread the debt’ isn’t covering the cost.”

Cllr Thomas said: “When we had the largest savings in modern history forced upon us in 2011 to 2012, we were in a very similar position there. We are an efficient council, there is not a huge amount of fat, but we are going to have to do it somehow.

“We have not got any one big silver bullet to share right now with councillors or residents, I am afraid.”

Cllr Rawlings announced the Labour group would vote against the budget because “it does not point out the role of the Government’s broken pledges”. The Conservatives voted in favour, while Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Gabriel Rozenberg abstained.