The dire financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic will see Bexley Council push for more than £14 million of spendings to be cut and savings made over the next two years.

Members of Bexley’s cabinet discussed on Tuesday the far-reaching ramifications of the impact of the deadly outbreak, which is predicted to stretch the local authority’s finances beyond this year.

Talking at the virtual meeting, Cllr David Leaf, Bexley’s cabinet member for resources, said he was “not going to sugar-coat” the challenging financial position the council found itself in.

“They say a week is a long time in politics but the world really has changed so much in the last four months…the pandemic has placed substantial financial pressure on this council,” he said, as well as adding his praise for the “extraordinary effort” of council staff and volunteers who had worked and helped throughout the borough during the Covid-19 crisis.

Cllr Leaf compared balancing a council budget as akin to “getting a man to the moon and back” but added “whatever the scale of the gap we face…our residents expect to see us balance the books”.

Among the measures proposed are the closure of all council-run children’s centres in the borough, with the authority to instead commission one main Children’s Centre hub run by the Danson Youth Trust and a smaller SEND Hub run by Bexley SNAP.

The proposal would see the council save £492k each year for the coming four years.

Cllr Philip Read, the cabinet member for children’s services, said the move was necessary given the “significant squeeze” on council funding.

He said the move would “take the centres closer to the communities they’re supposed to help” and there was “scant” evidence the centres were being accessed as they are now by the “neediest families”.

Other proposals would see jobs slashed from different sectors.

They include a plan to cut 16.5 fulltime-equivalent roles by remodelling the adult social care and health service, with more responsibilities put onto third-person partners to deliver services.

Nine jobs would also go by making the Learning and Enterprise College ‘cost-neutral’, by increasing “digital usage, improved planning and efficient

teaching structures”.

Cllr Louie French, cabinet member for growth and deputy leader of the council, said the authority was in “extremely challenging” circumstances “but we must do all we can to balance the books”.

“There are certain savings proposals in an ideal world we wouldn’t want to be taking, but these are the cards we’ve been dealt,” he said.

The council will now undertake a consultation on the changes, with residents, service users, council staff among those to be involved.

As part of the process, the proposals will also front the council’s scrutiny committees.

According to council documents, the consultation will start as soon as possible after the cabinet meeting and run until September 27.

The consultation survey will be made available on the council’s website and in paper form in libraries.