THE coronavirus pandemic will have cost Reading taxpayers more than £15 million by next March, according to a council report.

Bosses at Reading Borough Council (RBC) revealed the true hit the authority’s revenue budget — which pays for social care, bin collections, running libraries and other services for taxpayers — will take over the course of the current financial year.

READ MORE: New street food market coming to Reading

The figure would be much higher had RBC not received £8.3 million in grants from the government, but the leader of the authority called on central officials to provide more financial support.

Councillor Jason Brock said: “This is clearly a report that will cause some concern and I remain hopeful that the government will recognise the need to properly fund local authorities and to fund them for lost income as well as the indirect costs that have arisen from the pandemic.”

The £15.6 million the pandemic is expected to cost RBC is a figure based on the extra money the council has had to spend to support residents, the income it has lost due to fewer services running and less council tax being collected, and changes in savings the council expected to make over a number of years.

READ MORE: Harmful chemical spills near Reading

Around £5 million less than expected is forecast to be collected in council tax and business rates by March 2021, and extra spending during the pandemic is expected to total £8.2 million in the same period.

Cllr Brock said the return of RBC’s reserves to a “sustainable position” has given the authority some “resilience” in the face of the crisis.

But he added: “Clearly we cannot rely on underlying reserves to fund the budget in perpetuity and there will have to be decisions made around how to close the gap.”

The Chief Executive of RBC, Peter Sloman, acknowledged the authority will face a deficit on its revenue account going into the 2021/2022 financial year so work had already begun to work out how the council could make savings.

READ MORE: Wildlife park re-opens to the public

He added: “It’s not all gloom. We need to manage our way through this situation one step at a time.

“The crucial next step is to find out the support central government will be providing for the sector.”

The discussion took place at a RBC meeting held on Monday, June 22.